It would not be an understatement to say that the Wizards are a whole different team than they were a season ago. Indeed, they added 10 new players to their roster this offseason through trades and the draft. Most of these additions were a part of the five-team trade that sent point guard Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers and netted Washington Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Spencer Dinwiddie, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Aaron Holiday. But, they also added forwards Corey Kispert and Isaiah Todd through the draft.
With so many fresh faces, new head coach Wes Unseld Jr. will have his work cut out for him figuring out how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together to form a cohesive basketball team. There is no job more entertaining than being an armchair basketball coach, however, so it is time to examine the three lineups pairs that should be most effective for the Wizards in the 2021-2022 NBA season.
1. Spencer Dinwiddie and Daniel Gafford
In the 2019-2020 NBA regular season, the most recent time Dinwiddie was fully healthy for the majority of a regular season, he was seventh in the NBA with 10.4 pick and roll possessions per game and 12th in the NBA in pick and roll possession percentage at 48.2. He was only in the 61.7th percentile in terms of points per possession on these plays, but a lot of that can be chalked up to volume on a short-handed team. In short, Dinwiddie likes to run the pick and roll, which should be music to the ears of center Daniel Gafford.
After being traded to the Wizards mid-season last year, Gafford quickly established a rapport with Russell Westbrook. Gafford’s size, wingspan and leaping ability made him the perfect lob target at the rim for Westbrook following paint penetration off a screen, or even just as a dump-off target in the dunker’s spot. The proof is in the pudding, as Westbrook assisted on a team-high 42 of Gafford’s made field goals.
Now, in tandem with another solid playmaker in Dinwiddie who also loves to drive to the cup (31.0% of attempts within 0-3 feet of the rim), Gafford should be in a position to be part of another prolific offensive partnership. While the defensive end may be a bit more of a struggle for Dinwiddie, any lineup featuring Gafford should at least be able to defend the paint at a decent level. Expect to see a lot of this duo this season, and expect to see a lot of acrobatic Gafford alley-oops.
2. Aaron Holiday and Thomas Bryant
One of the biggest difficulties for the Wizards last season was that they did not have a lot of depth or scoring ability to lean on outside of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook. Guard Ish Smith was often left leading the second unit, but his poor shooting and small stature made him a less-than-ideal candidate to do so.
The Wizards have already added point guard Aaron Holiday to hopefully remedy this problem as well as add some much-needed shooting. With Gafford likely sliding into the starting lineup, Thomas Bryant will likely take on the role of the backup center. With Holiday’s solid 3-point shooting and passing and Bryant’s energy, shooting and hustle, these two could wreak havoc on opposing second units, perhaps even giving us some flashes of what new Wizard Montrezl Harrell was able to do with Lou Williams off the bench in Los Angeles.
3. Spencer Dinwiddie and Bradley Beal
Big surprise, eh? While this one certainly feels obvious, it is still worth exploring why this lineup will be effective. More than anything else, playing alongside Dinwiddie enables Beal to focus more on being an assassin and just putting the ball in the bucket instead of initiating offense himself or being an on-ball playmaker. Sure, these are things that Beal is decent at, but if the Wizards are asking Beal to be a primary passer and scorer, they are not maximizing his strengths. Beal is at his best when he is the secondary ball-handler in a Khris Middleton or Devin Booker type of role.
Some might read the previous passage and think, ‘did Russell Westbrook not provide the same thing to Beal as a ball-handler last season?’ While he most definitely did in some respects, he also was a floor-spacing nightmare and had the fewest attempts at the rim per game of his career. Dinwiddie’s marginally more efficient 3-point shooting and ability to put more pressure on the rim should do wonders for Beal’s opportunities and efficiency. Beal was still able to make over 50 percent of his field goals last season despite glaring deficiencies in Westbrook’s game, imagine what he will be able to accomplish this season.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference, NBA.com, ESPN and NBADraft.net.
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