The Washington Wizards are a young team that is full of young talent. John Wall has only begun to establish himself as an elite player in the NBA; meanwhile the ultra-talented Bradley Beal could emerge as a major threat to pair with Wall in the backcourt. Washington has also peppered their roster with enough depth and versatility for them to finally turn the corner and make a run at the playoffs in 2014.
If John Wall is ready to take the next step and become one of the league’s best point guards, the Wizards are ready to compete for a playoff spot. Injuries stunted him last season, but there’s no reason to believe Wall can’t or won’t continue his development and raise Washington’s fortunes with it.
The Wizards made a nice move in acquiring free agent Eric Maynor to be Wall’s primary backup. Maynor played well last year in Portland after injury made him fall out of favor in OKC. Maynor will provide the team with a second true playmaker and could play some minutes with Wall off of the ball. He’ll also be able to keep the offense afloat if Wall misses a few games.
Garrett Temple, a journeyman who logged minutes last season, will be the third option.
Second only to Wall’s development in Washington’s fortunes will be the progression of second-year shooting guard Bradley Beal. Like Wall, Beal was hit with injuries last season, and the two were rarely on the court at the same time. His shot selection could stand to improve, but that can be said of most young players in the league. He showed his immense potential as a 19-year-old rookie though, and continued growth, along with Wall in the backcourt could lead to a breakout season.
Depth behind Beal will largely depend on who Washington decides to start at small forward. One of those candidates is Martell Webster, a former high draft pick who finally began to come into his own after a number of years in the league. Veteran Trevor Ariza provides Washington with a consistent well-rounded presence at the two and three. The fact that he could start for some teams goes to show the how much better the Wizards have gotten on the wings.
The position is a bit unsettled for Washington, though that’s more due to having three players with starting ability as opposed to going with the lesser of evils.
Webster has to be the favorite based on last season’s much improved showing. He finally seemed at home on a team and his all-around production has earned a full-time crack at the starting job.
The Wizards have hedged their bets at the three by drafting Otto Porter Jr. with the third overall pick in the draft. Porter has immense potential to be a terror on the defensive end and enough offensive upside to challenge Webster for minutes.
Also in the mix is Ariza, a perfect fall-back option who can be relied upon for depth or to start if Webster and/or Porter run into trouble. He has special value as a defensive stopper at the two or three.
Washington has yet another intriguing youngster on the roster in Glen Rice Jr. Acquired on draft night, Rice had problems in college, but he went on to dominate in the D-League late last season. Minutes could be hard to come by early on, but it will be hard to ignore Rice’s talent for long.
Lost in the numbers game is Jan Vesely. The former first-round pick will have a tough time getting minutes after failing to impress the coaching staff last year.
Nene had a bit of a down season for the Wiz last year. But he’s one of the better pure low-post scorers around, and a return to form would solidify Washington offensively. His ability to get high percentage shots inside gives the team a consistent option for easy points, important when playing with a backcourt oriented team.
Veteran Al Harrington has signed with the team after being let go by the rebuilding Orlando Magic. Harrington isn’t the stoutest of defenders at the four, but his offensive skills should bring a welcome jolt off of the bench and another weapon for Wall to work with.
Trevor Booker also logged time for Washington last season, and he will continue to get minutes toward the back of the rotation.
Emeka Okefor isn’t flashy, but he’s a solid presence in the middle that provides Washington with consistent production at both ends of the floor. Having Okefor in the paint gives the team an interior presence that many others in the league lack, especially on the defensive end.
Depth is solid, if unspectacular. Young Kevin Seraphin continues to impress with play off the bench. His shooting percentage fell last year, indicating he needs to improve his shot selection, but he’ll continue to get a lot of second unit minutes at the power forward, as well as center.
The pieces seem in place for Washington to finally take a step forward this year. They’ll be helped playing in a division where Orlando and Charlotte aren’t ready to compete yet and Atlanta is turning over a lot of roster. The development of their young backcourt will be the crucial factor, but there’s no reason to believe that will not happen and the Wizards could very well be looking down the road playoff seed between six and eight by the end of the year.