Good health and the development of Bradley Beal are musts for the Wizards to reach the playoffs. Getty Images
I capped my brief analysis of the Wizards' first game with a spitballed "prediction" that the Wiz would win 33 games. Since then, I've had a few minutes to do a more in-depth analysis that involves projecting playing time and production.
Take these projections with an extra dose of skepticism. These are projections -- best guesses about health, production, rotation, etc. based on research, analysis and reason. Below is a table showing projected games played, minutes per game and per minute production in my rating system (where 100 = league average and higher is better; replacement level is 60).
Note: My rating system includes defense.
Also note: individual minutes per game may seem high for some, but the total team minutes work out to 242.4 per game -- a reasonable number when factoring in the usual handful of overtime games.
Also, also note that this analysis does not use any information from the team's first game.
The net result of all this is a more optimistic outlook for the season. This projection tallies to 37 wins for the Wizards, which would be a significant improvement from recent years. That would put them on the cusp of the playoffs -- at least in the battle for the 8th seed.
Obviously, many factors will affect the team's final record. I'm projecting a modest improvement for Wall, but if he comes back with a solid jump shot, he could significantly exceed my expectations. I've also projected Wall playing fewer minutes than he had in previous seasons. I'm figuring that his playing time will be limited when he first returns to action and then ramped up as the season goes on.
I've projected Beal to be a little below average as a rookie. That's not because I'm down on him or because I think he'll be a bust -- it's an acknowledgement of the reality that he's a 19-year old rookie who may need some time to learn how to be a pro. If his learning curve is quicker, he'll out-perform my projection.
Health is always a key factor. Wall, Nene and Seraphin started the season with some injury trouble, and I've projected all three as above-average performers. If they can get (and stay) healthy, they'll help improve the team's record.
When I examined production histories for players with NBA experience, I quickly confirmed something I already knew -- that the Wizards roster is oddly constructed. They have five players likely to be average to above-average performers: one at PG (Wall), two at PF (Nene and Booker), and two a C (Okafor and Seraphin).
The team is likely to be relatively weaker at SF, SG and PG until Wall can return to action and Beal develops.
So, my "off the top of my head" prediction is 33 wins. My "thoughtful analysis" prediction says 37. I think that's a reasonable expectation for the team this year -- 33-37 wins. My final answer: 37.