2021-22 Kia Season Preview
2021-22 Season Preview: Washington Wizards
If Spencer Dinwiddie can return to health and be a factor on both ends, Washington could be in position to fight for a spot in the Play-In.
The Washington Wizards remain a team in transition, though it’s unclear as to what they’re transitioning. Bradley Beal is still here, having ranked second in the league in scoring in each of the last two seasons. But the Wizards’ star can become a free agent next summer should he choose not to sign a contract extension this year. The Wizards hope that this team is better than the ones they’ve built around Beal the last few seasons.
It will certainly be different. With a new coach (Wes Unseld Jr.) and the departure of Russell Westbrook, new roles will be defined. The Westbrook trade brought additional depth, Spencer Dinwiddie was targeted in free agency, and the Wizards have a pair of developing players – Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija – who were selected with lottery picks in the 2019 and 2020 drafts. It’s a bit of a fresh start.
How good will Dinwiddie be? The 28-year-old isn’t a second star, but he can give the Wizards some off-the-dribble offense, making things a little easier for Beal when they’re on the floor together and preventing a huge drop-off when Beal rests. Dinwiddie has never shot particularly well from the outside, and two seasons ago, he was one of the league’s least efficient high-usage scorers. (Of course, he was more efficient than Westbrook was that season or last season.) It will be interesting to see how strong he is upon his return from knee injury, how well he shoots from the outside, and if he and Beal can make each other better.
The Wizards’ depth and defense should both be improved. In fact, the starting lineup projected below could be a strong defensive unit, especially if Beal recommits to that end of the floor. But, unless one of the young guys improves dramatically, this team’s talent probably can’t match up with the best five or six teams in the Eastern Conference. They appear to be in a group of teams that will be fighting for Play-In positioning until the final week of the season. Predicted finish: 37-45.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Spencer Dinwiddie: Less than 10 months since he tore his ACL, but it was a partial tear and he’s been cleared.
Bradley Beal: Free throws (86.6% on 7.8 attempts per game over the last two seasons) a big part of his scoring.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: 39.3% on catch-and-shoot 3s in his four seasons in L.A. Strong perimeter defender.
Rui Hachimura: Took a step forward in his second season. Has the potential to be a strong, two-way forward.
Daniel Gafford: Emerged as an effective rim protector and rim runner after arriving from Chicago last season.
Raul Neto: Wizards had success (+10.9 points per 100 poss.) playing him with Westbrook and Beal last season.
Corey Kispert: Four-year college player should be ready to contribute. 44% from 3 over last two seasons at Gonzaga.
Kyle Kuzma: Better finisher inside than shooter from the perimeter, but 36% from 3 last season was a jump.
Davis Bertans: Instant offense. High and quick release. But limited beyond his catch-and-shoot 3s.
Montrezl Harrell: League’s most efficient roll man last year, but had another rough postseason.
LAST 5 SEASONS
How the Wizards have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
STAT TO KNOW
27.0% — Bradley Beal has ranked second in the league in scoring in each of the last two seasons. But last season, he took only 27.0% of his shots from 3-point range, down from 36.9% in 2019-20. That was the fifth biggest drop among 110 players with at least 500 field goal attempts each season. Beal shot a career-low 34.9% from beyond the arc last season.
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