NBA Team Preview: Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards made a surprise appearance in the 2021 NBA postseason after rallying into the play-in tournament in the Eastern Conference and beating the Indiana Pacers for the No. 8 seed. Washington lost in the first round to the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, but it seemed like a nice building-block season for the future. But instead of staying the course, Washington made some major changes in the offseason, leading it to unknown expectations for the 2021-22 season.
Scott Brooks was replaced as head coach by Wes Unseld Jr., the son of the legendary Hall of Famer who led Washington to the NBA title in 1978. The Wizards also made some major personnel changes, making for a completely different-looking team from last year’s playoff participant. Throw in the reluctance of the team’s leading scorer to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and this could be a bumpy season.
The Wizards made a major splash with the trade of guard Russell Westbrook to the Lakers for forward Kyle Kuzma, guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and center Montrezl Harrell. The athletic Kuzma is gifted in getting to the hoop as well as shooting from the outside, though he’s a bit inconsistent with his production. Caldwell-Pope is also a very streaky shooter but can defend on the perimeter well, while Harrell was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year with the Clippers two seasons ago and is an undersized big that can score in the post.
Dinwiddie also came to the Wizards in the Westbrook deal, coming from the Nets after he played just three games last season prior to suffering a partially torn ACL. Dinwiddie can score from the point guard position as well as work as a playmaker in much the same way Westbrook did last season. He averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists in 2019-20.
Washington also acquired guard Aaron Holiday and rookie forward Isaiah Todd in the massive five-team trade. Holiday averaged 7.2 points in a reserve role with Indiana last season, while Todd is a 19-year-old who played with the G League Elite team before being a second-round pick in the 2021 draft.
The major subtraction is Westbrook, who was a triple-double machine in helping lead Washington into the postseason. At 32, Westbrook just wasn’t in the long-term plans for the Wizards, even after averaging 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists in 2020-21. He brought a lot of energy and cohesiveness to the team on both ends of the floor, and he’ll be difficult for Washington to replace, at least in the early going.
Center Robin Lopez provided a veteran presence in the post for the Wizards, but he’s moved on to the Orlando Magic. Lopez averaged 9.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in mostly a reserve role, providing some scoring down low.
With Westbrook gone, the spotlight shifts firmly to Bradley Beal to be the leader of the Wizards. The league’s second-leading scorer a season ago with 31.3 points per game, Beal won’t have Westbrook to play off of this season. Beal is also against vaccination, which could cause him to miss games in certain venues and potentially split the team at times.
Third-year forward Rui Hachimura continues to develop into a consistent scorer for the Wizards. The 23-year-old averaged 13.8 points and 5.5 rebounds a season ago, though he played in just 57 games due to various ailments. His development into a consistent second scorer will be key to Washington finding some consistency with so many new faces.
Washington Wizards 2021-22 Odds and Lines
2021-22 Win Total: 34.5 Division Odds: +2500 Conference Odds: +5000 Title Odds: +12500
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.