The Washington Wizards enter the season with as much hope as they have had since Gilbert Arenas‘ knee injury derailed this franchise in 2007. Though the offseason has been less than kind to the young Wizards, there is still reason for optimism in the Nation’s Capital.
The team will begin the season without key veteran big man Emeka Okafor, who is out indefinitely with a back injury. After a dreadful start with the Wizards, Okafor finished the season on a tear and was a double-double machine from January through the end of March when his minutes were cut so the team could evaluate other players.
While Okafor’s eventual return will provide an added boost, the team should have enough big-man depth to survive as long as they don’t receive another long-term injury. Nene is a proven commodity in this league, and the team will look for continued improvement from fourth-year big men Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin, as well as added veteran scoring from free agent signee Al Harrington.
The other troublesome news from Wizards’ camp has been that of rookie small forward Otto Porter, who is dealing with a hip flexor. However, the third overall pick in the draft did not have the look of a guy who was going “get it” in his first NBA season and would have likely been a fringe rotational player at best this season. For now, the team should be fine with the platoon of Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster, with Harrington seeing some minutes at the three as well.
All the aforementioned are fine players in their own respect, but this team starts and stops with John Wall. As evidenced by last season’s records with and without Wall (5-28 without, 24-25 with), as long as he is healthy, this team has a chance to compete. With the continued development of second-year shooting guard Bradley Beal, this team will feature the league’s best young backcourt combination.
With Beal’s skill set, the Wizards could not have drafted a better player to pair with John Wall. Wall may be the league’s fastest player, but he will never have a game-breaking jump shot. As he penetrates opposing defenses the drive-and-kick game with Beal, who has drawn favorable comparisons to Ray Allen, could be devastating.
After a slow start, Beal will look to build on his January-February performance, when he averaged 16 points per game and was lights-out from three before injuries hampered the remainder of his rookie season. The Wiz Kids got a glimpse of what could be when Beal went off for 29 points in the preseason against the Miami Heat, as Wall filled the stat sheet with 13 points, eight assists and five steals. The pair shared the backcourt for 31 minutes and fed off of each other for the majority of the game.
Though the acquisitions of veterans Okafor, Nene and Ariza were pricier than Wizards’ fans would have liked, management has built this team the right way through the last few years. They have stayed patient, built primarily through the draft, and stuck with coach Randy Wittman in spite of another year in the lottery. This season, they should begin to see the fruits of their labor.
Final Record: 42-40