This Washington team has been in the gutter for far too long. Just a few years ago, Agent Zero was pulling firearms on teammates in the locker room at the Verizon Center. While Gilbert Arenas was given the boot shortly afterward, the team still felt like it was reeling from that attitude. It came to a point that Washington was tired of the jokers, tired of a losing investment in potential that never quite materialized. So in a single season, they reversed their fate. With a few bold moves, they changed the Wizards from laughing stock to rising stock on the standings in the east. If you haven't been paying attention to this team, you might be surprised at how they enter the court in November.
2012-13 Washington Wizards Offseason Recap
Draft Picks: Bradley Beal, Tomas Satoransky
Free Agents: AJ Price, Cartier Martin
2012-13 Washington Wizards Prospective Depth Chart
PG: John Wall | AJ Price
SG: Bradley Beal | Jordan Crawford
SF: Trevor Ariza | Jan Vesely
C: Emeka Okafor | Kevin Seraphin
The beginning of Washington's restructuring started at the 2012 NBA trade deadline, when Javale McGee was sent to Denver for the newly-extended Nene Hilario. Nene's price tag is ugly, but they should be able to expect 2-3 very productive years out of one of the NBA's most underrated big men. Next, the Wizards shipped out the contractual albatross of Rashard Lewis for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, two overpaid-yet-effective players. The master stroke to this overhaul was the dumping of Andray Blatche by contractual amnesty. All of this happened in about five months. As a Pistons fan, I wish I knew what that felt like...
In the draft, the Wizards selected Bradley Beal 3rd overall, a need-based selection that should suit the team quite well. Beal is an intriguing player, an athletic shooting guard who rebounds and defends well and shows off plenty of versatility. He's not an entirely effective three point shooter, but he attempted a lot of them in college-- half of his shots came from beyond the arc, where he converted at a 34% clip. That's not much to get excited about, given his real talent is closer to the basket. Beal attempted 5 shots per game inside the perimeter in college, connected on 54% of them and drew a lot of contact. He attempted 5 free throws per game on a very limited amount of inside shot attempts. Let's hope, for Washington's sake, he looks to score inside more than he did in college.
If Beal can live up to his draft potential and John Wall can continue to improve, they have the makings of a very dynamic, effective backcourt. At 19 and 21, they've got several years to build chemistry together and do some exciting things on court.
The frontcourt of Nene and Okafor reminds me a bit of the Wallace/McDyess combo strictly for its old man steez. They'll both be 30 to start the 2012-13 season, they don't make a lot of mistakes, they're committed on both ends of the court and they're the polar opposite of the asshattery that the Wizards trotted out last November. If Okafor is healthy, a Nene/Emeka combination might make stat guys like me squeal like a schoolgirl. They'll be overlooked for their age, discounted because of their contracts and ignored because they're in Washington. But they'll be really effective on court and cause fits amongst the opposition. Old man steez-- book it.
If you look at it from a numbers only perspective, Washington will be a surprisingly nice team in 2012-13. A big man who can command double teams? Check. A strong set of rebounders up front? Check. A traditional point guard who is steadily improving? Check. A slashing wing who penetrates efficiently and knows how to draw contact? Maybe. The names might bore you at first glance, but the roles-- they're all there. It's better to be an amateur with all the ingredients than a gourmet with an empty kitchen. I just made that up and I have no idea what it means, but I think it relates. Kinda.
Does this glowing review suggest that the Wizards are poised for contention? No. I do believe that if everything holds as it is, they're on their way to the playoffs for the first time in five years. The weakest link is Okafor's health, followed by John Wall's shot and Bradley Beal's ability to translate his game to the pros. I'm bullish on all of the above. Call me crazy. It is nice to see Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld have a come-to-his-senses moment, because it makes me feel like other GMs might eventually be able to do the same. I'm not referring to anyone in particular... of course...