Washington Wizards season preview
This preview originally appeared in our 2023-24 VSiN NBA Betting Guide, which was released on Thursday, October 5. To become a VSiN Pro subscriber and get all of our NBA coverage throughout the season, click here.
Wizards Betting Odds
NBA Finals: +100000
Win Total: 24.5
Playoffs: Yes (+1100)
The Warriors pretty much made the decision to give Jordan Poole away, but there are reasons to believe he’ll be better in a new situation. Poole, who averaged 18.5 points per game in 2021-22 and 20.4 points per game in 2022-23, no longer has to try to fit in. This will be his show in Washington and that should bring out the best in him offensively — even if he will no longer have the luxury of all-world spacing playing next to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Poole should get his career back on track as more of a main option, and it isn’t outrageous to think that he’ll flirt with 25.0 points per game this year. The question is whether Wes Unseld Jr. can get him to buy in defensively. A lot of Golden State’s key players have openly talked about Poole’s lack of commitment on that end of the floor — with Andre Iguodala opening up about it just a few weeks before the start of this new season. If he never gives defense the old college try, the second half of his career will consist of him floating from team to team as a microwave scorer off the bench. And with a roster this low on talent, it’s going to be hard to win games if Poole isn’t at least trying to play winning basketball.
I’m actually somewhat interested in seeing what a five-man unit with Poole, Tyus Jones, Corey Kispert, Kyle Kuzma and Daniel Gafford looks like. Jones was always a calming presence on both ends of the floor when the Memphis Grizzlies needed him to play big minutes, and he’s a good fit next to a guy like Poole. Jones competes hard and focuses on making the right play. The Wizards can use some of that next to the not-so-organized chaos Poole brings to the floor. Meanwhile, Kispert is a marksman from deep, as he shot 42.4% from the outside last year. He’s also a good off-ball mover, and he doesn’t kill you on the other end of the floor either. As for Kuzma, the small-ball four played his way into a four-year, $102 million deal last year. He averaged 21.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game last season, and he has really grown into a potent scorer. And Gafford is just a good pick-and-roll big that can finish at the basket and play a little defense. So, that group would have a little bit of everything and could be competitive in spurts.
Washington also has two proven bench pieces in Delon Wright and Deni Avdija. Wright is a study ball handler offensively and one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders on the other end of the floor. There’s a good chance he’ll close out some games for the Wizards, as Unseld could opt to have him defending next to Poole in big moments. And Avdija is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a guy who can excel in a number of different lineups, as he plays hard on both ends, handles the ball well for a forward and can facilitate a little bit. If his jumper ever ends up coming along, he’ll eventually catch on as a starter.
The big question for the Wizards is what they’ll get out of second-year guard Johnny Davis and rookie wing Bilal Coulibaly. Davis is a good perimeter defender, but that’s all he is at this point. His scoring hasn’t translated at all at this level, and he’s not going to make much of an offensive impact without significantly improving as a shooter. Meanwhile, Coulibaly is a very raw prospect. He likely has the ability to impact games defensively because of his athleticism, length and ranginess as a 6-foot-6 guard. He also has good instincts on that end of the floor. But his offensive game might take a while to come along, so he likely isn’t looking at anything more than 18-20 minutes per game as a rookie.
Overall, Unseld is in an unenviable position with this team. The roster isn’t quite barren, but there aren’t any All-Stars here. And realistically, guys like Poole and Kuzma are better served as the fourth options on good teams, yet they’re thrown into starring roles here. Washington is going to be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to talent on a nightly basis. And having a roster that is something of an island of misfit toys is going to make it difficult for Unseld to impose his will on the team. I’m not exactly sure what style of play would make the most sense with a roster like this offensively. And even if Unseld puts one in place, will it work with gunners like Poole and Kuzma out there?
It’s also just hard to ignore the amount of turnover there was with this team from last season to this season. Washington is going to enter this year with very little continuity, which is yet another thing working against them. So, not only is this the roster with the least talent in the entire league, but it’s also a group that will be lacking structure and identity.
Win Total Analysis
I was really tempted to take the Over on this because the number is just so, so low. And the Wizards do have some quality players scattered throughout the rotation. However, these players are going to be learning to play with one another on the fly, which means the early portion of the season could be a bit rocky. And the lack of a true All-Star is going to make it hard for this team to win, even if things start to click.
The reality is that there usually are a few teams that really struggle to win games each season. In fact, there have been at least three teams that have won 24 or fewer games in each of the last four seasons in which a full 82 games were played. And if that trend is going to continue, you’d have to think that the Wizards will be one of the teams that flirts with 20 or fewer wins. When scanning through the entire NBA, there isn’t a single team with less talent than Washington.
I also can’t get over the fact that the two best players on this roster, Poole and Kuzma, are guys that mostly care about scoring the basketball. Unless they drastically change the way they approach the game, that mentality will likely trickle down throughout the rotation. That is why this is such a bad spot for Unseld. He has a very difficult roster to work with, and most of the blame will unfairly fall on him.
Win Total Recommendation: UNDER 24.5