Before last season, many believed the Washington Wizards were a team badly in need of a reboot. The John Wall-Bradley Beal tandem has been one of the most prolific backcourts in the NBA for the last handful of years. But the team has never been able to make much noise in the playoffs. The Wizards have made four playoff appearances with Wall and Beal together, yet the franchise still has not advanced past the conference semifinals since 1978-79. Washington basketball has been underwhelming for a long, long time.
Wall suffered a couple of injuries last season that limited him to just 32 games. He was forced to undergo a season-ending heel surgery in January, and a subsequent Achilles injury may keep him sidelined for the entirety of the 2019-20 campaign, as well. Washington was struggling to win games even when he was on the court last season, and things got worse after he went down. The Wizards wound up going just 32-50, which was good for 11th place in the Eastern Conference.
Beal has emerged as a legitimate star over the past couple of seasons, and it’s not unfair to suggest that he’s now the face of the Wizards franchise. However, it’s fair to wonder whether he alone will be enough to lift the Wizards back into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference this season. If their projected win total is any indication, they won’t come close to sniffing the postseason. MyBookie.ag has the Wizards’ over/under at just 27 ½ heading into the new season, which is one of the lowest totals in the entire league.
Can Washington bounce back after a rough 2018-19? Or is D.C. set for another long season?
Wizards 2019 Offseason Moves
After Wall’s injury, the Wizards turned to Tomas Satoransky to lead the first unit. The Czech Republic product fared well in Wall’s stead, as he would go on to average career-highs in points (8.9), assists (5.0), and rebounds (3.5) across 80 games a season ago. Satoransky averaged around 11 points and seven assists after being inserted as the starting point guard. He was able to parlay that strong showing into a new contract with the Chicago Bulls this summer. Satoransky put pen to paper on a 3-year pact worth $30 million to take his talents to the Windy City.
With both of last season’s starting point guards out of the picture, Washington signed veterans Ish Smith and Isaiah Thomas this summer. Smith has bounced around the league quite a bit, while Thomas has struggled to stay healthy over the past couple of seasons. Thomas has already suffered a thumb injury in the lead-up to this season so that Smith will begin the year as Washington’s unquestioned starter.
Smith has essentially split the starting duties with Reggie Jackson in Detroit over the past couple of years. He has never been tasked with being a team’s starter out of camp. He’s not much of a shooter, but he’s a smart passer, a capable defender, and he has shown a knack for using his speed to get into the paint. Thomas is a couple of years removed from being one of the highest-scoring guards in the league, but it remains to be seen whether he has much left in the tank. He has shot under 40 percent from the field at each of his previous three stops in Cleveland, L.A. and Denver. His defense is bad enough to where he’s been unplayable at times.
Washington also lost Trevor Ariza in free agency, which likely means more minutes on the wing for second-year player Troy Brown and newcomer C.J. Miles. Miles spent last season between Toronto and Memphis, and he has emerged as a useful gunner from long range. Miles is a career 36 percent shooter from 3-point range. However, he had surgery to repair a stress fracture on his left foot in July. His surgery puts his status for the beginning of the season into question. Brown was the Wizards’ lottery pick in 2018 out of Oregon, and he showed flashes in the latter stages of last season. However, he injured his left calf late last month. The injury is expected to sideline Brown until late-October, which means he could miss the first week-plus of the season.
Washington also drafted Gonzaga big man Rui Hachimura in the first round of the draft, while stretch-forward Davis Bertans was acquired in an offseason trade with San Antonio. The Wizards additionally acquired three players from the Lakers, including former Michigan standout Mo Wagner, to help L.A. clear enough cap space to trade for Anthony Davis. Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis, who came over in a late-season trade from Chicago, both left as free agents, while Dwight Howard and Jeff Green also found new homes.
Wizards 2018-19 Statistics
Points per Game
Points Allowed per Game
Opponent 3-Point Shooting
Wizards vs Southeast Division
The Wizards didn’t do a whole lot of winning last season, and they also finished under .500 against their division. Washington went 7-9 against the rest of the Southeast and just 19-33 against the rest of the Eastern Conference as a whole. The Wizards enjoyed slightly more success against the West (13-17), but they still came nowhere near qualifying for a playoff spot. Washington finished nine games worse than the eighth-place Pistons, and 10 games worse than the division-winning Orlando Magic.
The Wizards’ struggles had plenty to do with injuries, and the team also made a couple of questionable trades. Otto Porter Jr., once considered to be a cornerstone of the franchise with Wall and Beal, was unceremoniously shipped to Chicago ahead of the trade deadline in what amounted to a salary dump. Porter is an excellent player, but the Wizards felt his lucrative contract was cumbersome with Beal and Wall also on the books. Despite being a useful player, he was traded to the Bulls in exchange for Parker and Portis, who played a handful of games with the team before leaving this summer.
Washington also traded young swingman Kelly Oubre to Phoenix for Ariza. The move reeked of desperation. Washington’s brass was hoping that re-acquiring a popular veteran like Ariza would effectively galvanize the locker room following the team’s disastrous start to the campaign. It didn’t work, though, and Ariza didn’t play well at all in his 43 games with the team last season. Oubre, meanwhile, showed some signs on both ends of the floor, which prompted Phoenix to retain the 23-year-old on a contract extension earlier this summer.
Wizards 2019-20 Win Total Prediction
The injuries are already starting to mount for the Wizards, and the season hasn’t even started. The team’s depth will be tested early on. It’ll be interesting to see what head coach Scott Brooks does with his wing rotation if Brown and Miles are sidelined when the regular season starts. Washington may have to rely on unproven youngsters like Jemerrio Jones, Admiral Schofield and Jordan McRae, which can’t be suitable for their long-term win projection.
Once again, it’s looking as though Bradley Beal is going to have to shoulder a massive load. Thomas’ eventual return should help a little bit from a usage perspective. Beal may well improve upon last season’s career-best scoring average of 25.6 points per game. The Florida product had to shoot nearly 20 times per game, but he was up to the task. Beal also led the league in minutes, as he played 36.9 minutes per game a season ago.
As it stands, the Wizards have no clear-cut second offensive option behind Beal. Thomas Bryant showed some signs after getting big minutes in the second half of last season. He’s not a player that Washington can rely on to use a bunch of possessions offensively. Bryant averaged 10.5 points per game in just over 20 minutes a game, but he’s not a guy that is going to stretch the floor, either. McRae is a score-first guard, but there is a reason he’s played for numerous teams over a handful of seasons as a pro.
If teams can focus their defenses on stopping Beal, I’m not sure how the Wizards are going to score. Beal is good enough to post big numbers despite the extra defensive attention and playing in a watered-down Southeast Division should lead to a few more victories. The problem is that the roster is just devoid of talent. Guys like Brown, Bryant and Hachimura could give the Wizards a little bit of hope for the future, but this team is going to struggle.
Washington was one of the worst defensive teams in the league last season. They had the third-worst defensive rating while allowing the second-most points per game.
Nothing they have done this summer from a personnel perspective leads me to believe we are about to see a vast improvement in that department. Teams that rely so heavily on young players rarely become elite defensive teams. This Wizards team will be a sieve once again.
Washington won 32 games last season, but I have a hard time believing they get back there. The Eastern Conference got a little bit better this summer, while this team appears to have gotten quite a bit worse. I’m not at all sold that Isaiah Thomas will be able to rediscover his old form once he does return from his injury. While Wall may not play at all. 27 ½ wins feels like a lofty goal for a team with as many problems as this one has.
Bet the under on 27 ½ wins for Washington in 2019-20
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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