2015-16 Record: 41-41 (4th in Southeast Division;10th in Eastern Conference)
Key Additions: Trey Burke, Ian Mahinmi, Tomas Satoransky
Key Losses: Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson, Nene Hilario
2015-16 was a season to forget for the Washington Wizards. It was another year of head coach Randy Wittman, by all accounts one too many. There were many missed games due to injury, more than a few too many. There is also the dark reality that their long-coveted prize, Kevin Durant, would not be returning “home” to Washington.
Each of these strokes paints an ugly picture, but this is only half of the story. Perhaps too late, the Wizards moved on from Wittman. Enter new head coach Scott Brooks, formerly of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Several players left during free agency, but Washington added guard Tomas Satoransky through the draft, guard Trey Burke through trade, and signed emerging big man Ian Mahinmi after a great season with the Indiana Pacers.
At The Hive: First off, the Wizards finally parted ways with Randy Wittman, replacing him with Scott Brooks. How do you feel about the move and how do you expect this to change or improve the Wizards in 2016-17?
Jake Whitacre: Brooks very well may prove to be the Wizards' biggest acquisition this summer. Even if he can't revamp Wittman's offensive schemes, Washington has needed someone who can develop players for years. Brooks should be able to get the best out of the team's young core like John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre.
ATH: What does the Ian Mahinmi signing bring to Washington that wasn’t already there and what do you expect his role to be as the season progresses?
JW: Mahinmi gives the Wizards the rim protector they lacked last season. Nene's defense took a step back last year thanks to age and injuries, and Gortat, while competent, isn't a difference-maker on the defensive end. With Mahinmi on the floor, Washington's perimeter players will have more freedom to be aggressive defensively, knowing he'll be back there to clean up their mistakes.
ATH: Tell us about Tomas Satoransky in eight words (or less):
JW: Intriguing prospect. Needs to facilitate for second unit.
ATH: Who will the Wizards miss more – Jared Dudley or Nene?
JW: Other than playmaking, Ian Mahinmi should be a big upgrade over Nene from last season, so they probably won't miss him much. What they will miss is Jared Dudley's stellar outside shooting. Last season he shot 42 percent from deep. As of right now, no one on the current roster shot over 39 percent from that range. John Wall has routinely helped perimeter players shoot more efficiently with how well he places passes, but this season, he'll have less to work with than he's had in previous campaigns.
ATH: The Wizards missed the playoffs last year, but they made some moves and have the benefit of being in the Eastern Conference. Where do you see them finishing next season?
JW: I think they'll end up somewhere between 4th and 8th in the East, as long as the team isn't ravaged by injuries. They don't have the talent to keep pace with Cleveland, Boston, and Toronto, but after that it's wide open. My gut says they're not quite as good as Detroit either, but other than that, I don't think there's a team they don't stack up well against. It's just a matter of whether or not their young players can improve on last season and if it's enough to overcome the decline of some of their veterans. But regardless of how exactly it plays out, they should be better than last season, and that should be enough to get them back into the playoffs.
Big thank you to Jake for taking the time to share some insight on the status of his beloved Wizards squad.
Last season was rough for the Wizards, but they are a good team that just upgraded at coach and have one of the best backcourt combinations in the league. The Southeast Division was a battle last year, a battle that left Washington on the outside looking. Expect that to change in 2016-17 as every team in the division is closer in skill across the board. If you got used to the frustrating Wizards of last season, you can read Whitacre’s retrospective on the last 20 years of futility and headshaking that is Washington basketball. Plus, you can vote for the All-Star outcomes!