August 20, 2017, 4:30 pm
Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at the 2016-17 season and what went right and wrong for every team. From coaching analysis to fantasy impact, we dive in to the year that was and make sense of it all. If you’ve missed any, you can find them here.
The Wizards had an interesting offseason where it was intimated that the team’s backcourt didn’t really get along. They entered the year with a new coach and had John Wall‘s long-term fate in the balance. Though they started slow, the team really gelled and wound up being one of the surprise groups in the Eastern Conference. The talent was always there but the Wizards finally put it all together, in part due to good coaching, good health and some serious internal improvement. Hoop-Ball’s Post-Mortem takes a look at a successful year in Washington.
The Wizards were coming off a disappointing season in which they missed the postseason and aimed to get back into the conversation. There were inklings that John Wall wasn’t the happiest camper and the team was really banking on proving themselves as an organization on the rise. Their offseason didn’t feature many big maneuvers, though they did sign free agent Ian Mahinmi to a four-year, $64 million deal. They also signed Jason Smith, Trey Burke and Andrew Nicholson while adding Daniel Ochefu and Tomas Satoransky.
It was some serious bench turnover with Nene, Jared Dudley, Drew Gooden, Garrett Temple, Ramon Sessions and Alan Anderson all heading out. If the replacements don’t sound all that inspiring, don’t worry — we’ll come back to that.
Despite all the minor changes, perhaps no move was more influential than inking Bradley Beal to a five-year, $128 million deal. It seemed like a hefty price tag for a guy who was so injury plagued, but the Wiz decided to make their bed with a Wall-Beal tandem. Nearly as important was the addition of Scott Brooks as the team’s new head coach. The Randy Wittman era and all of its questionable choices had finally come to an end, and despite a few playoff victories there was never any sense that Washington could hit the next level under his leadership.
It was a poor start for the Wizards, who sat at just 6-12 through the first game of December. They turned it around quickly, however, winning nine of their last 10 games in January and going 7-3 in February. At that point they had more or less cemented home court in the first round in a weak Eastern Conference, and the only question is which of the East’s projected top three they’d draw in the Conference Semis. The Wizards, behind tremendous seasons from Wall, a healthy Beal and ascendant third-year man Otto Porter Jr., were looking dangerous headed into the postseason.
Knowing how reliant they were on their starting five, the Wiz went out and added Bojan Bogdanovic at the trade deadline to help bolster the team’s bench. It had been a disappointing spot all season with Mahinmi battling big injuries and dreadful guard play putting a ton of pressure on the team’s backcourt stars. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be enough in the postseason. After dispatching the Hawks in the first round, Washington lost a hard fought Game 7 to the Celtics in Boston in which they lost the bench scoring battle 48 to five. Despite the ugly end, the Wizards ended up with 49 wins in a year where they were expected to be fringe contenders and can feel comfortable about the commitments they made with their core group.
Scott Brooks took his fair share of heat as the coach in Oklahoma City, and he was often criticized for unimaginative offense that asked his two superstars to get tough bucket after tough bucket. More comically, he leaned heavily on past-due veterans like Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher and his personnel choices always caught up with the Thunder eventually.
While Brooks isn’t without his warts, he did his part to make Washington a more competitive group in his first year. They were a juiced up offensive team, climbing from 102.9 (19th) to a 108.5 (9th) offensive rating thanks to some impressive shooting from Beal and Porter. They didn’t increase their 3-point output and were a middling team by a litany of measures, including assist percentage (despite ranking sixth in assists per game), turnover rate, rebounding percentage and defensive rating. Even their pace was close to the team’s number from its final season under Wittman.
Part of that may stem from the fact that Brooks played his best players for massive minutes. You could also guess that it stemmed from the team’s ability to run in transition, buoyed by their third-best opponent turnover percentage of 15.3. To be fair, that’s actually lower than it was in 2015-16 when they ranked fifth at 16.0 percent. That doesn’t quite bear out either, as the Wizards actually saw 14.6 percent of their points come on the break and while that was good for fifth in the league it was a notch below their 17.8 percent (second place) from 2015-16.
The Wizards became a threat despite an unimpressive statistical profile, so while Brooks did help get the team to the cusp of the Conference Finals it’s probably worth waiting another season or so to see if he can spur legitimate improvement in any number of metrics. The simplest explanation for the team’s success is likely getting a full year of Beal and a fully developed two-way star in Porter. We’ll revisit Brooks’ case again next year, but it was a definite improvement upon the Wittman era.
ADP: 16/18 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 7/13 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Rank: 12/18 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 78
Wall asserted himself as one of the NBA’s elite point guards and silenced anyone who might’ve been questioning his abilities with a career year. He was over 20 points per game (23.1) for the first time in his career while notching career-highs with 10.7 assists and 2.0 steals. On top of that, he topped .450 from the floor for the first time in his career with a .451 mark on the year. While Wall wasn’t a terrific deep shooter and committed 4.1 turnovers per game, ranking second in assists and leading the league in steals will cover up those weak spots.
The growth of Porter and the consistent presence of Beal opened up room for the dynamic athlete to drive, and he saw a nice increase in his shots from 10 feet or closer to the rim. A Wall that’s moving downhill is almost impossible to stop and a team with improved spacing really helped him make the most of his shots. It also lead to 6.8 free throws per game, the most he’s had since entering the league. There’s a lot to like about his statistical profile going forward, and the shot selection could even help his efficiency improve.
While people are always skeptical of players fresh off a fat new contract, Wall doesn’t seem the type to kick back now that he’s got money in hand. An elite contributor in assists and steals, he’s going to be a safe early-round selection as one of the top point guards available.
ADP: 76/78 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 26/26 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Rank: 30/29 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 77
There were some questions about forking over $128 million to a guy who had played just 56, 73, 63 and 55 games in his first four years. Beal had been dogged by ankle, wrist and hip injuries in his past, not to mention a stress reaction in his right fibula. This season, however, Beal turned the page and missed just four games due to injury — three to a hamstring and one to an ankle. He stayed on the court and authored a real breakout season.
Beal posted 23.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.9 threes per game this season. He was especially effective in 9-cat leagues thanks to just 2.0 turnovers per contest, but most of his improvement was driven by serious improvement in his shooting. Beal shot .482 from the field, crushing his previous career-high of .449. He also shots .404 from three and on 7.2 attempts per game, joined some elite long-range company.
Going forward it’s not out of the question for Beal to turn similar numbers in year after year. We’d like to see another year like this before putting his injury concerns to bed, and any shooting increase of that magnitude is cause for caution, but the Wizards have obviously penciled him in as a key piece for their future. It might be tough for him to reach these exact heights again but he’s going to be worth taking in the early-middle rounds.
ADP: 105/63 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 28/15 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Rank: 41/22 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 80
While so much love goes to superstar duos, it’s often the presence of a versatile, reliable third option that kicks the team into gear. Porter was that man for the Wizards and saw improvements in every fantasy category besides assists. The most notable gain for OPJ was his shooting, as he knocked down 51.6 percent of all shots and was among the league leaders at 43.4 percent from behind the arc.
With averages of 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.9 triples, Porter turned himself into an elite fantasy option. Even better for 9-cat players, he committed just 0.5 turnovers per game. Over 52 percent of his shots came in the catch-and-shoot game while another 28.6 came within 10 feet of the rim, so Porter isn’t really putting the ball on the floor unless he’s working towards an easy bucket. It bodes well for his turnovers going forward, making him extremely attractive as an across-the-board contributor in 9-cat leagues.
The only area to be wary of is shooting, as his .470 on the catch-and-shoot looks came after years of .365 and .422. He’s definitely made improvements to his game and it’s not out of the question that he continues to work in the high four hundreds, but you might want to hedge your bets a little bit there. A steady third option for the Wizards, Porter is a fantastic player to add to just about any roster build in the early-middle rounds while he becomes a second round play in 9-cat leagues.
ADP: 108/119 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 64/63 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Rank: 72/74 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 76
Markieff Morris re-solidified his middle-round fantasy game and looked relieved to be out of his ugly situation in Phoenix. A camp with his new teammates seemed to do plenty of good as well, and the Wizards really benefited from his ability to stretch the floor. He shot a career-best .362 from deep and has seen his volume up since joining the Wizards, so look for that to continue.
Morris had a few ups and downs but was mostly positive, delivering 14.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals 0.6 blocks and 0.9 threes in 31.2 minutes per game. The playing time was huge as it was only the second season ever where Morris topped 30 minutes per game. He shot .457 overall, now giving him three seasons above .450 and three others below, with his best of those years checking in at just 42.5 percent.
Unless his shooting goes back in the tank, Keef seems like a pretty decent bet for top-75 production again. There’s really nobody pushing him for minutes here. He’s versatile enough to play small ball five and seems to fit in nicely as a secondary scoring option who can get hot from time to time.
ADP: 67/64 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 60/55 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Rank: 90/85 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 82
Marcin Gortat ended up as a reliable mid-round big man but his season wasn’t without its headaches. He absolutely killed it in the first half of the season before completely vanishing in February, registering just 21.3 minutes per game and falling off the standard league radar. It was an ugly end to a year in which he averaged 10.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game.
The return of Ian Mahinmi really cut into his playing time, and it casts an ominous shadow over his future given that Mahinmi was handed a big contract and can’t play anywhere else but the five. Gortat also revealed that he’s not exactly happy with his dwindling role in Washington, and it’s possible that he gets traded if Mahinmi gets back to full health. Just as troubling was Gortat’s cratering block rate, as owners had been accustomed to the Polish Hammer delivering something close to 1.5 a night.
So while his minutes should fall from 31.2 per game, his blocks are likely to rebound to more palatable levels. His arrow is pointing down but he should still be able to deliver top-100 value without much trouble.
ADP: 140 / 138 (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 114/132 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 151/173 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 81
Bogdanovic was brought in to help deepen the Washington bench after spending his time starting for the Nets. Things didn’t change too much, and he lost only three minutes of playing time in D.C. On the full year he averaged 13.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.4 steals and 1.8 threes per game.
Unfortunately, the song remains the same for Bogie even in Indiana. He can hit threes and provide some steady point production but just doesn’t do enough elsewhere to climb into the top-100. He’s a sharpshooter for sure, but the stat set is too weak for most fantasy owners to really get excited about.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 221/206 (8/9 cat), Per Game Rank: 271/253 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 79
Kelly Oubre saw his playing time double as a sophomore, from 10.3 minutes per game as a rookie to 20.7 this season. While he’ll be remembered for his playoff outburst against the Celtics it was a nice showing from the youngster who is one of Washington’s only truly reliable bench pieces. It didn’t bring impressive box score numbers with just 6.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.7 threes but there were some positive signs for the organization.
In a larger role there might be enough for Oubre to rack up enough threes and steals to work towards flier territory. He’s a player that deep leaguers can feel free to grab given his impending playing time increase.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Rank: 312/312 (8/9 cat), Per Game Rank: 205/202 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 31
Mahinmi, the proud owner of a hearty contract, failed to do much for most of the year as he was sidelined with a left knee that wouldn’t quiet down. He tore his meniscus before the year and received PRP treatments on both knees shortly after returning. When he was on the court, however, he was working his way towards being named Brooks’ center of choice. His return coincided with a steep decline in Gortat’s playing time and turned some heads with his ability to rack up defensive stats. A seven steal game was his crowning achievement, but he was able to average 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks in only 17.9 minutes per game.
Hopefully healthy, there’s deep league appeal here. Mahinmi might be able to flip the depth chart and has shown the ability to rack up defensive stats with relative ease. Keep an eye on the rotations here next season.
ADP: N/A / N/A (ESPN/Yahoo), Total Value: 201 / 202 (8/9 cat), Per-Game Value: 253/240 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 74
Smith managed to shoot .529 from the floor and provided some serviceable bench minutes and mid-range shooting, though he played only 14.4 minutes per game. Though his shooting touch is probably his calling card, Smith notched 0.7 blocks a night as well.
Unfortunately there doesn’t look to be much room for improvement here barring an unforeseen jump in playing time. Smith is a fine streaming option if Morris were to miss time with an injury but otherwise would be an extremely underwhelming fantasy option.
The Wizards seem poised to make a run at the Conference Finals, having inked Porter and Wall to max extensions. That solidifies their core group going forward and the team made a few moves to provide its stars with more capable backups this offseason. An injury to any of those three would be catastrophic, and the fatigue that plagued them in the playoffs simply can’t be built up through huge regular season workloads. How Brooks manages their minutes will go a long way to determining Washington’s postseason fate, but make no mistake — this is a talented team that has the potential to put a scare into the East’s elite.