5 questions as Wizards begin training camp


The Washington Wizards will enter their 61st season as a franchise when 2021-22 training camp opens on Tuesday. The organization has so far made the playoffs 30 times, while also missing it 30 times. That makes this year a pivot point of sorts, as they open camp with a host of new players and a wide range of possibilities for where they can go from here.

With camp getting started, here are five questions to keep an eye on for the Wizards as they look ahead to opening night...

Who starts at SF and C?

The Wizards have two roster battles of sorts heading into training camp as they appear to have decisions to make regarding who starts at the three and the five. Spencer Dinwiddie and Bradley Beal will fill out the backcourt and Rui Hachimura's starting job at the four sounds safe, according to general manager Tommy Sheppard. That leaves two spots and, now that Sheppard has weighed in on the center position, potentially one.

Sheppard addressed the media this week ahead of training camp and gave a strong indication Daniel Gafford will start at center with Montrezl Harrell behind him and Thomas Bryant joining the mix in December when he returns from ACL surgery. At the three, it could be a number of players between Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Deni Avdija and Davis Bertans. Kuzma may be the favorite heading in given his fit at the position and track record. That would allow Caldwell-Pope to fill a need behind Beal at the two, Avdija to take on a larger play-making role in the second unit and Bertans to help his cause. 


How will Unseld Jr. operate?

This will be the first training camp for rookie head coach Wes Unseld Jr. and, fortunately for him, it will be a full training camp, unlike last season. This will be the first opportunity for Unseld Jr. to make an impact on the team. There may be some noticeable differences from the past.

Sheppard has already mentioned there will be a heavy dose of practices and even some two-a-days. The Wizards had scaled back practice time in recent years and especially last season with few off-days due to the coronavirus shortening the schedule. But Unseld Jr. may also separate himself in other ways. It could be particularly interesting to see how he handles rookie first round pick Corey Kispert, as Unseld Jr. comes from a very strong player development program with the Denver Nuggets.

Will Beal sign an extension?

Beal is eligible to sign a contract extension once the two-year anniversary of his last extension arrives on Oct. 17. Sheppard has stated on the record the team plans to offer him a new contract the moment they can. The question once again is whether Beal will sign it or wait to potentially sign a larger contract down the road. 

Beal technically has two years left on his contract, but the 2022-23 season is a player option. He could either re-sign now for about $181.5 million over four years or wait until next offseason for a five-year deal worth an estimated $235 million. If he waits, however, that could put a cloud over the Wizards' 2021-22 season as it could invite a confluence of trade rumors leading up to the deadline and into next offseason. Given the extension window opens three days before the Wizards' regular-season opener, it will be something to watch throughout camp and the preseason.

Will Hachimura and/or Avdija make a leap?

The Wizards have put together a talented and deep roster with Beal at the top and a strong supporting cast of veterans. They appear to have enough to make the playoffs in what should be a tougher Eastern Conference. If they are to do more than that, it may require some collection of their young players taking a big step forward in their development. Gafford could be included in that group, but going into this season a lot of eyes will be on Hachimura and Avdija, the team's two ninth overall picks from the 2019 and 2020 drafts.

Hachimura is entering his third season, while Avdija is going into his second. That makes this year more important for Hachimura, as he could set himself up for a hefty contract extension next summer. Avdija will try to put a difficult rookie year behind him. He played well all things considered, with no summer league and a shorter training camp, and his season was cut short due to injury. If either Hachimura or Avdija can start showing the signs of future stardom, it would greatly change the Wizards' outlook moving forward.


Are Bryant and Dinwiddie ready to go?

The Wizards have two key players, and possibly two starters, coming back from surgeries to repair partially torn ACLs. Dinwiddie had his surgery in January, while Bryant's procedure was in February. The indication so far is that they are on different timelines, in part because of when they had their ACLs surgically repaired.

Modern medicine has changed the way ACL injuries are viewed, as they aren't as devastating to players' careers as they were in the past. The success rate is high, to the point few seem to be worrying about how Dinwiddie or Bryant will perform once they return. The Wizards even signed Dinwiddie to a lucrative free-agent deal before he had been cleared to play 5-on-5. Still, both recoveries bear close watching given how important each player figures to be for the Wizards this season.