This week at NBC Sports Washington, we are looking at the five biggest storylines for the Washington Wizards as they get set for 2019-20 training camp, which begins next week. Today, a look at their injured point guards...
There were many surprises with the Wizards' offseason from the time it took to hire a new general manager to letting some good players leave in free agency to even taking Rui Hachimura with the ninth overall pick. Up there among their most surprising moves has to be how they chose to handle the point guard position.
With All-Star John Wall out at least several months and possibly the entire season, the Wizards opted to let Tomas Satoransky depart as a free agent and signed two players in Ish Smith and Isaiah Thomas who are arguably back-ups at this point in their careers.
Smith offers more guarantees because of health, but he's 31 years old, shot just 41.9 percent from the field last season and is a below average defensive player. He didn't start a single game last year for a Pistons team that finished with a .500 record. And he wasn't backing up a superstar, either.
Thomas, 30, played in only 12 games last season and 32 the year before. Over the past two seasons, he has shot just 36.7 percent from the field and 29 percent from three. That is nowhere close to his All-Star days.
Behind those two is a series of question marks at the No. 3 point guard spot. They could roll with Justin Robinson, but he's an undrafted rookie. They will have Chris Chiozza in training camp, but he was an undrafted rookie last year and has only 33 minutes of NBA game experience.
Then there are guys like Jordan McRae and Troy Brown Jr., who can technically play point guard but are probably best-suited to do other things. The same goes for Bradley Beal, who could see more time on-ball this season depending on how the point guard position shakes out.
Usually, who is the third point guard isn't that big of a deal for NBA teams. But that is currently a major question for the Wizards with Wall out long-term and Thomas now likely to miss the start of the regular season due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Thomas already brought injury concerns with his surgically repaired right hip. And though thumb injuries are rarely chronic, it is on his shooting hand.
The Wizards appear likely to go throughout the entire preseason and then start the regular season without their two most accomplished point guards. It could be Smith and a hodge podge behind him. That could get interesting as the Wizards face Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and James Harden all within their first four games.
All of this brings us to Wall. Much of this won't affect him directly, as the Wizards aren't going to rush him back from rehabbing his ruptured left Achilles because they lack depth at his position.
But Wall's recovery will be a major storyline this training camp and this season, even if it is being conducted behind the scenes with few public updates. The Wizards have indicated he will probably miss all of this season. But the usual timeline for recovery from his injury doesn't call for that.
As D.C. fans saw with the 2012 Washington Nationals and pitcher Stephen Strasburg, a team's play can create an entirely new context for how a player's injury is handled. What if the Wizards are unexpectedly fairly good? What if they have realistic playoff odds in February and March, when Wall is over a year removed from his surgery?
There is an argument Wall should return this season even if the Wizards are out of the playoff mix. He could have plenty of time to recover, longer than most who have done it before, and still play dozens of games.
That would give the Wizards a baseline test for Wall as they enter an important offseason next summer. They would know what they have in their highest-paid player before they construct their roster around him. If he doesn't return next season, there will be a good deal of guesswork.
But if the Wizards are a surprise team, even one just punching for a low-tier playoff seed, it could add a completely different element. Then matters take on a different tone as the competitive drive and futures of all parties involved come into play.
It could make for a fascinating debate. But no matter what happens, it's already clear this Wizards season is going to be partly defined by injuries to their point guards, one way or another.
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