The Washington Wizards gave a balanced performance on Oct. 21 to rout the Toronto Raptors 119-82 and end the preseason on a high note with a 4-3 record. With star guard John Wall still recovering from offseason knee surgery, Washington began the preseason with a 1-2 record but won three of their final four games to generate some momentum before the regular season starts on Oct. 27 when the team travels to face the Atlanta Hawks. Washington also finalized their 15-man roster, releasing three players after parting ways with Casper Ware, Jarrell Eddie and Johnny O’Bryant.

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) leaps through the air past Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) leaps through the air past Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington will open the season next week with four rookies on the final roster, three of which went undrafted. Washington received a solid preseason from sophomore swing man Kelly Oubre Jr. and also saw positive play from summer acquisition Andrew Nicholson. Wall and backcourt mate Bradley Beal have gotten in tune since Wall’s return and they looked poised to have a solid campaign—provided Beal stays upright and avoids the injuries that have plagued him in past seasons. Forward Markieff Morris, who was acquired last season, spent much of last year trying to get acclimated to his new team but exploded for 19 points, six rebounds and three blocks in the last game. He could play a key role in the upcoming season.

The Wizards will still be looking up to the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference and will probably again have to deal with Toronto further down the road along with the retooled Boston Celtics. New coach Scott Brooks should definitely make an impact on a roster that has several key young pieces. Health will be a concern for every team in the NBA but it’s definitely a sticking point for the Wizards. Injuries and inconsistency were major factors in last season’s 41-41 finish and with marquee free agent Ian Mahinmi already out for several weeks with a knee injury, it’ll be imperative for the team to stay as upright as possible.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal shoots next to Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Two straight wins to end the preseason isn’t a major milestone but it’s something the team needs as they break in a new coach and a slew of new players. The core of the roster returns intact but the addition of summer free agents along with a quartet of rookies will give the team a new look this season. Washington couldn’t escape the preseason totally unscathed but there’s still enough firepower on the roster to get off to a solid start. It would’ve been nice to open the season with Mahinmi active and healthy but, considering he’s never suited up for the Wizards before, his absence might not be too much of a deal breaker in the early stages of the 2016-2017 season. Washington and its fans will cross their fingers for a healthy campaign, and the team could make a deep postseason run provided several bounces go its way. 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO