So much of what they are and could be depends on Bradley Beal's health. There is no more versatile scorer on the Wizards' roster; Beal is a pick-and-roll creator, a natural shooter off curls, and a deadly spot-up option who's the perfect complement to John Wall. Frequent injuries, however, have kept Beal from gaining much developmental traction. Last year Beal missed 27 games, the third time in his four seasons he's sat out at least 19. Washington has suffered for it.
The hope entering this season is a familiar one: that Beal's worst impediments are behind him, allowing the 23-year-old to take meaningful steps forward and push the Wizards—who were five games worse last year than in 2014--15—along with him. Beal's getting right won't fix all of the profound weirdness that loomed over the team last season (most notably the tension between Beal and Wall). It can, however, give Washington its best chance at playoff competence. The floor is better spaced with him on it. Wall's work in piloting the offense is far easier with Beal involved. Just by doing what he does best, Beal anchors Washington's backcourt and protects its shaky bench from overextension.
PROJECTED LINEUP | 2015--16 stats
COACH SCOTT BROOKS (1st season with Wizards)
2015--16 RECORD 41--41 (4th in Southeast)
PG JOHN WALL
19.9 PPG; 10.2 APG; 1.9 SPG; 42.4 FG%
SG BRADLEY BEAL
17.4 PPG; 3.4 RPG; 44.9 FG%; 38.7 3FG%
SF OTTO PORTER
11.6 PPG; 5.2 RPG; 1.4 SPG; 47.3 3FG%
PF MARKIEFF MORRIS
12.0 PPG; 5.5 RPG; 1.9 APG; 42.5 FG%
C MARCIN GORTAT
13.5 PPG; 9.9 RPG; 1.3 BPG; 56.7 FG%
SG MARCUS THORNTON
9.7 PPG; 2.5 RPG; 39.9 FG%; 33.7 3FG%
PG TREY BURKE*
10.6 PPG; 2.3 APG; 41.3 FG%; 34.4 3FG%
C IAN MAHINMI*
9.3 PPG; 7.1 RPG; 1.1 BPG; 58.9 FG%
TELLING NUMBER 27
A rival scout sizes up Washington
They could have issues lingering from last season. It's well-known that John Wall and Bradley Beal don't always see eye to eye. That could create problems.... If Beal, Wall and Otto Porter are all playing together, you have one of the best one-two-three combinations in the East.... There's nobody in the league faster from end line to end line than Wall. Nobody can get to the rim and finish like he can. But his lack of perimeter shooting has really held him back. And he's looking to shoot a little more than he probably should. Sometimes he plays too fast, where he's just running past everybody and it's one-on-four. He's got to learn to play more cerebrally.... A new start should be a good for Markieff Morris. He allows them to play small and space the floor, because you really can't play Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi together. Morris fits in well with either of them. He'll stretch the floor, he'll be able to run. If he produces at the four and Porter elevates his game, they'll be pretty good offensively.... Mahinmi's known as a defensive player and a rebounder. He has the skills to go out and guard the pick-and-pop, which a lot of centers struggle to do. He doesn't have great hands, and doesn't have the touch Gortat has or the ability with his back to the basket. The combination of Gortat and Mahinmi, if they were one player, would be pretty good.... [New coach] Scott Brooks needs to do a lot of the same things he did in Oklahoma City: change the culture, implement a system. Brooks is a proven winner. Granted, he had good talent, but he did win with it.
A capable roster with a winning coach makes the Wiz a compelling group in the East.