In the postseason, ‘star power’ often ultimately decides the outcome of a series. Well, the Wizards definitely have that. Don’t let the unconvincing 43-39 record and apparent disarray fool you; when John Wall and Bradley Beal are healthy, engaged and confident, they can cause any team trouble. In other words, the Wizards need their All-Stars to play like just that, as the team look to become a heightened, ‘playoff ready’ version of themselves and recover from a lacklustre end of the year.
To bookend this year’s campaign, Washington lost to a 25-win Orlando Magic team, meaning that they have won only three of their last twelve games. They will need to hit reset on a forgettable season and hope that they can overcome their lack of any kind of momentum heading into the playoffs.
Of course, Brooks was robbed of a key resource throughout the year. Face of the franchise, Wall only laced up for 41 games this year. A massive loss for the team of course, as he averaged 19 points from 42% shooting and 9.6 assists for the year, when available. In his absence, team-mate Beal logged 22 points, while posting career highs in rebounds (4.4) and assists (4.5).
Washington’s strength lies in their ability to fast break with extreme velocity. Similarly to Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, John Wall can stride from coast to coast in a flash, leaving defenders in the dust. Combined with Bradley Beal’s elite off-ball movement and shooting, Otto Porter Jr’s versatility and Markieff Morris’ disruptive physicality, Wall’s pure speed can serve as a major advantage.
Depth is a huge flaw in this Washington team, especially on the wing. They will be forced to rely heavily on their first unit to win games. The bad news for them in the first round is that they happen to be facing a team that can attribute a lot of this year’s success to their versatile, game-changing bench. Relying on Beal, who has been forced to carry the team on his back a lot of the year, and an oft-absent John Wall to play most of a series may be an overly-ambitious ask but it’s the only way they will even go further than the first round.
Should the Wizards struggle to make any noise during the postseason, it wouldn’t be a major shock if the front office were tempted to blow it up. This team aren’t going to the NBA finals, but should they fail to appear competitive and not be able to see a realistic path to success with the current core, they may decide which of their stars to invest in and trade the other for a wealth of on-court and off-court assets.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER?
With increased responsibility as the main offensive weapon for the majority of this year, Bradley Beal may have become the leader of this team. His constant movement and ability to workoff screens can cause major problems for defenses and when he’s hot, he becomes virtually unstoppable from the 3-point line. If Beal puts the team on his back, the 2018 playoffs may just cement him as the team’s best player going forward.
THE ONE TO WATCH?
Strange one really, considering just how much he’s already been mentioned above and his multiple All-Star appearances, but John Wall’s willingness to ‘buy in’ may be something worth watching. His lack of off-ball movement, some supposed chemistry issues and his occasional lack of effort have been highlighted this year and some have even suggested that the team are better off without him. It’ll be fascinating to see how much of a difference he can make when healthy and ready to compete.
Written by Josh Coyne – Copyright © 2018 Double Clutch. Double Clutch is not affiliated with the NBA and does not claim ownership over any NBA audio or images used. All rights are those of the NBA/NBA UK and respected parties e.g. Getty images.