There was at least one expectation that the Washington Wizards met last year.
Thanks to a late season win streak the Washington Professional Basketball Team managed to end the lockout-shortened season with a 20-46 record and hit the over on Vegas’ line of 19.5 wins for the season. Congrats to those who had a sunny outlook on what became another dismal season for the Wiz.
Tonight the NBA season tips-off and the Wizards will begin their 2012-2013 season against the Cleveland Cavilers in Cleveland. For those that were too busy cheering for the Nats and RGIII, here’s what you need to know as we preview the upcoming season.
The writing was on the wall when the Wizards unloaded JaVale McGee and Nick Young for Nene at last year’s trade deadline. Now in year three of a rebuilding process that started with the selection of John Wall with the overall number one pick in 2010, the Wizards are still looking for building blocks for Wall. For awhile players like McGee and Young looked like possible answers for the future. Will I miss the occasional flashes of talent from the duo of McGee and Young? Maybe. Will I miss the constant bone-headedness of McGee and Young? Not at all.
Instead the team will look to the crop of young players acquired over the past two years. This past summer the Wizards drafted Bradley Beal with the third overall pick, the expectations are for him to be Wall’s wingman down the court and to provide the shooting presence this team desperately needs. As a team last season the Wizards made only 41% of their shots (21st in the league.) 2011 draft picks Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton will be judged more closely with their rookie seasons under their belt. Last year’s second round pick Shelvin Mack struggled as Wall’s primary back-up last year and was released this past season. Second year players Trevor Booker, Jordan Carwford, and Kevin Seraphin have shown promise and could become legit starters with some more seasoning.
Unloading dead salary weight was another important step the team took during the off-season. Rashard Lewis was due to be paid $13.7 Million despite only playing in 85 of a possible 148 games over the past two years. Lewis was traded away to New Orleans for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. New Orleans has since bought out Lewis’ contract and Lewis signed a deal with the Miami Heat. Washington’s amnesty of Andray Blatche was all but surprising when it finally happened this past July. Fans and management alike have grown tired of his attitude problems and lackluster play.
However this isn’t exactly a leaner and meaner Wizards team. In clearing off $20.7 Million of salary cap space in Lewis and Blatche, the team took on an equivalent amount of salary in Okafor and Ariza. While Okafor and Ariza have injury concerns of their own, getting rid of a complacent Lewis and a malcontent Blatche makes the swap worth it. The upgrade is in higher character veterans that should avoid creating headlines like this.
So here’s a look at the final Wizards roster for tonight’s season opener:
- Trevor Ariza (F)
- Earl Barron (F-C)
- Bradley Beal (G)
- Trevor Booker (F)
- Jordan Crawford (G)
- Cartier Martin (F)
- Nene (F-C)
- Emeka Okafor (C)
- Jannero Pargo (PG)
- A.J. Price (G)
- Kevin Seraphin (C)
- Chris Singleton (F)
- Jan Vesely (F)
- John Wall (G)
- Martell Webster (G-F)
Out of that roster the team’s optimal line-up would look like this:
- PG: John Wall
- SG: Bradley Beal
- C: Emeka Okafor
- PF: Nene
- SF: Trevor Ariza
An interesting squad that would feature the young stars in Wall and Beal, a solid big man in Nene, and veterans in Okafor and Ariza. It also allows the previously mentioned second-year players to play off the bench, which could mean less pressure but also means less minutes.
Too bad it will be awhile til we see these five players on the floor.
John Wall is expected to be out until late November with a knee injury while Nene is nursing plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Throw in a calf injury to Kevin Seraphin and we are looking at Wizards team that will struggle to even meet John Hollinger of ESPN’s prediction of 9th in the Eastern Conference. It’s hard to have a positive outlook when the team’s two best players are hurt.
When Wall and Nene are back at full strength are the Wizards on their way out of the basement and into playoff contention? Washington’s pre-season injuries may delay that for another year. Even if the team finishes as a fringe-playoff team there still needs to be a lot of corners that need to be turned. Wall needs to turn the corner and become the elite NBA star many were expecting last year. Vesely and Singleton need to start showing that they can play in the NBA while Booker, Seraphin, and Crawford need to show that they are worthy of major roles in the future.
Perhaps the biggest corner that needs to be turned this season is this franchise’s rebuilding efforts. They hit the reset button to the Arenas/Jamison/Butler era and hit it again when they blew up the potential future core of Wall/McGee/Young. Wall becomes a restricted free agent in 2014 and if Washington wants him to stay in DC, they need to show that it has a future. Whether this team has one is yet to be determined.