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What will it take for the Wizards to win?

By: Chris Jeter

Marcin Gortat is a throw back kind of center, and that is now what the Wizarrds need to succeed in this modern day NBA.

For the third time in four years the Washington Wizards made it to the playoffs, and for the third time, they were bounced in the second round. With the dynamic backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards did at least go down fighting, taking the top-seeded Boston Celtics to a deciding game seven. But still, it’s a very disappointing end to their season because their backcourt is just too good not to be competing with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference crown. However, what this series came down to was what Wall and Beal could not control.

Celtics center Al Horford gave the Wizards fits. They had the same problem against Horford in their last playoff appearance against the Atlanta Hawks in 2015 and had issues with Paul Millsap in the first round against the Hawks in this year’s playoffs.

Washington struggles with big men who have ball skills because they have no one to guard them. This is why teams like Cleveland and Boston cause problems for Washington. If they want to win the Eastern Conference, they’ll eventually have to clear this hurdle.

Marcin Gortat just hasn’t been the answer to the problem. He is uncomfortable guarding these modern big men in space. In the Boston series, Horford would find himself wide open behind the 3-point line because Gortat couldn’t defend that far away from the rim. After the Wizards season ended Gortat said he planned to speak with his agent about whether this team was the right fit for him. He spoke on the sacrifices he made for the team in order for their new system to work.

In the past, the Wizards offense relied on the 1-5 pick-and-roll with Wall and Gortat. In head coach Scott Brooks’ offense that is not the case. Gortat’s offensive role is greatly reduced in the Wizards’ new system. This isn’t just happening in Washington, it’s happening all around the league. Gortat’s game does not fit the modern NBA. The young big men coming into the league are capable of much more than picking and rolling. Guys like Karl-Anthony Towns are coming into the league with guard skills, and they protect the rim.

The Wizards don’t necessarily need a dribbling 3-point shooting seven-footer. Wall and Beal handle most of the team’s offensive needs, either hitting their own shots or finding teammates in the right position. Wall could get 10 points out of any center you put on his team. What they need is a more defensive-minded big man. Ian Mahinmi is a good defensive center, but the best ability his availability and he is often unavailable due to injuries.

The ideal center for the Wizards would be athletic enough to grab rebounds and block shots, but also agile enough to guard guys like Horford, Millsap, and Kevin Love on the perimeter. A center who can do those things from day one of their NBA career would likely be a top 10 pick in this year’s draft. Maybe with their second round pick, the Wizards can find someone who could eventually develop into that type of center.

Outside of that position, it is no clear route upgrade for the Wizards. They’ll most likely re-sign Otto Porter Jr. to a long-term deal this summer. Every other position is filled for the foreseeable future. Wall and Beal are untouchable, and Markieff Morris is signed for another two years. After trading this year’s first round draft pick for Bojan Bogdanovic, the Wizards will most likely try to bring him back as well. As of this moment, the best way for the Wizards to improve is through the natural progression of the players on the roster.

It would give them a nice boost if guys like Tomas Satoransky, Chris McCullough, and Sheldon Mac could become rotational players. Any of those three could potentially play valuable roles off the bench for the Wizards. While any improvement is good, the fate of this team will ultimately come down to its backcourt.

Wall and Beal both had career years, but they can continue to grow as players. Brooks’ staff seems a lot more focused on player development than the previous regime. Brooks himself said that he expects his two star guards to continue to develop. Beal’s dribbling was much improved this year. Wall’s improvement this year is mostly credited to him finally being healthy. After offseason surgery on both knees, Wall averaged 23 points and 10 assists per game this year. It is important to note that Wall was not fully healthy until about a month into the season. That means he did not get in on the offseason training that other stars participated in. Wall, coming off a career year, could come back even better next season with proper training this offseason. That should be a scary thought for the rest of the Eastern Conference. Ultimately, that is what it will take for the Wizards to reach the next level.

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Chris Jeter

Staff Writer
Chris has always had a love for sports. He inherited his affinity for them from his New York Yankees-loving dad and grandad, even if they gave his beloved Orioles a hard time during their 14 years of futility. Chis grew up an Orioles, Ravens, Maryland Terrapins and Chicago Bulls fan. His love for the local teams can from his mother. His love for the Bulls came from Michael Jordan and his favorite color being red. As a youth, Chris played basketball, baseball, and soccer with varying degrees of success. He always wanted to play for a team in one of those sports when he grew up, but once he quickly realized that, that was probably not going to happen, Chris wanted to be a part of sports in some other way. Eventually, Chris settled on becoming a sports writer. A year after transferring to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he took Media & Communications Studies with a Journalism Minor, he began writing for The Retriever, initially as a contributing writer and eventually as a staff writer for sports. After several months writing for The Retriever, he began writing for So Much Sports, covering various college sports and as a columnist, writing about a variety of national sports topics.

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