The good news is…no one was packing heat in a Wizards locker room this past season.
Nonetheless, it ain’t easy being a pro hoops fan in Washington.
The Washington Wizards provided their fans with an anemic defense and a confused offense (for consecutive years, no less!). John Wall has been a blip of optimism on Washington’s across-the-board inadequacy. Finishing the shortened 2011-2012 season with a 20-46 record, there were points of criticism all over the place.
Fortunately, the Wizards may be in line for a noticeable improvement next season.
Andray & Javale. What can you say?
Before leaving the Wizards, Andray Blatche didn’t get to play very much in his last season in Washington. Though we’ve seen him flash some talent here and there, we’ve seen more of Andray making some…questionable decisions. The potential was undeniable. Blatche had the combination of height, ball handling, and shooting touch to matter on the offensive end. Though he was never convincing on the defensive side of things, there was a time when Blatche at least wasn’t a negative factor on D. Last year, Blatche disappointed many. It was nice to see that he was apologetic to the fans for his clear lack of any concern on the floor. But, the fact remains that Blatche was a stain on a team that didn’t need it.
The Wizards seem to be serious about change. The acquisitions during the last season-and this offseason-have shown some good signs. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Drafting Bradley Beal was nothing short of a good move. Beal is exactly the kind of versatile scoring threat that a guy like John Wall needs by his side. Beal moves at lightning pace, posing offensive capability from all ranges. Surprisingly strong, he finishes well enough that one can safely expect a 1-2 apg jump in Wall’s assist numbers. Watch the kid ball.
Then there was Javale McGee. The trade sending the springy 7-footer to Denver and Nene to Washington was one that had to happen. In fact, it was one of the rare occasions where both teams had become noticeably better off. Yes, McGee’s supreme athleticism, daunting height, and defensive stats warranted something a bit more. Well, it usually would. But, for one reason or the other, the McGee project just didn’t work out in Washington. He was a walking blooper real. Often times, he just didn’t know where he was on the court.
For whatever reason, the coaching staff in Washington couldn’t turn McGee’s mentality around. He seemed more like a kid in a mandatory physical education class than a pro ball player. It didn’t look like he was having fun. Well, it looks like he’s found some motivation in Denver. Perhaps having to guard Andrew Bynum in a play-off atmosphere brought McGee to life. Heck, maybe it was the George Karl effect. In any case, McGee looks like he’s on his way to becoming a respectable ball player and Washington can look forward to a healthy Nene next year, a top forward by many standards.
By far my favorite move by Washington this summer was the trade sending Rashard Lewis to New Orleans. The Wizards sent an unhappy, overpaid Lewis to the Hornets in exchange for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. Talk about business savvy! Washington got the clear advantage here, as they received both a solid big (Okafor, career 10.1 rpg, 3.3 offensive rpg) and a defensive stopper of a wing in Ariza (10.1 ppg, 1.7 spg, 5.2 rpg last year).
Therein lies the key to measured optimism with the Wizards. Washington is looking at a group of young talent that includes Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Jordan Crawford, and Shelvin Mack.
Jan Vesely is slated to get more time at the PF spot, finishing last year with averages of 4.7 ppg and 4.4 rpg in less than 19 minutes of action. Vesely showed during the preseason that he has the packaged talent that Washington was hoping for when they drafted him 6th overall. Mack is a great addition to the Wizards that provides reliable PG debt. Chris Singleton was always more than “the best defensive player in this draft” (which is a useless label, by the way), but he’s struggled (37% fg last year). With some good showings this preseason, Singleton looks primed for a positive season. Jordan Crawford was another bright spot in Washington’s season. The Xavier University product was traded to Washington from Atlanta and impressed with 14.7 ppg average last season.
The emergence of these young players is going to serve as the spark to a Wizards offense that might actually be able to execute a play or two.
Can they put it all together?
As things stand. the Wizards are far from play-off. But there’s good news here.
John Wall has a couple of seasons under his belt, and he’s learning how to run an offense. Wall’s jump shot has been a weakness, and judging by the guy’s work ethic, it should see some improvement this season.
The one difficult question with Washington involves coaching: Can the fresh faces on Washington’s sidelines put it all together?
With a more seasoned star PG at the helm, a front court anchored by Nene and Okafor, a host of viable (though modest) scoring threats, Washington could be looking at its closest attempt at a .500 season in quite some time.
A few things, including some good coaching, are just going to have to fall into place.
Mohamed Abdihakim is a journalism student at Florida Atlantic University. He is a Phoenix Suns fan, who is not prepared for the possibility of Nash winning a title in a Lakers jersey. Mohamed is also a contributor at “Les Snobs”. Interests include International basketball, Mad Men , and blues music.
Twitter handle: @Abdi_hakim