Are the Wizards a legitimate contender in 2021-22?

Montrezl Harrell
Montrezl Harrell is a key piece of this Wizards roster. Photo from CBS.

After a hot start, the Washington Wizards find themselves third in the Eastern Conference standings. But is it all a fluke? Let’s take a deeper look at the Wizards roster this season.

Washington Wizards roster 2021-22

Trading for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and acquiring Spencer Dinwiddie in free agency headlined the Wizards’ offseason moves. They just added more depth beside their star, Bradley Beal, instead of opting to pair him with another star.

The question still stands: Are the Wizards a legitimate contender? Well, the quick answer is yes, they look like a contending team right now. Here are the reasons why…

Improved defense

Defense hasn’t been in Washington’s resume for the past few years. But, after a few coaching changes and acquisitions, they finally turned it around this season.

The Wizards have one of the best defenses in the league right now. They are ranked 9th in opponent points with 105.2 per game, 2nd in opponent three-point attempts with 30.7 per game, and 1st in opponent three pointers made with 10.1 per game. They also boast a defensive rating of 105.6 which is the 11th best in the league.

Apart from the stats, their defense passes the eye test too with their energy on the floor–led by Deni Avdija who is arguably their best defender right now. He looks elite in guarding multiple positions and has become more confident as a player.

The major credit should go to their new coach Wes Unseld Jr. Unlike Scott Brooks, Unseld has a defense-first approach and is more adaptable as a coach.

Added depth

It’s quite ironic that the Wizards were expected to become one of the best teams in the league when they acquired Russell Westbrook. As you already know, it didn’t happen. Then they flipped him to get good role players from the Lakers, and no one expected them to be this good after that trade either. And yet, they are 13-7 so far.


The added depth of Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Spencer Dinwiddie is what catapulted this team from mediocrity to greatness. Surrounding Beal with good role players proves to be better than pairing him with Westbrook.

Kuzma has finally regained his starter status—averaging a near double-double with 13.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He looks more confident now on a fluid Wizards offense than playing with LeBron James.

Meanwhile, Harrell looks like a beast again off the bench and with more minutes—averaging 16.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game on 65% shooting. If he continues to play like this, he could win his second Sixth Man of the Year award this season. It’s still baffling that the Lakers underutilized his talent.

Lastly, Dinwiddie looks solid as their primary ballhandler. He’s one of the highly-sought players in the Wizards offseason rumors after the Westbrook trade since they needed a point guard replacement. This season, he’s averaging 14.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game on 40% shooting. Those numbers look great for someone who continues his way back to form from a torn ACL.

Still missing some key pieces

The Wizards are doing all of this without some of their key pieces. Thomas Bryant is still recovering from his ACL injury while Rui Hachimura is still out for personal reasons.

Davis Bertans just came back from his ankle injury and might take some time to regain his shooting stroke. Meanwhile, Beal is off to a slow start this season.

Just imagine when they get two of their starters back on their roster and when Bertans and Beal start to shift gears. The Washington Wizards roster in 2021-22 looks deadlier when they get all of their players back on the court.

Some Wizards trade rumors might pop off as the season progresses and they become a clear championship contender. Stay tuned.

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About Jeremy Mallari 123 Articles
Jeremy lives and breathes basketball. He's an avid NBA fan for almost a decade now.

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