- Ben Hall
Predicting the Washington Wizards 2020-21 Opening Night Lineup
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
On Wednesday, the Washington Wizards will take on the Philadelphia 76ers for each teams first game of the season. Last season, the Wizards finished with a 25-47 record and were the final team in the Eastern conference in the bubble competing for the 8th seed.
Although there were lots of struggles in Washington last season, it seems the Wizards have fully improved and fixed last season issues. On December 3rd, the Wizards traded John Wall and a protected future first round pick to the Houston Rockets for Russel Westbrook. John Wall hadn't played a game for the Wizards since early on in the 2018-19 season. Wall will forever be a legend in Washington D.C., not only for what he did on the court but for his generosity off the court as well.
The main issue for the Wizards lack of success was their point guard play. When a team has one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, they need to make sure they also have a point guard who can relieve some pressure off of him. Since John Wall has been out, the Wizards have not had that. Russell Westbrook will be a major help to that.
Here is my prediction for the Wizards starting lineup on Wednesday night:
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook
As I stated before, the Russell Westbrook trade was crucial for the Wizards. Adding a point guard of Westbrook's caliber is going to give these team an immediate boost. Another major thing that Russell Westbrook will bring to the Wizards is competitiveness. Throughout his NBA career, Westbrook has only missed the playoffs twice out of the 12 seasons he's played in. For the viewers that follow the Wizards social media account, it is obvious that Westbrook's competitiveness and leadership role has already kicked in.
Shooting Guard: Bradley Beal
Coming off the outstanding season he had last year, it's unlikely that Bradley Beal will average as many points as he did. Last season, Beal proved he was one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. However, there will be a lot of pressure taken off Beal's shoulders now that he will be playing alongside Westbrook. He will find a lot more open shots and he will not have to handle the ball near as much. Every team's top defender will not automatically be guarding Beal anymore because Westbrook is on the court. There is now two scorers who can handle the ball that opposing teams will have to worry about.
Small Forward: Deni Avdija
This spot would have been Davis Bertans, however Rui Hachimura will be out approximately three weeks with an infection to both of his eyes. So Bertans will likely slide to power forward and Avdija will be getting the starts until Hachimura comes back. Coming into the draft, Avdija was being looked at as a top four talent and was not expected to be available for the Wizards at the 9th pick in the NBA Draft. However, after a few surprising picks ahead of them, the Wizards were able to get their guy. Following the preseason games, Avdija really stood out as one of the best rookies in terms of performance as a whole. Many people have also compared Avdija as a bigger version of Luka Doncic. Avdija's play has definitely shown a ton of similarities. During the preseason, we were able to see Avdija's defensive rebounding and ability to push the ball in transition which was one of his top skills coming into this draft. Avdija's shooting has also been incredible. During the preseason, Avdija shot 45.5% going 5-11 from beyond the arc.
Power Forward: Davis Bertans
Like I said before, Bertans will likely be starting at the small forward position once Hachimura returns from injury. Bertans is coming off an exceptional season and by far the best of his career. He averaged 15.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. What stands out about Bertans is his ability to shoot the three. The 6-foot-10 forward shot 42.4% from beyond the arc on 8.7 attempts per game. Although the Wizards played in the bubble, Bertans chose to opt out because this was his contract year and he didn't want to risk injury. This was smart for Bertans because it was known that many teams would be pursuing him in the offseason. The Wizards re-signed Bertans to a five-year, $80 million contract. They are hoping he can play like he did last year or even improve which would be crucial for the Wizards making a playoff run.
Center: Thomas Bryant
Thomas Bryant is another Wizards who is coming off of a career-high season in all categories. What's even better about Bryant is the fact that he is still very young. The 23-year-old has played three seasons in the NBA and is still improving everyday. Because he is still young, there is a ton of upside. His paint presence really stuck out in the bubble. Two improvements that have really stood out to me are his strength and jump shot. Thomas has always been strong but he seems to be a little bit more built this year. His three point shot has really improved last season and during the offseason. It always helps having a center who can stretch it out beyond the arc and force defenders to play further out on him.
I believe the Wizards could be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference and will shock a ton of NBA fans. As long as this team can stay healthy, I think this Wizards team could be a team to beat in the Eastern Conference.