It's been an eventful week getting to know the new look Washington Wizards and learning what expectation's both individually for the players and team wise that new head coach Scott Brooks has overall. While there is a relative youth movement with the Wizards, Brooks is expecting the young players to learn, adapt and produce like a veteran. Without that production, it will put more pressure on John Wall, who is still working his way back from off season knee surgery, Brad Beal and Washington's veteran front court Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris to carry the team throughout the season in an improving eastern conference. With that said, let's take a look at what jumped out during Wizards training camp and why it should have DC excited as the regular season approaches.
1. Scott Brooks -
Brooks in multiple interviews showed himself to be a understanding yet demanding head coach. He doesn't hold players hands and expects all of the players to be ready to produce, no matter the age. With a training camp roster of twelve players at age 26 or younger, Brooks is the perfect fit to help these youngsters grow into productive impact players. That hasn't been the case in years past outside of John Wall and Bradley Beal, who are clearly exceptions. Why should DC believe that Brooks will get a lot out of this young core? Look no further than what he did in Oklahoma City from 2008-2015. The development of perennial all stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden as well as productive veterans Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams among others. If Brooks can bring that impact to this Wizards roster, DC will have a contending team in the near future. Stay tuned!!!
2. John Wall...MVP????
Most people forget how Russell Westbrook played in his first few seasons in the NBA, he was an explosive scoring guard who was learning how to play point guard on the job, which isn't an easy task. Yet, each year with Brooks guidance (who is a NBA champion veteran point guard in his own right), Westbrook got better and better to the point that he is arguably the best point guard in the NBA. John Wall has had the same growth as a point guard. Wall when he first came into the NBA tried to speed pass everybody on the court, problem was that it also included his teammates. Over time, Wall learned to slow things down and has become an all star as well as one of the top all around point guards in the NBA. Scary thing is Wall still has room to grow as he approaches his prime. Wall is coming off the best individual season of his career where he averaged career highs in points (19.9), assist (10.2) and rebounds (4.9) . Yet, his efficiency shooting the ball ( 15-16 - 42% FG/ 35% from 3-pt range) has held him back. Brooks helped Westbrook develop two area's of shooting that have become relatively automatic for him and that's his mid-range pull up jumper and jumper from the mid post. Those additions helped Westbrook average a career high 28.1 points per game during the 2014-2015 season, his last under Scott Brooks. If Wall can add something similar to his game, he can easily average an efficient 20-25 points per game while getting his ten assist. Although, those extra points will make the Wizards a more dangerous team, with teams having to now defend Wall tighter when he has the ball and we all know you're at Walls mercy with that type of defense. If he can make that improvement in his shooting, Wall becomes a better player, the Wizards become a better team and MVP consideration will be sure to follow. Just like a former point guard under Brooks tutelage.
3. Athleticism/Defense -
Kelly Oubre Takes Flight
Watching the Wizards play last season, as a team, they looked slow and lethargic at times. It seemed as if outside of Wall and Beal, only Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris and in his limited time on the floor Kelly Oubre could consistently run with those two. It showed in many ways, especially defensively as opponents shot 46 percent from the field scoring 104.6 points per game during the 15-16 season. That won't be an issue this season. Washington roster is full of young, athletic, versatile players, and that's not even including Wall and Beal. Second year wing Kelly Oubre showed flashes of becoming a productive two way player during his rookie season. His blend of size (6'7), length (7 foot wingspan) and leaping ability, gives him the prerequisite tools to be an elite defender. Brooks has made it clear that Oubre will guard multiple positions all season long, specifically the one to the four. Porter is not far behind Oubre in the athleticism department, yet he's a little bit bigger at 6'8 and has more experience. The combination of Oubre and Porter at the small forward position to throw at the likes of Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard is not only a positive but a necessity. It doesn't end there, rookies Sheldon McClellan, Danuel House and soon to be crowd favorite Tomas Satoransky are all elite athletes in their own right, who can guard multiple positions. In fact after winning the dunk contest at the open practice, it's clear that Satoransky is the best leaper on the team. Add in veteran big men Andrew Nicholson (6'9), Johnny O'Bryant (6'9), Ian Mahinmi (6'11), Jason Smith ( 7'0) and rookie Daniel Ochefu (6'11) , Washington now has depth and athleticism in their front court to protect the basket. Something that was sorely missing last season. Brooks number one objective during camp has been defense, and if everyone buys in, this Wizards team can most certainly make the jump to being one of the best defensive teams in the league.
4. Brad Beal First Time All Star? -
Not long ago, Brad Beal was in the discussion with the Golden State Warriors Klay Thompson, Houston Rockets James Harden and Toronto Raptors Demar Derozan as the best shooting guard in the NBA. That talk has died out due to re-occurring injuries for Beal. However, when he plays, he's a serious problem. Beal is coming off a season where he averaged a career high 17.4 points per game and shot a career high 44 percent from the field. Even though there is competition at the off guard spot in the eastern conference with Derozan, Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade among others, Beal should have his spot locked down for an all star nod starting this season. With Brooks on board to elevate the weaknesses in his game (making players better, attacking off the dribble and being a consistent on ball defender), Beal should reach an all star level fairly quickly. The question is, will his body allow him to be on the floor consistently to achieve that honor, that remains to be seen.
5. Playoffs....We Talking About Playoffs -
The final spot in the eastern conference was secured by the Detroit Pistons. You know what their final record was? 44-38. Do you know what the record was of the injury plagued Washington Wizards last season? 41-41. The third seed Miami Heat finished at 48-34. I brought all this up to pretty much confirm that the Wizards if healthy, will make the playoffs. Hell, Wall and Beal can win you 35-40 games by themselves. I understand the cynicism from the DC area, but please put emotion to the side and think with logic. Washington has one of the top back courts in the league, young, athletic, versatile wings, depth with size in the front court and a head coach who's been there and done that while being known for developing players. The only thing that can stop the Wizards from making the playoffs are themselves.