With star point guard John Wall in the lineup last season, the Wizards posted a passable 24-25 record (.489); without him, they went 5-24 (.172). That one split pretty much sums up 2012-13 in Washington. Wall signed a five-year, $80-million extension in the off-season and will be looking to prove that he is worth every dollar of the long-term deal. If he continues to make a 317-point difference in the team’s winning percentage, he stands a pretty good chance.
For a team that’s missed the playoffs for five straight seasons, Washington actually sports a solid defence (the Wizards ranked eighth in points allowed last year)—one that could improve in 2013-14. Kevin Seraphin will be counted on to step up defensively in the absence of herniated big man Emeka Okafor , and the Wizards will hope to have better luck (Okafor aside) keeping key pieces healthy after losing Wall, Nene and Bradley Beal for significant portions of the 2012-13 season. Although Washington is a fringe playoff team at best, they have a young core and strong defensive principles to build on.
Eric Maynor, Otto Porter Jr, Al Harrington, Josh Childress, D’or Fischer, Pops Mensah-Bonsu
A.J. Price, Leandro Barbosa, Cartier Martin, Jason Collins
Otto Porter Jr. was selected with the third overall pick in the 2013 Draft, and will look to help a horrid Washington offence improve from last season. The small forward from Georgetown is pretty raw, but has the potential to turn into a solid secondary scorer. Adding Eric Maynor should cancel out the loss of A.J. Price, as Maynor has carved out a role as a stellar backup point man in four seasons. The former VCU guard should assume some responsibility for dictating an offence that looked completely lost with Wall on the bench.
Although Al Harrington and Josh Childress were added to the mix, it’s unlikely that either player will be able to make a significant impact at this stage in their careers. Still, both will be able to soak up minutes if needed, and provide veteran depth to a younger team.
- Will Wall live up to his extension? You could argue that Washington was forced to extend Wall or risk losing the de facto face of the franchise. His outstanding athleticism stands out right away, but Wall is still a poor three-point shooter—despite improving significantly last season—and smart defences know to keep him away from the rim and force him into contested jumpers. The NBA is full of young point guards turning into leaders for playoff-calibre teams. Wall will have to elevate his game to meet heightened expectations.
- Can the Wizards sustain last season’s strong defensive play? Washington’s second-most used lineup (Wall, Beal, Martell Webster, Nene and Okafor) held opponents to just 84.4 points per 100 possessions last season (Indiana’s league-best overall mark was 96.6). However, the Wizards will be without Okafor, the team’s top defensive player. Washington ought to see improvement from Wall, whose elite athleticism should translate into above average man coverage; however, Wall has a tendency stray from the team’s scheme to jump passing lanes trying for steals and easy transition buckets. Seraphin should help lessen the blow of Okafor’s loss, but several Wizards will have to take a jump to maintain the team’s elite D.
Bradley Beal. Beal, selected with the third-overall pick in 2012, had a great start to his rookie season, winning Rookie of the Month in both December and January. The Florida product showed glimpses of stardom and averaged 13.9 points per game to go along with a 38.9 percent success rate from three. The NBA has a dearth of quality shooting guards, and it’s fair to say that Beal could be one of the best in the league in a couple of years. Look for Beal to take a larger role in dictating the offence and creating shots for others, while improving on his slot selection.
Half-decent. Washington will rally around its promising backcourt and hope to have better luck with injuries than they did in 2012-13. While many teams are hollowing out their rosters in hopes of securing a top draft pick, the Wizards’ young-but-talented core will have them fighting for one of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spots.