These are your 2013-14 Washington Wizards – A Team on the Rise
While last season’s 29-53 record had some bright spots in Wizards’ land, this year has a bit more promise. John Wall and Bradley Beal are a knockout combination in the backcourt. Nene, Marcin Gortat, Kevin Seraphim and Al Harrington could make a good rotation at the power forward or center positions. Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, and rookies Otto Porter and Glen Rice, Jr. are quality perimeter players. On paper, this roster isn’t bad.
This is a key year in the team’s progress. No, they won’t win the title this season. However, they need to be competitive enough to get the fans out in full force and build momentum for years to come. A playoff berth would be a nice cap to this season, if achieved.
Looking at the Eastern Conference, I see the first six seeds in this order: Miami, Indiana, Chicago, New York, Brooklyn and Atlanta. Boston’s going to fade a bit. Milwaukee is re-tooling. Both Cleveland and Detroit are improving, but not quite there yet. Who’s to say Washington can’t grab an eighth-seed or even a seventh-seed this season?
The Wizards’ potential starts with the point guard Wall. He’s dynamic on both ends (slightly above-average .134 Win Shares/48 minutes). Last year, he went for 18 points, 7.6 assists and 4 rebounds a game. For a guy who’s missed significant time in each of the first three seasons of his career, he seems to hit his stride quickly once he’s back in the lineup. His game is primarily speed/athleticism. He is getting better each year in including his teammates in the transition game. He’s fun to watch.
Beal, the off-guard, held his own as a teen last year while scoring nearly 14 points a game. His true shooting percentage of 51.5% wasn’t bad, but there’s room for improvement. He was second on the team in threes attempted (236) and made (91). He plays with confidence, and should be more consistent this year.
On the front line, Nene is “old reliable” at center. He gets his 12 points, 7 rebounds and a block or so in about 27 or so minutes. No, he isn’t the fastest big man in the league. Yeah, he might drop an easy entry pass in the post now and again. But, he can be a steady part of a competitive rotation. He’s physical and tough.
Gortat, the big guy from Poland, has some skill as a classic back-to-the-basket post player. He’ll block a shot or two per game as a weakside/help defender. He’ll pick up a couple of offensive rebounds and even a stick-back or two per game. He’s not the fastest guy changing ends, so hybrid 4/5-style post players can beat him down the floor for easy buckets in the transition game.
Seraphin is still scratching the surface of his potential, but he has a minus-2.1 Offensive Win Shares rating. He’ll rebound a bit, and score some from the low post. This is a year he needs to take a stronger role in the rotation, being more active offensively and working the boards a bit more on both ends. It’s time for him to take the next step in his development.
Harrington starts his 16th (!) year in the Association, and is quite versatile for his size. He can hit a three-pointer, but shouldn’t take too many. He’ll pass the ball a bit, and is a decent ball-handler. At this stage in his career, he’ll help the team but not lead them to victory each night. I like how his game fits on this roster. He’s a pro’s pro, and the younger guys could learn from his example. He should be good for 20 or so minutes a night at most.
I like what Ariza and Webster bring to this team. Ariza runs the floor well, will hit a three-pointer from time to time, and is a pretty good perimeter defender. Webster is a slightly better shooter, and a slightly worse rebounder. He did lead the team with a .138 Win Shares/48 minutes. When you watch them, you see how they would be highly regarded if they were in a
contender’s rotation. They can add the little things winning teams seem to have.
Rookies Porter and Rice Jr. will fight for wing playing time behind Ariza and Webster. They probably won’t get much, at least at the start of the season. Porter is presently fighting an injured right hip flexor, after suffering an injured right hamstring during summer league play. Point guard Eric Maynor is on the roster, and suits up for his fourth team as he starts his fifth season. If he can regain the potential he previously showed in Oklahoma City, he can keep the second unit productive offensively. He’s cat-quick and has great court vision. Defensively, he can be manhandled by more physical guards.
Randy Wittman is the head coach, an experienced hand with younger rosters. He possesses enough patience while demanding improved execution on both ends of the floor. I was surprised to see Sam Cassell among the list of assistants. If this current roster takes on more of the savvy Cassell showed as a player, this team will be competitive.
Washington lost seven of its last eight last year. The 22-19 home record was decent. A 7-34 road record doomed this team in 2012-13. If they can find four more home wins and maybe five more road wins, they’d match Milwaukee’s record as last year’s eighth seed. This year, Washington could win 40 or so games, which would put them in the hunt for a playoff spot. Bad news is, as an eighth-seed they would probably meet the Heat in the first round. “Go get ‘em, fellas”.
The Wizards open October 30th at Detroit. That opener will be a good test, since Detroit’s youthful front line (including Josh Smith, Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe) may be too frisky/energetic for Washington’s veteran post players. Washington’s backcourt may have a slight advantage over Detroit’s without Brandon Jennings out of the lineup.
For Wizards’ fans, they have every right to be optimistic. On paper, this team has a lot of potential. The team needs to stay healthy, stay cohesive on the floor, and defend with passion and focus. Maybe they’ve turned the corner.
(h/t ESPN, Basketball-Reference.com, Yahoo Sports, NBA.com)
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