Who’s ready for Wizards basketball?
We are, and we’ll be broadcasting their season opener live on The Team 980 tonight starting at 6:45 p.m., and of course they will also be telecast on the TV home of the Junkies, Monumental Sports Network – where, if you’re tuned in, you will hear from color analyst Drew Gooden, who joined the Junks on Wednesday morning as we finish up the previews and get ready to get in the weeds.
Gooden is back from his full-time home in Orlando – the city where he played two seasons and joked that he “fell in love with the tax laws” – and is ready for what he thinks will be an 'interesting' season.
“It’s gonna be interesting, because we don't know what to expect. This is a reshaping, led by new management, and I think we have enough to compete on a nightly basis,” Gooden said. “If you put yourself as a Top 15 team on the defensive end, you're gonna give yourself a chance, no matter who's on your roster, on any given night, along with some luck of being healthy.”
Does Gooden think the Wizards can be a Top 15 D?
“A lot of people kind of get this misconstrued about a good defensive team, or a good defensive possession – a good defensive possession is not because you made the team miss, a good defensive position is not completed until you actually secure a rebound,” Gooden said. “You can keep making a team miss shots, but if you can't secure a defensive rebound, you're gonna be in trouble no matter how well you defend the perimeter or contest shots or keep guys out of the paint. So when you say are they gonna be a Top 15 defensive team, I don't know – potentially they have that, but you can't be aTtop 15 team defensively if you cannot rebound the ball.”
And it’s Kyle Kuzma who is a big part of that, Gooden says.
“Kuzma is an underrated rebounder in this league, especially now with the size of where the center and power forwards are,” Gooden said. “He’s gonna be able to rebound the ball, along with Avdija, Gafford, Gallinari, Muscala, these guys coming off the bench – I think they have enough size to rebound the ball, and if they can defensively be a team that could come up with those possessions and not give second-chance opportunities to these teams, I think they'll be alright.”
Kuzma is going to be counted on as a leader as well, as it’s a young squad with a few key veterans, but there are two guys who fit both bills in Kuzma and Jordan Poole, both of whom have already tasted an NBA title and know what it takes to get there.
“They're young players as well, but I like the experience that they have already winning a championship,” Gooden said. “Poole in Golden State learning under Steph Curry, and soaking up all that wisdom and experience, and Kuzma winning one in L.A. with LeBron and soaking up that experience. Now, can they pass the torch and kind of share that wisdom with this young team going forward?”
What about first-round pick Bilal Coulibaly?
“He's a guy that you can start him on the best player any given night on the opposing team, or you can bring him off the bench because he can do some things offensively that nobody knew he can do coming in prior to the draft,” Gooden said. “We thought Coulibaly was gonna be just a three-and-D guy in this league – I did for sure – but in preseason, he's impressed me. He has the ability to come off the pick in midrange situations, he can create and has a nice pull up jump shot from the midrange. So he's showing a lot more than we thought he could do prior to the draft. He can also finish well at the cup, and he has an edge to him. I mean, he looks like he's been here before, fellas. He's not scared at the moment.”
Gooden asked Coulibaly what the hardest adjustment to the NBA was, and his direct answer was “finding an apartment,” so, yeah, that transition isn’t as hard as it seems with his international experience.
But what about last year’s first-rounder, Johnny Davis, who got some big NBA run at the end of last season? Where does he fit in?
“Davis’ confidence is through the roof right now, from the time he arrived in a Wizards uniform to where he's at now. We saw a little bit of that this summer in Vegas, where he was counted on to be one of the leaders scoring-wise, and also be able to play defense,” Gooden said. “He's shown at times that he can really lock down and get after it on the defensive end when he's in tune, and he can finish at the cup, too. He needs to work on the shot a little bit and get that percentage up, which is the norm in this league for a lot of young players, but I'm expecting big things with Jonny Davis this season.”
The Wiz tip it off tonight, so we’ll see – but for now, take a listen to Gooden’s entire segment above!