It's October 30. Game two of the 2015-2016 Wizards NBA season is tonight in Milwaukee and despite the lack of national media attention, I'm bullish on the Wizards. Most preseason predictions I have seen have the Miami Heat or Atlanta Hawks (but mostly Miami) winning the Southeast Division and the Wizards finishing with a win total anywhere from 41 to 47. I'm hoping for more.
This is not the first time I've felt this way. There have been years when the Wizards finished horribly and completely out of the playoff picture when I thought we had a shot at winning at least the Southeast. But I think this year is different and there are a ton of unknowns going into the season that the national media can't be all that smart on: new small ball offense, John Wall and Bradley Beal's development over the summer, a deeper bench and hopefully a fully awakened and ready to produce Otto Porter.
So in my glee and excitement at the new season, I've decided to take a stab at predicting some performance this year. If I'm right about all these, I'll be a happy man at the end of the season. If I'm wrong, I'll stop doing this forever.
Wins. Vegas opened the over / under betting for Wizards wins this year at 45.5, so that's the number I'm using. Two seasons ago the Wizards won 45 games, which tied the highest regular season total since the 1978-1979 season when the then Bullets won 54 games. Last year they bested their previous season by a single game and crept within one win of 47, a regular season win total achieved by every franchise in the league the last 15 years except the Wizards.
Last year the Wizards started the regular season 19-6 which would have put them on a 62 win projection. By the mid-point of the season, they had 28 victories under their belts for a 56 win pace. But just after the Martin Luther King holiday, the bottom fell out and they managed just a 4-13 record over their next 17 games. And they still managed to win more games than the franchise had enjoyed over the past 35 years. This year, I'm thinking there's no mid-season slump and this is finally the year the Wizards manage to get that elusive 47. Not going much higher than that and I'm not picking a number, but I think they beat it. I say OVER.
John Wall Assists per Game. 8.3, 8.0, 7.6, 8.8, 10.0. Those are John Wall's assist per game averages for the first five years of his NBA career. This year, the Wizards and head coach Randy Wittman have concocted a "pace and space" offense that pushes the speed of the offensive execution game plan in the hopes of outrunning every other team in the league. During the preseason that ended just last week, the Wizards had the league's best offense, averaging 112.3 points per contest. That's a lot higher than last year. More points equals more assists, right?
Maybe not. I mean, yes, the Wizards will likely have more assists if they score more points, but I'm not wholly convinced John Wall's assist average goes up. Other people can pass the ball, right? I may have no idea what I'm talking about here but I'm thinking that's what's going to happen and Wall's assist number will actually drop this year. I'm going UNDER here.
Bradley Beal Games Played. Why 64.0? Because that is the average number of games Brad has hit the floor in his first three seasons in the league. In his first two years in a Wizards uniform, it was leg issues which kept Bradley from playing a full schedule; last year it was a wrist injury. Despite how high everyone is on Beal, if he can't stay healthy for a full year at a time, then he's not going to have the impact everyone hopes he will have and he's not going to get that max deal he's looking for that will make him the second highest paid Wizard next year behind Kevin Durant. Hey, it's worth a shot...
So we're one game in and so far, so good. Bradley not only looks like he's operating in playoff mode as far as his production goes but he also looks way more serious. I'll throw out a bit of a non sequitur and offer the opinion that this change in demeanor is going to carry his season. He needs to be out on the court a lot more both for himself and for the team. His body has gone through three seasons and may have learned what it can do and what it can't do. I'm OVER on this one. Brad plays and the Wizards win. More than 45.5 games anyway.
Halftime Shows. Think you are getting Steve Max and Simon Sez this year? What about Drums of Thunder? Or University of Maryland Gymkhana? Or Quick Change? Those guys are fantastic.
I'm thinking no. Based on the last couple of years sitting in my seats at Verizon Center, I'm thinking no way! I know I've already written about this issue twice in this blog so I won't rant again. I'm prepared for a lot of kids playing basketball at halftime this year. I'm safely thinking I'm taking the UNDER on this one.
Division Titles. This is my sixteenth year as a Wizards season ticket holder. Know how many banners we've raised for winning anything in that time? Zero. None. Zip. Zilch. Squadoosh! No NBA Championships, no Conference Titles and no Division Titles. Every other team except Memphis (same division as San Antonio, Dallas and Houston) and the current version of the Charlotte Hornets has one for winning their division in that span.
I know most people don't care about a division winner, especially now that the NBA has changed the rules to deny division winners a guaranteed top four seed, but the Wizards winning the Southeast Division is my highest hope for this season. I get that it doesn't mean much but there are no Wizards banners hanging at Verizon Center. And if nothing else, it would mean a ton to me. So I'm going with the emotional decision on this one and picking the OVER. Please. Please. Please.
I've been historically terrible about predicting the future so I don't know why I'm even bothering but that's my take on the Wizards season at the beginning. Let's see how I feel about all this in mid-April when the regular season is over. Let's go Wizards! Win in Milwaukee tonight!!!