The Washington Wizards starters, including guard John Wall, center, are introduced before a pre-season NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
With two games left in the preseason, the Washington Wizards may have lost more personnel to upcoming suspensions and injuries than any other team in the Association, and they’re still off to a 4-2 start.
Their two losses have both come at the hands of the Charlotte Hornets—which should be a concern to the Wizards, as the Hornets are divisional rivals. However, Washington has used the preseason contest to scout its younger players, and the results have been encouraging.
With Bradley Beal’s wrist injury possibly sidelining him until January, sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr. has flashed signs of better play recognition and an improved all-around game, which has him fitting nicely into the Wizards’ offensive sets. Porter has chipped in 13 points and five rebounds in the preseason as he tries to get up to speed to replace last year’s swing man, Trevor Ariza.
While the Wizards’ younger players have impressed, it hasn’t been a breakout exhibition season for the team’s established players. John Wall’s jump shot hasn’t wowed anybody, and veterans like Nene and Marcin Gortat haven’t seen enough playing time to show any improvements they may have made over the summer.
The Wizards are in store for a long season, and need to get Beal back as soon as possible. Another important missing piece is backup big man Kris Humphries, whose hand injury will potentially keep him out for another month. The shelves aren’t bare for the Wizards, however. The addition of Paul Pierce should provide some spark, and Gortat and Wall give Washington a strong enough base with which to win. Nene and rotation players DeJuan Blair and Xavier Silas will miss opening night, however; all three were suspended one game for their roles in a fiasco two weeks ago in the team’s preseason opener against the Chicago Bulls. With Beal and Humphries also down, Washington will need all hands on deck for a duel with the defending Eastern Conference champions Miami Heat on the road.
Washington’s front office has done a good job this summer of infusing the team with veterans, which should give the team an edge while they await the returns of Beal and Humphries. If the preseason is any indicator, then the progress of Porter and the expected performances of Wall, Gortat and the rest of the team should be enough for another playoff appearance. But Wall’s jumper and Beal’s health will determine how far the team can go. If Porter explodes in his second year, then pleasant surprises could be in store.