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Chicago Bulls Eastern Conference competition preview: Washington Wizards

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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

This month we're going to try and talk about the teams the Bulls will be competing against for Eastern Conference seeding. That's a generous criteria that'll include a lot of teams, because the East is still a big morass of mediocre. These are also meant to jibe with the SBNation NBA preview that is going on.

Washington Wizards

Last year: 46-36 (5th in East, Lost to Atlanta (2-4) in Conference Semi-Finals)
'15-'16 Vegas Over/Under: 45.5 wins

Additions and Subtractions

In: Kelly Oubre, Alan Anderson, Gary Neal, Jared Dudley, Playoff Wittman
Out
: Paul Pierce, Kevin Seraphin, Rasual Butler, Will Bynum, Regular Season Wittman


Depth Chart

POINT GUARD
SHOOTING GUARD
SMALL FORWARD
POWER FORWARD
CENTER
STARTER

John Wall

Bradley Beal

Otto Porter

Nene

Marcin Gortat

RESERVE

Ramon Sessions

Gary Neal

Kelly Oubre

Jared Dudley

DeJuan Blair

RESERVE

Garrett Temple

Alan Anderson

Martell Webster

Drew Gooden III

Kris Kardashian Humphries

What to expect:

It’s clear this Wizards team belongs in the amorphous second tier of Eastern Conference teams, alongside the Hawks, Raptors, Heat and of course our Bulls.

All tussling for lead position to dethrone King James, versatility and coaching flexibility become key factors in the quest for upward mobility. In the Playoffs, Whitman went to the departed Paul Pierce at the 4, and it didn’t just look good, it worked really well for the Wizards who knocked off the Raptors in their first round series. With Jared Dudley coming over from Milwaukee, this team has a legitimate power forward whether or not they go small. This versatility bodes well for competing with any team in the East. If everything falls correctly for this team - they go small, avoid injury and the career arcs of the young guys gets high enough without the older guys falling - this team could easily eclipse the 50-win mark and make a run for the Conference Finals. The better they are, the greater chance they’ll have to steal DC native Kevin Durant, their ultimate goal.

Can they Compete with the Bulls?

Short answer? Absolutely. Particularly if this Wizards team embraces smallball. Whitman held out for quite some time, but the benefits of spacing the floor work wonders for John Wall and his ability to freeze defenders with this ultrasonic quickness.

At 25, Wall will be entering his fifth season and searching for ways to improve his game. If he is able to deepen his shooting range and limit his turnovers, while Brad Beal and Otto Porter continue their development, this will be a scary team in the East, who have already proven to give the Bulls trouble.

If Coach Whitman can fully buy into the smallball revolution, the Wizards get enough shooting around Wall and Gortat to hurt teams in a variety of ways. In doing so, this team becomes a legitimate candidate to separate themselves from the pack and give Cleveland a fight in the Eastern Conference Finals.

FerriganFormula

[BaB's own Kevin Ferrigan gives his take using his own statistical model, described as: a plus-minus that used two years of data blended with predictive real plus-minus, and minutes projections from Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com]

The Wizards look pretty overrated by my numbers. Their projected team strength is roughly 43.5 wins, but after running their team strength through their actual schedule their projected wins tumble down to 42. This has much to do with the fact that they lost Paul Pierce, their frontcourt is aging, and the rest of their team is flat not very good.