The Washington Wizards have a real shot at a deep run this season, if these two players emerge.
Are you ready, #DCFamily? The 2018-2019 NBA season is upon us, meaning another exciting season of Washington Wizards basketball, led by the man himself, John Wall. After playing in just 41 games last year, Wall is healthy, has a new offensive team philosophy to help facilitate, and a new big man down in the paint to dish the ball to. However, if the Wizards want to return to the NBA finals for the first time since 1979, a lot is going to have to go right.
On Opening Night, Reggie Miller asked in the intro to the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers game if this was a preview of the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals? It very well could be in this year’s wide-open Eastern Conference field. But what about the Wizards? The Wizards will be a playoff team, but are they an NBA Finals team?
Washington will look to utilize more 3-point shooting and layups instead of heavily relying on their mid-range game as they have done in previous seasons. With Dwight Howard now in the paint and Ian Mahinmi with another year of development under his belt, the Wizards have the personnel to make this game plan work. Sure, it will take some time for this team to gel together as Howard returns from missing the entire preseason and Austin Rivers joins the rotation, but keep your eye on two players in particular – Kelly Oubre Jr and Otto Porter Jr.
Can Otto Porter become an All-Star for the Washington Wizards?
Porter Jr. made a big jump from his third year in the NBA to his fourth year and continued to show improvements last season. He finished third in the NBA in 3-point percentage (.441). He’s a model of efficiency behind the arc and if he can get the ball in his hands more and increase his points per game to to 20.0 while maintaining his lights-out shooting, the Wizards will have themselves a new All-Star on their hands.
Lighting up the stat sheet for 20 a night isn’t out of the realm of possibility, especially if Porter can trust his shot and take advantage of what defenses give him. It sounds weird to ask one of the most efficient 3-point shooters in the game to trust his shot but how many times has Porter passed on an open look? Too many times.
From a national perspective, Porter is one of the more underrated players in the game but by utilizing a 3-point heavy offense and finding Porter in transition, he may no longer be a hidden gem.
Kelly Oubre Jr has to put it all together for the Washington Wizards.
When Oubre Jr. is on his game, he can be one of the more exciting and electric players in the game. However, one of the biggest issues facing Oubre is his over-aggressive playing style. Miscalculated risks on defense and forcing unnecessary shots on the offensive side of the ball lead to many frustrating moments for Wizards fans.
Facing a contract season, Oubre, formerly known as “Wavi Papi” on Twitter, will look to transform into his new moniker “Tsunami Papi” in his fourth season in the league. He took a big step last season, averaging 11.8 ppg in 81 appearances (11 starts) in a career-high 27.5 minutes per game. The increased minutes were out of necessity, not because he earned them.
His athletic ability can transform the Wizards second unit into a lethal floor combination, allowing Washington to keep their foot on the pedal for all 48 minutes. He proved he can lead the second unit last season, putting up some of his best numbers all year when he was on the floor with Bradley Beal, Mahinmi, Mike Scott and Tomas Satoransky. The Wizards don’t need Oubre to reach his full potential right now. All they need is for Oubre to let the game come to him and find a way to get him to the rim. He can be a potent 3-point weapon but this offense will find more success with Oubre in the paint, taking advantage of a tired defense late in the third quarter of games.
A lot has to go right if the Washington Wizards want to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals but Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre have the ability to take this team to the next level by taking the next steps in their development. We know what Wall and Beal are going to bring to the table every night. The question is, will they have the help they need to make through the gauntlet?
How does the season end for the Washington Wizards?
This team is capable of winning 50 games in 2018-2019, especially if the two x-factors compete as we discussed above. Put me on record as the Wizards finally cracking that 50-win mark and securing a top-four seed in the playoffs.
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