The Washington Wizards finished the 2022/23 season with a 35-47 record to end the campaign five games off of a spot in the play-in round.
Then, they traded three of their top six scorers from last season over the summer.
After moving sixth man Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers where he has developed into a borderline star thanks to a few big performances, Wizards general manager Will Dawkins decided to dive into the rebuild almost immediately after he was appointed to the position in June 2023.
Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, and Monte Morris are all gone, and with the Wizards’ young players set to take on roles bigger than they have had in their careers, it could be a long season with few highlights.
|2022/23 Washington Wizards||Record: 35-47|
|Result: Missed Playoffs|
|To win 2023/24 NBA Championship:||+30000|
|To win 2023/24 NBA Eastern Conference:||+15000|
After the Wizards received Chris Paul from the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Bradley Beal, they quickly flipped the experienced Paul for 24-year-old guard Jordan Poole from the Golden State Warriors.
Poole can fill up the basket – he averaged 20.4 points per game for a star-laden Warriors team last season – but he is not the most efficient shooter at 43 percent from the field in 2022/23, which is likely one reason the Warriors let him go in favor of Paul as they chase a championship.
The combo guard will immediately jump into the Wizards lineup and become the first scoring option. If he picks his spots and gets his teammates involved, Poole and co. could surprise a few people.
Patrick Baldwin Jr. – Golden State
Jared Butler – Oklahoma City
Bilal Coulibaly – Draft/Metropolitans 92
Danilo Gallinari – Boston
Tyus Jones – Memphis
Mike Muscala – Boston
Jordan Poole – Golden State
Ryan Rollins – Golden State
Landry Shamet – Phoenix
Bradley Beal – Phoenix
Jordan Goodwin – Phoenix
Monte Morris – Detroit
Kendrick Nunn – Boston
Kristaps Porzingis – Boston
The Wizards kick off the season with an away game on Oct. 25 against the Indiana Pacers, who finished last season with the same record as Washington: 35-47.
Washington then returns home to host the Memphis Grizzlies on Oct. 28, before Kristaps Porzingis returns as the Wizards host the Boston Celtics on Oct. 30.
The Wizards face last season’s NBA Finals runners up, the Miami Heat, in Florida Nov. 3. Then, they face the Philadelphia 76ers on the road on Nov. 6.
With the joint-longest odds to win the NBA Championship at +30000, the Washington Wizards are predicted to be one of the league’s worst teams.
That’s not surprising, considering they traded their best players for younger replacements and draft picks while also drafting a player viewed as a long-term development project in Bilal Coulibaly.
Washington’s ceiling depends on how much the young core develops, and whether their experienced teammates like Tyus Jones and Kyle Kuzma can step up to lead the team.
Kuzma, entering the season at 28-years-old, has spent time as both a solid bench piece on some of the league’s best teams – he won the NBA Championship with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020 – and as a prolific scorer for bad to mediocre teams.
He looks set for more of the same this season. Kuzma and Jordan Poole could each average 25 points per game this season, and if they do it on efficient shooting while involving their teammates, the Wizards could be much better than expected.
The biggest question mark of all is forward Deni Avdija, who the Wizards drafted with the ninth-overall pick in 2020.
Avdija has never averaged more than 10 points per game in a season, nor has he averaged more than 27 minutes per game for a season. But he has scored over 20 points in a game eight times in his career, playing at least 30 minutes in each of those games.
He is still just 22 years old and the Wizards saw him as a development project when they took him, but giving him more time on the court could benefit Avdija and his team this season.
The Wizards won’t block many shots with their two centers being Taj Gibson and Mike Muscala, so head coach Wes Unseld Jr. – son of the franchise’s legendary big man Wes Unseld Sr. who played when the team was called the Bullets – might as well give his young players a chance all season long.