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Quiet summer belies Wizards' plans to make noise in East

POSTED: Oct 14, 2015 12:39 AM ET

By Sekou Smith

BY Sekou Smith

NBA.com

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Two straight trips to the Eastern Conference semifinals should be reason for optimism in Washington this season. But a relatively quiet summer and the departure of their emotional leader and veteran sharpshooter Paul Pierce makes you wonder if these Wizards are still a team on the rise ... or one that has plateaued under coach Randy Wittman? John Wall and Bradley Beal, the young stars of the show in D.C., would argue that they are just beginning their surge up the standings.

ICYMI

The Wizards didn't chase any superstar talent on the free-agent market over the summer, but they did add veterans Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson and Gary Neal to add depth to an already talented roster. ... Rookie Kelly Oubre is a talent but must fill out his frame and fine tune his game before he can contribute. ... Whatever their issues have been under Wittman, the Wizards have consistently ranked among the top defensive units in the league on his watch. They finished in the top five last season, allowing 100.0 points per 100 possessions. ... The Wizards were also the only team to hold its opponents under 50 percent shooting in transition last season. ... Wall led the league with 339 assists in the restricted area and in time of possession.

THREE POINTS

1. Just like his team, Bradley Beal has been knocking on the door the past two seasons, threatening to join the Eastern Conference All-Star elite. He led the Wizards in scoring during the playoffs and has flashed the sort of talent that makes you believe he's going to make multiple All-Star teams. He has all the tools. Injuries have been the only thing to slow him down.

2. There aren't many centers in the league who get up and down the floor the way Marcin Gortat does for this team, which is a necessity with a point guard like Wall running the show. His durability -- he played all 82 games last season -- is equally impressive and makes him an indispensable piece in the lineup.

3. The Wizards tinkered with some small-ball lineups in the playoffs, using some spacing schemes to open things up for Wall and Beal (they gave the Hawks fits in that playoff series). Expect more of it this season, with Dudley playing the power forward spot Pierce played to perfection. Dudley might not be the big-shot maker Pierce was, but he can stretch the floor with the best of them.

MAN ON THE SPOT

Otto Porter has no choice but to be ready for a more significant role now that Pierce is gone. It's time for Wittman to take the training wheels off and find out exactly what they have in Porter, who averaged 10.0 points and 8.0 rebounds (second only to Gortat) in 10 playoff games last season. He'll have the added pressure of holding off Oubre, who has a similar skill set and loads of confidence. Unlike Pierce, who the Wizards knew was a short-timer, Oubre is young prospect the front office is banking on being a part of the core for the foreseeable future. Thus, the clock is ticking for Porter.

STARTING FIVE

John Wall | 17.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 10.0 apg
A top-five point guard in a league filled with great ones.

Bradley Beal | 15.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.1 apg
An elite shooter and scorer with legitimate All-Star potential.

Marcin Gortat | 12.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.2 apg
Durable big man with the ability to change the game on both ends.

Otto Porter | 6.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.9 apg
The opportunity to become a fixture in the lineup is there, if he's ready.

Nene | 11.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.8 apg
His minutes will dwindle if Wittman decides to go small often.

KEY RESERVES

Jared Dudley | 7.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.8 apg
Veteran floor-stretcher is also great in the locker room.

Ramon Sessions | 7.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.1 apg
This perfect back up for Wall knows who he is and plays his role.

Alan Anderson | 7.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg
Rugged defender and no-nonsense competitor fits perfectly with this group.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Wizards didn't add enough to overtake Atlanta for the Southeast Division's top spot and might not be able to hold off a healthy Miami Heat for the No. 2 spot. Still they remain a top-three team in the division and a solid lock for the playoffs.

Sekou Smith is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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