Paul Flannery and Tom Ziller are previewing all 30 teams via conversation. Next up: the Washington Wizards. Find all of the Flanns and Zillz previews here.
ZILLER: John Wall is, to me, the most likely candidate to become a full-blown superstar this season. I felt this way last year, too. It's usually concerning when you peg a guy for superstardom in multiple seasons, because there's usually a reason said player hasn't broken through. This has been the case with Wall's friend, DeMarcus Cousins, because of temperament and defensive issues.
Wall doesn't have those problems, so what gives? I hate to place too much blame (or credit) on coaches, but I do think Wall was limited in some ways by Randy Wittman. I wonder if Wall can become more of a Russell Westbrook under new coach Scott Brooks.
FLANNERY: I'm also high on Wall, but now is when he needs to take his game to the next level. Last year was a tough one for the Wiz and while Wall didn't play up to his standards, there were a number of mitigating circumstances beyond his control. Injuries wrecked their ecosystem and Wittman, well, the less said the better on that one. As you say, we've been waiting for the breakthrough, and now would be a good time for it to happen with the rest of the conference in flux.
What do you make of the offseason comments between Wall and Bradly Beal? Two young pups staking out their turf, or something deeper and tougher to manage?
ZILLER: Where there's smoke, there's fire. Remember the denials that James Harden and Dwight Howard didn't get along last year? Or the years of chatter about Kevin Durant being somewhat disenchanted with Russell Westbrook on the court?
Wall has been an honest guy throughout his pro career. We've actually seen him call out another player's contract before (Reggie Jackson), so his claim that he doesn't watch other people's money rings hollow. Wouldn't you be mad if a less reliable, less talented, less productive co-worker made a substantial amount more based on timing? It's hard to avoid such human emotions.
So I have no doubt that he bristles at Beal getting more money, fairly or otherwise. I'm sure Beal resents his money getting watched by a dude in Wall who, in addition to his substantial NBA salary, got paid millions by Adidas.
It's too bad because that's a potent combo if they can get on the same page. I feel like Wizards management should be extra cognizant of locker room issues given, uh, what's happened in the not-too-distant past there. Chemistry matters, these guys don't have it, and you've got to figure something out. I presume Beal gets traded at some point. Not this season, though.
FLANNERY: No, not this season.
Bullets Forever season preview
Bullets Forever season preview
This is a huge, HUGE season for the Wizards. They can't afford any more steps back like the one they had last season. There's absolutely no reason why they should miss the playoffs, and I'm going into this season assuming they will be among the fortunate eight. Once there, they may even do some damage with the right matchup. I don't want to get ahead of things, but getting back on track isn't enough. They need to take steps forward.
I don't believe there is such a thing as a dark horse contender in a conference where LeBron reigns, but if anyone from the muddled mass breaks through to challenge the Raps and Celtics, I'm thinking the Wiz have a great shot. (We've already established Detroit in this conversation.)
You with me on that assessment?
ZILLER: Yes, definitely, though it will take some breaks (as these things usually do). Actually, since we know Brooks to be at least competent, perhaps his presence alone will give them a boost. But Ian Mahinmi and Marcin Gortat need to provide capable inside play on both ends, Beal needs to be reliable, and someone like Otto Porter needs to exceed expectations. The ingredients are, in theory, there. The Wizards should be at least the Pacers' equal.
FLANNERY: That's a good comparison and I like both their chances for the postseason. Another step back could mean big changes. Who knows what the status quo would bring.
ZILLER: This is the Wizards! Status quo begets status quo, for better or (more often) worse. But really, we've spent too much time on Randy Wittman already.