HH Team Preview: Washington Wizards

Buddy Grizzard —  October 4, 2013 — 6 Comments

2012-13 Record: 29-53 (11th in East)z-wizards

Playoff Result: N/A

Key Additions: Otto Porter (draft), Glen Rice Jr. (draft), Martell Webster (re-signed), Eric Maynor (free agent)

Key Losses: Cartier Martin (free agent), AJ Price (free agent)

Projected 2013-14 Record: 44-38 (7th in East)*

What to Expect: Barring injuries, most NBA prognosticators have the Heat, Bulls, Pacers, Nets and Knicks (in whatever order) penciled in as the top 5 teams in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks, owners of a streak of six consecutive postseason appearances, are expected to compete with up-and-coming teams such as the Cavaliers, Pistons and Washington Wizards for the remaining three playoff spots in the East.

As USA Today’s Sean Highkin noted in his NBA Watchability Rankings, the Wizards were two completely different teams last season. The team started 5-28 as point guard John Wall recovered from a knee injury, then went .500 the rest of the way and looked like a playoff team. Sadly, due to the Wizards’ imbalanced roster construction and a preseason injury to starting center Emeka Okafor, the team may struggle early again.

The Wizards are sort of the anti-Hawks. Whereas the Hawks have depth at point guard, power forward and center, the Wizards have only three players 6-10 or taller. Okafor is one of those, and if he misses extended time it will mean extra work for Nene, a PF/C not known for his durability. Despite all its struggles last season, the Wizards still managed to finish in the top 10 in defensive efficiency (although the team was dead last in offensive efficiency). Nene isn’t nearly the defender Okafor is. Unless the latter recovers quickly, Washington faces an uphill battle.

Beyond Okafor and Nene, the team’s only other big man is the unproven Jan Vesely, who had an encouraging run over the summer for his native Czech Republic at the European championships. The sixth overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft has looked like a bust until now. The Wizards must hope he develops into a rotation NBA big man because the team doesn’t have any other options.

While the Wizards are thin up front, the team boasts wing depth the Hawks can only dream of. Despite preseason injuries to Chris Singleton and third overall pick Otto Porter (a player I was not fond of in my draft preview), the Wizards still have veterans Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster and Al Harrington at small forward. The latter was a player I hoped the Hawks would bring back, and who could have made a significant impact on Atlanta’s wing depth.

Meanwhile at shooting guard, as Highkin noted in the article linked above, Bradley Beal played like a potential All-Star after Wall’s return last season. His 3-point percentage shot from an anemic 32% in Wall’s absence to almost 47% upon his return. The combination of Wall and Beal figures to be one of the most dynamic and entertaining back courts in the NBA this season, assuming injuries to the front line don’t set the team on a course similar to last year.

Beal is backed up by veteran Leandro Barbosa, promising guard Garrett Temple and second round pick Glen Rice Jr. The latter, a product of Walton High School and Georgia Tech, I expect to succeed as an NBA player. However, he may have a tough time breaking in with the Wizards due to the log jam on the wing, where Webster and Ariza will see time at both small forward and shooting guard.

Matchup with the Hawks: Given the contrast in roster construction, the matchup between Atlanta and Washinton will be fascinating. Okafor’s return to health will be key for the Wizards as Nene and Vesely will get abused inside by Al Horford and Paul Millsap in his absence. Meanwhile, presumptive Hawks wing starters Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll will have their work cut out for them guarding Washington’s laundry list of wings.

But the real matchup to watch when the Wizards play the Hawks will be Jeff Teague vs. Wall. Teague came into the league almost as an afterthought in the 2009 draft that produced point guards Stephen Curry, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Jennings and Ricky Rubio. Wall came into the league as the first overall pick a year later, and was anointed as a superstar-in-waiting from day one. However, despite Wall’s higher profile, he has yet to prove himself in the playoffs as Teague has. Look for Teague to continue his steady progress and lead the Hawks to a 7th consecutive playoff appearance while attempting to keep Wall’s Wizards on the outside looking in.

*predicted record based on Bo’s ESPN Forecast projections for every team

Buddy Grizzard

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6 responses to HH Team Preview: Washington Wizards

  1. They’ve been derail by injury so often in the last few years and it’s scary that they started the preseason with even more, talent wise 7th seems good, but it’s hard to feel comfortable with the health of this group (granted, the Cavs are even worse.)

    Though on the other hand , Okafor’s injury may be a blessing in disguise to make them try more small lineups. like you said, Rice is likely to be a successful NBA player and a huge steal in the second round, but may be buried this year. he was James Harden like in the D-league last year, combing high efficiency with high volume,

  2. Between Detroit, Washington and Cleveland, I think one of those teams is going to make a big leap this year while the other two go into the season with big expectations and maybe come away disappointed. The team I’m picking to make a big leap is Detroit. They upgraded at point guard, regardless of what you think of Brandon Jennins as a player. They upgraded overall talent by bringing in the third best free agent available, Josh Smith. And they already had two potential All Stars in the front court in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Cleveland and Washington I think are vulnerable to a letdown because of the injury factor.

  3. No notes on the organized scrimmage Saturday Afternoon?

  4. I wasn’t able to make it. Here are some notes on the Wizards I received from Chuck Dye, a MFA candidate at South Carolina:

    “Good job with the write up on the Wiz. A few points though:

    Harrington was signed to be a stretch 4, a need John Wall often spoke about. Barbosa has never and will never wear a Wizards uniform.

    Two important players were not mentioned. Both Seraphin and Booker are in front of Vesely in the rotation. I think Vesely will continue to be a bust but that Seraphin’s offensive game, Booker’s hustle and rebounding and Harrington’s floor spacing give the Wiz lots of options in the way of bigs off the bench and minutes will be determined by match-ups. BTW, the Wiz are trying to make Vesely a center this year. Even with injuries, I don’t see him or Singleton cracking the rotation. Temple is 3rd string PG this year. I like his game. I see lots of folks have Porter starting. They’re wrong.”

  5. Grantland’s Zach Lowe agrees with Chuck’s assessment of Washington’s front court rotation. He asserts that both Seraphin and his pet snake, “Snakey,” are ahead of Vesely in the Wizards’ big man rotation:

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9790038/ranking-nba-tiers-power-2013-14-season

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Hawks, Game 21 | Truth About It.net - December 13, 2013

    […] really needs to happen is that Jeff Teague needs to show some pride, as I suggested in my Wizards team preview, and not allow John Wall’s team to surpass his Hawks. Teague started the season on an […]

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