Rivalry Check: Washington Wizards

Rivalry Check is an ongoing series in which we preview 10 of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Sam Spiegelman

New Faces: 
It was certainly not a busy offseason in the nation’s capital, as the Wizards have added only a few role players to surround their core talent. Among the new additions is former New York Knicks forward Al Harrington, who after missing almost all of last season will attempt to add some depth to the frontcourt.

Earlier in the offseason, the Wizards addressed their backcourt. The team added veteran point guard Eric Maynor to back up John Wall. Maynor fell out of the rotation in Oklahoma City, but at times was a valuable backup for the Thunder.

In the NBA Draft, the Wiz selected hometown favorite Otto Porter out of Georgetown with the No. 3 overall pick, then scooped up Glenn Rice Jr. in the second round. As a member of the Hoyas, Porter looked — at times — like the best player in the country. Porter can be an asset for Washington from the perimeter, on the wing, in the post and as a defender.

USATSI_7207526_110579513_lowresDepartures: The only subtraction for the Wizards was center Jason Collins, who became an unrestricted free agent. Collins, who earlier this year became the NBA’s first openly gay player, was reportedly drawing interest from the Detroit Pistons, but recent reports indicate that a deal in unlikely to transpire.

Season Outlook: On paper, the Wizards have suddenly transformed to a more competitive squad. But as you would expect, so much depends on the development of Wall emerging as a true superstar in the league. The Wizards front office has surrounded Wall with more weapons and depth. With Bradley Beal, Martell Webster and Maynor, the team has a formidable guard rotation.

The frontcourt was instantly upgraded by the addition of Porter, who joins a cast of talented big men in Trevor Ariza, Nene Hilario, Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin. The Wizards are not a top-five team in the Eastern Conference, nor are they a challenge for the NBA championship, but they will no longer be a pushover. Expect their win total to definitely increase.

Biggest Challenge: The Wiz went 1-3 vs. the Knicks last season, with their lone victory coming when Wall played out of his mind. The Wizards will have an advantage when Wall is matched up against a less athletic Raymond Felton. But if you take a look at the Wiz’s strengths outside of Wall — Porter and Beal — the Knicks have answers in J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony.

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