The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Next up, the Washington Wizards.
2020-21 season record
34-38, 10th in the Eastern Conference
Aaron Holiday, trade
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, trade
Kyle Kuzma, trade
Montrezl Harrell, trade
Spencer Dinwiddie, sign-and-trade
Corey Kispert, No. 15 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
Isaiah Todd, No. 31 pick is 2021 NBA Draft
Russell Westbrook, trade
Alex Len, free agency
Ish Smith, free agency
Chandler Hutchison, trade
Isaac Bonga, free agency
Robin Lopez, free agency
|PG||Spencer Dinwiddie||Aaron Holiday||Raul Neto||Cassius Winston|
|SG||Bradley Beal||Kentavious Caldwell-Pope||Jordan Goodwin|
|SF||Kyle Kuzma||Deni Avdija||Corey Kispert|
|PF||Rui Hachimura||Davis Bertans||Isaiah Todd||Anthony Gill|
|C||Thomas Bryant||Montrezl Harrell||Daniel Gafford||Jay Huff|
3 key storylines
A new direction
Depth is the name of the game for this Wizards team.
They had a decent amount of depth last season, but injuries had a big impact on a number of players in the rotation, namely starting center Thomas Bryant. Also, there was never really a long-term future to the Westbrook-Beal backcourt, whereas the moves the franchise has made in the 2021 offseason have helped them build a deeper, younger and more talented squad around Beal.
Having said that, the remaining transactions this season - if any - must be along the same lines. They should be helping this team build on their good summer.
The average age of the roster is 25.1, not too young or too old. Beal, the franchise superstar, is 28, but he has two young international wings with high upside next to him in Hachimura and Avdija. Not to mention, experienced players who still have room to improve in Dinwiddie, Kuzma, Harrell and Caldwell-Pope.
Can the Wizards use this year to get back on the right track?
First-year head coach Wes Unseld Jr.
The hiring of a new head coach in first-year man Wes Unseld Jr. is a huge statement by the Wizards.
Can he lead the Wizards' new vision? How will he perform in his first year as a head coach? Can he get the team to defend? Over the last three years, the Wizards have ranked 27th (2018-19), 29th (2019-20) and 20th (2020-21) in defensive efficiency.
A lot of questions, answers to which we might only have at the end of the year, but one thing that is for certain is there is no doubting Unseld Jr.'s credentials to be a head coach.
Son of an NBA legend and Hall of Famer, Unseld Jr. has over 16 years of experience as an assistant coach in the NBA with four different franchises - Wizards (2005-11), Golden State Warriors (2011-12), Orlando Magic (2012-15) and Denver Nuggets (2015-21).
In Denver, part of his assignment was to improve their lacklustre defence, and the results speak for themselves. After ranking 25th, 29th and 23rd in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively, the Nuggets jumped to a respectable 10th, 16th and 11th in the following three seasons.
He's on a four-year deal with the team, so there's a commitment from both sides. How he fares in his first year will play a huge factor in the team's future.
Will Bradley Beal stay?
It's no secret that a lot of teams would be interested in Beal if he ever became available.
That said, despite all the memes of his face on the bench from early last season, the 6-foot-3 guard has been professional through it all and has displayed his commitment time and again. But at some point, will his patience run out?
Beal has a player option for the final year of his extension (2022-23) so how things play out this year - the re-tooled roster, the new first-year head coach, the nature, attitude and direction of the franchise's front office - will likely play a huge role in his decision.
He does have some defensive-minded players in Dinwiddie, Caldwell-Pope and Holiday alongside him in the backcourt this season. As already mentioned, Washington has two incredible young, playmaking young wings to complement him as well. Health provided, this has the potential to be a team for Beal to eventually lead to contention.
On the flip side, if things don't fall into place and there's no solution available, Beal could be gone as soon as the summer of 2022.
5 games to watch
Oct. 25 at Brooklyn Nets
Going by roster construction and moves in the offseason, the Nets are among the top tier for title contention this season. Despite the large disparity in talent, the Wizards won the 2020-21 season series against the Nets (2-1). How will they fare this season against the prohibitive favourites from the East?
Nov. 7 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Everybody - players and fans - are ready for the defending champs. Last season, the Wizards lost their three games to the Bucks by a combined margin of 18 points. Can they take one or a couple off the Bucks this year?
Jan. 1 vs. Chicago Bulls
Coming off signing DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball in the offseason, the Bulls will be looking to at least make the Play-In Tournament this season and eventually the playoffs, which would be their first postseason since 2017. They will likely have to surpass the Wizards, one of four East teams that participated in the Play-In last season, in the standings to do so, making every matchup between the two teams a must-watch.
Jan. 15 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
A reunion with Scott Brooks. Currently an assistant with the Trail Blazers, Brooks was the head coach of the Wizards for five years since 2016.
This game is also a matchup between two of the top scoring guards in the league in Beal and Damian Lillard. For part of this offseason, there was speculation that both of these players could be requesting a trade, but so far they haven't.
March 11 at Los Angeles Lakers
All eyes will be on this game, which will mark Washington's first time facing Westbrook since the trade. The second of four straight on the West Coast for the Wizards, this should also be a great homecoming of sorts for players like Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who were part of the Lakers' championship team in 2020.
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