A New Season, A New Washington Wizards

A new coaching staff and a number of new players should lead to a different on-the-court product in the nation's capital. Here's what to pay attention to while watching a Washington Wizards game during the 2016-17 season.

Last season, Washington Wizards games were hardly must-see TV even for the team’s fans. This year, regardless of whether you have a strong opinion on Jason Smith’s fit or you just enjoy John Wall highlight videos, the Wizards should provide an intriguing – maybe even enjoyable – watching experience.

New head coach? Check. A ton of new players? Check. Healthy stars? Check. It’s time for meaningful basketball games.

New Playbook

One of the most important things to observe is whether Scott Brooks can heal Wizards players from a condition known as “contested long two-pointers,” a disease thought to be transmitted by the team’s former head coach Randy Wittman.

According to the diagnosis by analytics personnel, this type of shot is one of the most inefficient uses of an offensive possession, yet last year’s coaching staff seemed totally disinterested in this insight. Scrapping from the playbook such beauties as a 15-second sequence cumulating in then-Wizard Nene taking a 19-footer might not be enough – it could have become a habit that will be hard to shake by the players who spent their formative years under Wittman.

There have been encouraging reports that the new coaching staff is emphasizing spacing on the floor. Given that half-court offense has been one of the Wizards’ weakest points last season, the ability to create additional driving lanes for John Wall and Bradley Beal would be a significant improvement.

The key to success might lie in the capacity of the two power forwards, Markieff Morris and Andrew Nicholson, to shoot the three at a respectable percentage. Both of them have shown promise in this department, and if they can keep their defensive counterpart honest while standing beyond the arc, Wall and Beal will have a much easier job.

Improving the efficiency of half-court offense will also decrease the necessity to rely on fast breaks. As anyone who can appreciate good basketball, there are few things I love more than watching Wall attempt to break the sound barrier while racing towards the opponents’ basket. However, an overreliance on this type of plays takes its toll on Wall’s body, and the coaching staff should do anything it can to ease the All-Star’s load.

Breakout Stars and Potential Disappointments

The main players to watch are obviously Wall and Beal, but the two young small forwards, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, will arguably be equally important for this team’s success.

For now, Porter is likely to continue starting games. Don’t be shocked, though, if after a couple of 1-out-of-7-shooting performances by him and solid off-the-bench contributions by Oubre, Coach Brooks decides to give the latter a shot at proving himself against the opponents’ starting fives. The quiet rivalry between the two small forwards could produce the team’s breakout star of the season.

On the other end of the spectrum, a few of the recent signings figure among candidates for disappointment. Since the unproven backcourt duo of Trey Burke and Tomáš Satoranský is likely to get significant minutes, it is conceivable that this dubious honor might fall on one of them.

Progress takes time and all of these developments will not happen overnight. Scott Brooks and his coaching staff deserve some time to implement their ideas, and it will take a month or two to get an idea which direction this Wizards team is heading towards.

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