Despite Bradley Beal’s early week presumption that the Washington Wizards have the best backcourt in the NBA, with the season just around the corner and scrimmages and practices taking place, Washington is going to have to lean on its frontcourt if it wants a deep postseason run.
Beal and John Wall have already shown what they can do, raising their game to new heights last season while guiding Washington to the second round last summer. With integral piece, Trevor Ariza leaving via free agency, sophomore forward Otto Porter will have to step in and fill a huge role as the backup to newly acquired Paul Pierce. Despite the revolving door at small forward, the LVH Superbook at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort has already pencilled in the Wizards for close to 50 wins this season.
The Cleveland Cavaliers opened their season with a public scrimmage last week in which their full collection of talent was on display for fans. LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters showcased their talent to a screaming arena. With the type of firepower that the Cavaliers are set to unleash this season, it’s going to take more than a Twitter battle about who’s better between Irving and Waiters and Wall and Beal to vanquish the Cavaliers. Players like Nenê, Pierce, Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair and a handsomely paid Marcin Gortat will have to step up significantly and play above their heads. Not to mention Porter, who will definitely have to return the investments on the high No. 3 overall pick that the Wizards used on him in 2013.
With players like James, Carmelo Anthony, Luol Deng, DeMar DeRozan, Josh Smith and rookie Jabari Parker patrolling the East, the pressure will be on Porter to be ready to run with the big boys. Pierce, 37, won’t be expected to handle heavy rotation minutes this season, so we should expect Porter to operate as a co-starter this season.
Washington hasn’t been pegged for big things in a long time. Not since the days Gilbert Arenas and company were manning the floors at the MCI/Verizon Center. With expectations high again and fresh off a playoff position, the time to develop is over for the Wizards. Results will definitely be expected from a mixed group of veterans and younger players with loads of potential.
Nenê isn’t expected to remain healthy for an entire campaign, which is the very reason why Humphries and Blair were brought in. But his health will be critical to the Wizards this year, and his contract ($14 million per year) is a heavy weight for a player who routinely gets injured. But his skills, toughness and leadership are all vital to the Wizards, and the team can’t operate at its 50-win potential with him shelved for an extended period of time.
Gortat has already proven to be one of the better centers in the league. But, his contract ($12 million a year) isn’t cheap compared to NBA standards, and his numbers from last season (13.2 and 9.5 rebounds) don’t necessarily equate to what Washington decided to pay him this summer.
Despite a 50-win prediction, things aren’t going to be easy in the East as the conference has definitely improved. Cleveland could easily become a powerhouse, while Derrick Rose has returned to the Chicago Bulls. The growth of Wall and Beal will definitely play a factor in the team’s success, but a patchwork frontcourt mixed with youth, average veterans and over-the-hill former superstars will be an interesting storyline for the 2014-2015 Washington Wizards.