Hype is Real: Wizards looking to start winning

Published October 10, 2022, 1:00 PMPolo Bustamante
Polo Bustamante

With their franchise player Bradley Beal secured, Washington is looking to finally take a step forward.

Overview of their 2021-2022 season

It feels like the Washington Wizards were in limbo for much of last season. The focus of the team wasn’t so much on the product on court, but mostly on their All-Star Bradley Beal’s future with the team. Unlike John Wall who reportedly requested for a trade, Beal never officially asked out. But, it was an open secret that he was unhappy with the direction the team was going. His impending free agency cast a dark cloud over their 2021-2022 season.

The Wizards for their part tried to keep Beal happy by making significant moves to improve the roster. They traded away the ball-dominant Russell Westbrook and brought in several role players that fit better with the team. They also made a move to acquire Kristaps Porzingis, a talented big man they could pair with Beal.

Unfortunately, the one thing the Wizards couldn’t trade away was their injury problems. Beal only managed to play 40 games last season. Without him, Washington sputtered to 12th place in the East, winning only 35 games. That finish only stoked the fire of the “Beal is leaving” narrative.

What’s new this season?

Surprise, surprise. Even with the Wizards taking a step back last season, Beal decided to stay, for the long run. He signed a five-year deal with the team, which signified his commitment to build something long-term in Washington.

The Wizards can finally breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Beal is in it for the long haul. They can now look forward and find ways to improve their roster around their franchise player. More importantly, as a group, they can now focus on winning basketball games this coming season.

THE guy

By agreeing to a 251 million dollar contract, Beal is the unquestioned superstar in Washington. He doesn’t have to share a back court with Wall or Westbrook anymore. The team is all his. Where he goes, the team will follow.

Last season, the pressure was on the team to make Beal happy. This season, with the Wizards giving Beal the bag, the pressure is now on him. Can he stay healthy? Can he elevate his game to All-NBA levels? Can he lead the Wizards back to the playoffs? These are all questions he has to answer as the new cornerstone of the team.

Sneaky fun get

Porzingis joined the team last season after a midseason trade with the Dallas Mavericks. He was actually good in Dallas, averaging 19 points and nearly eight rebounds per game. It’s just that he didn’t fit with the team’s new playing style anymore.

In the 17 games he was able to play with the Wizards though, Porzingis was even better. He upped his averages to 22 points, nine rebounds, and 47 percent shooting. That was a small sample size to properly judge how well he fit in Washington. But given the fact that the Wizards have cobbled together a frontcourt with guys like Daniel Gafford, Mo Wagner, Robin Lopez, and Alex Len in the past seasons, Porzingis clearly becomes the best big man they’ve had since Marcin Gortat.

Vibe check

Beal is looking for a deep playoff run, something he hasn’t done yet in his career. Taking a look at this roster, that’s something he won’t be doing yet next season. Right now, they’re a play-in team, at best. 

They have the bones of a good team. Beal and Porzingis will lead the way. Kyle Kuzma, Will Barton, and Monte Morris are solid role players. The growth of this team hinges on the improvement of their young guns, Rui Hachimura, Corey Kispert, and Deni Avdija. If those three can make the leap next season and fill in roles that the rest of the team needs, then the Wizards can surprise the league. Washington has a real chance to change the “in” to “off” on their ceiling as a team.