With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league.
Up next, we're taking a look at the Southeast Division. We kicked it off with the Orlando Magic, and now we shift our focus to the Washington Wizards.
2017-18 season record
43-39 (8th in the Eastern Conference)
Projected 2018-19 season record
44.5 (6th in the Eastern Conference)
Troy Brown Jr. (Draft)
Thomas Bryant (Free Agency)
Jeff Green (Free Agency)
Dwight Howard (Free Agency)
Austin Rivers (Trade)
Tim Frazier (Free Agency)
Marcin Gortat (Trade)
Mike Scott (Free Agency)
Ramon Sessions (Free Agency)
3 key storylines
John Wall's health
Wall only competed in exactly half of the Wizards' games last season due to a lingering knee injury. The injury eventually required surgery which kept him sidelined until the very last week of the season. Returning just in time for the playoffs, Wall put together a solid performance through six games in their first-round loss. He averaged 26.0 points and 11.5 assists per game, adding 5.7 rebounds to his totals.
The season prior, Wall was completely healthy playing in 78 regular season games and all 13 postseason games. He had career-highs in points per game with 23.0 and field goal percentage at 45.1. He added 10.7 assists per game which were good for second best in the league, earning him a spot on the All-NBA third team. When healthy, Wall is more than capable of putting together another season as he did in 2016-17. If this team wants to make a surprise run in the East, it rides on the health of their star point guard.
Dwight Howard's presence
The Wizards traded centre Marcin Gortat this offseason after five years with the team. They filled that void with Howard, who signed a two-year, $11 million deal this offseason. As the second year is a player option, the contract acts as a one year partnership to see how things work out.
Statistically, Howard should be an upgrade for the Wizards compared to Gortat. His 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game with the Charlotte Hornets last season is an improvement from Gortat's 8.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Howard also blocked 1.6 shots a game, which should elevate their interior defence compared to Gortat's 0.7 blocks a game last season. The best version of Dwight should be able to take the Wizards to the next level in the East.
Bradley Beal maintaining his all-star calibre play
Beal has broken out these past two years, placing he and Wall in the conversation of best backcourt in the NBA. Beal finally earned his first All-Atar honour last year, though you could argue his 2016-17 season was better. Over the last two years, Beal has averaged 22.9 points, 4.0 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game - an improvement from the 16.0 points and 3.0 assists he averaged over the first four years of his career.
While Beal's shot volume has increased by three field goal attempts per game over the last two seasons as well, his field goal percentage has not taken a hit. He has shot 47.0 percent from the field as of late, which is an improvement on the 42.6% he shot to start his career. If the Wizards are going to be successful this season, it is vital that Beal continues to improve his game and play at the level he has these past two years.
5 games to watch
Oct. 20 vs. Toronto Raptors
The Wizards battled with the Raptors in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs last year. As the eight-seed, they extended the series to six games, which is further than anyone expected things to go after Washington dropped the first two games in Toronto. If the Wizards want to be an elite team in the East this year, they'll have to make their mark early in the season in this game.
Oct. 22 at Portland Trail Blazers
Wall and Beal are considered one of the top backcourts in the NBA. This game will be circled on their calendar as it's their chance to try and prove they're above the Blazers' Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on the NBA backcourt power rankings.
Nov. 20 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
The Wizards and Clippers swapped Marcin Gortat for Austin Rivers this offseason. This game draws attention in two different ways, with Austin Rivers playing against his father Doc Rivers, the head coach of the Clippers. The other aspect being that Wall and Gortat butted heads all last season, which is seen to be one of the reasons Gortat was sent out of Washington this offseason.
Dec. 10 at Indiana Pacers
The Pacers were one of the surprise teams in the Eastern Conference last season, nearly knocking out LeBron James in the first round. To be that surprise team in the East this season, knocking off Indiana will certainly be a step in the right direction for Washington.
Dec. 12 vs. Boston Celtics
The Celtics and Wizards have a history of disagreements on the court. Just last week, Wizards' forward Markieff Morris, brother of Celtics' forward Marcus Morris, claimed "the Celtics have never been better than the Wizards." You can call that adding fuel to the already burning fire between these two teams. Keep an eye out on this game.