When was the last time a casual basketball fan thought of the Washington Wizards? Perhaps Gilbert Arenas (formerly Agent Zero) may elicit a few not so welcoming memories for Wizards fans. It has been a while since the Wizards have reached respectability, but I believe that the Wizards are finally making some solid moves in order to become a part of the Eastern Conference Playoff situation. The Wizards obvious number one priority was locking in their (potentially) superstar PG John Wall, who received a huge extension that shows the Wizards commitment to a player who averaged 18/7/4 after recovering from a knee injury. Washington fans should be able to breathe a sigh of relief because Wall is certainly a much more promising player than Arenas was in his prime. Wall looks as if he finally felt fully comfortable with running the show for Washington down the stretch last year and management is hoping he can continue to prove that he is an elite PG in the league. Wall’s athleticism is elite and his playmaking ability should only improve over the course of next season.
There is little doubt that Bradley Beal will be a starter in the NBA at an unusually weakly talented 2 position. It is unknown if Beal can become a superstar, but he has the physical ability and shooting ability that should allow him to be an All Star caliber performer if he reaches his full potential. Beal is one of the reasons I can agree with giving a Wall so much money. The backcourt duo of Beal and Wall should give many Eastern Conference teams fits due to their size, athleticism, and scoring instincts. Just two years ago the Wizards were totally lost at the 2 position and were forced to start role players, ala Jordan Crawford and Nick Young. Beal is assuredly starter material who could very well blossom with Wall creating an All Star backcourt for the Wiz.
The Wizards have been searching for a quality SF since the departure of Caron Butler and drafted Otto Porter Jr, who some scouts thought was the most complete player in the draft. Porter showed in Summer League that he still has a ways to go in order to become a solid starter in the NBA, but has the size and baskeball instincts to be a regular rotation player right away. Porter will need to work on his ballhandling ability and jump shooting in order to make a big impact in his first year in the league. Some fans were disappointed with his performance in the Summer League, but Porter will have plenty of opportunities to grow as a player throughout this season. Washington fans will need to have realistic expectations for the former Hoya. Porter has often been compared to Tayshaun Prince and if he can reach Prince’s steady level of play, I think the Wizards made a great selection in a very weak draft.
Washington also may have picked up one of the biggest steals in the draft by selecting former Yellow Jacket, Glen Rice Jr. who was selected by the Sixers with the 35th overall pick in the second round before being traded to the Wiz. Rice proved in the Summer League that he has the size, strength, and athleticism to be a solid contributor in the league. Rice Jr. does not come without problems, which include multiple suspensions from the Rambling Wreck as well as an eventual dismissal from the team. Rice elected to go into the NBADL draft and played an entire season where he began to impress many scouts by the end of the year. If Rice can stay out of trouble and continue to improve his shot selection and defensive effort, he should be one of the few impact players coming out of the second round of this year’s draft.
With the influx of youth on the wings for the Wiz, it was clear that the team needed to add some veterans in order to help them make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The Wizards wisely resigned three point sharpshooting veteran Martell Webster to a reasonable 4 year 22 million dollar deal. The injury risk for Webster is slightly higher considering his past woes, but if he is healthy he is a marksman who can be a valuable asset for Randy Wittman down the stretch of an 82 game season. Do not be surprised to see Webster penciled in to the starting unit at the beginning of the season. I do not see Porter taking the reigns of the starting SF position from day one and the Wizards only other option would be the slumping veteran Trevor Ariza (who is off of the books after this season). Throw in the inconsistent, athletic veteran Chris Singleton and the SF position may not necessarily be a strength of Washington’s, but the depth of the position should provide enough versatility to keep the Wiz in contention for a playoff spot.
The Wizards glaring weakness is clearly their aging, and often injured frontcourt. Nene is a great offensive player who can create his own interior offense if he is not double teamed. Nene’s problem has been that he is unable to stay healthy and his age seems to be catching up with him. This is one of the biggest worries for the Wizards roster in the near future considering his contract isn’t up until the 2015-2016 season. I find it hard to believe that Nene would be a starter for the elite teams of the NBA, but if he can stay healthy the Wizards will have him in the starting lineup all year long. Center, Emeka Okafor provides a great interior presence for the Wizards, but his lack of offensive skills leaves the Wizards oftentimes playing 5 on 4 on the offensive end. Okafor provides good shot-blocking and at his peak was very close to being an elite defender. The problem for Washington is that Okafor’s prime is clearly behind him and it is unknown if he can play 60 games in a season, much less start 60. Unlike Nene though, Okafor’s contract is up at the end of this season. The Wizards were able to take a flyer on longtime journeyman Al Harrington to a minimum contract to see if he has anything left in the tank. If Harrington can provide 10-15 solid minutes being a stretch 4 off of the bench each night he would be doing more than what I expect from him this season. Does anyone remember Jan Vesely…..yeah me neither (well barely) and he will finally be gone at the end of this season. The highlight of Vesely’s career so far would have to be 1, kissing his girlfriend on draft night and 2, kissing his girlfriend on draft night. He still looked lost in this years Summer League and should see very little playing time this season.
Wizards fans have been waiting a long time and this may be the year for Wall and his crew to finally break through. The talk during the second half of the season was that if they had a healthy Wall, the Wizards would have easily made the playoffs in the Leastern Conference. The Wizards have finally assembled a roster that appears to be respectable, maybe even formidable at every position, but make no mistake about it this is John Wall’s show. Wall and Beal will need to shoulder a heavy scoring load for a Wizards team that will have to pride itself on defense as well as offense. Milwaukee and Boston’s playoff spots are clearly ripe for the picking and the Wizards would be wise to grab one of them in order to show the fans in Washington that their team is finally headed in the right direction.
Best Case Scenario: 6th Spot in the East
Worst Case Scenario: Watching Ping Pong balls hoping for the #1 overall selection