Sunday, August 11, 2013

NBA Season Preview 2013-14: Washington Wizards

2012-2013 Regular Season Record: 29-53

Key Additions:  F: Otto Porter Jr. (Rd 1, Pick 3), Glen Rice Jr. (Rd 2, Pick 35 via 76ers) Eric Maynor (2 yrs, 4.12 mil, all guaranteed), G John Wall (Contract Extension 5 yrs, 80 million, all guaranteed)

Key Losses: None

Projected Starting Lineup: PG: John Wall SG: Bradley Beal SF: Otto Porter Jr. PF: Nene C: Emeka Okafor

Key Backups: F Trevor Ariza, G/F Martell Webster, F/C Kevin Seraphin, F Trevor Booker, G Eric Maynor, F Jan Vesely

Move over Barack Obama, John Wall is now the big man in Washington DC! Just a few days ago from today, John Wall signed a maximum contract as shown above keeping him to 2018. Of course with a big contract comes big expectations, expectations that John Wall can not do alone. And that expectation is to lead the Washington Wizards to glory something former maximum contract signee Gilbert Hibachi Arenas(or whatever you call him these days) could not do.
John Wall recently stated that this contract will motivate him to another level and if the Wizards are able to take the next step, it has to. John Wall started last season with a left knee injury that kept him sidelined to January 12 where he made his impressive debut against that Hawks that saw an upset Wizard win 93-83 in which Wall scored 14 points in 21 minutes. Wall kept this impressive play up for the remainder of the season and transformed the Wizards from bottom feeder(5-28 without Wall) to a team that was not going to be pushed around(24-25 with Wall). To note, John Wall was also getting better as the season went on, his pre All-Star break stats were 14.7 PPG, 7.3 AST and 3.2 RPG on 43 percent shooting over 28.8 minutes. Wall then exploded post All-Star break with 20.7 PPG, 7.8 AST and 4.5 RPG on 45 percent shooting over 34.9 minutes. The major difference in the numbers indicates he was still getting back to fitness pre All-Star and his post All-Star numbers will be more of the norm this upcoming season.

John Wall's game is a hybrid of Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo. He is similar to Russell Westbrook in that he is usually the fastest man on the court and arguably the fastest player in the NBA right now who is seemingly unstoppable on a fast break. Wall is also similar to Rondo in that he plays with a pass first mentality and displays tremendous court vision. Defenses also give him the Rondo treatment forcing him to shoot the ball by playing off of him as far as they can while trying to block all passing lanes. Which like Rondo, shooting especially the three point shot is John Wall's Achilles' heel. Despite showing an improvement in his three point shot with a 34 percent clip post All-Star, Wall still only took one a game. In today's NBA, no matter how athletic you are or court savvy, it is almost imperative for a point guard to develop at least a serviceable three point shot playing at the top of the key. And in John Wall's case he will become practically unguardable if he develops a three point shot that he is confident with. To show just how deadly his offensive potential is, against the Memphis Grizzlies, Wall exploded for a stat line of 47 points with 7 rebounds and assists while making 2 out of 4 from the three point line. His defensive potential is enormous as well, gaining the reputation as one of the best shot blocking point guards and also chipping in a steal per game. His on the ball defense is good as well and will only get better due to his athletic ability. This year could see the evolution of John Wall but in order to take the Wizards into the next level, he will require help from the other young prospects.

Bradley Beal was drafted 3rd overall in the 2012 NBA draft for the main reason of being John Wall's Robin. Beal compliments Wall's game well, he is a prototypical two guard that can catch and shoot as well as shoot off the dribble. John Wall's early injury also had an impact on his rookie play, shooting around 35 percent without Wall and shooting around 46 percent with Wall. His season unfortunately got cut short to a right fibula injury and only played 56 games in the season that also cut him short of working with the USA team. Bradley Beal just got cleared yesterday for contact and just in time before training camp, Beal's shooting ability stretches the floor for John Wall to penetrate opposing defenses and vice versa.

The other piece to the puzzle is a bigger question mark, Otto Porter Jr. drafted 3rd overall, Otto Porter was seen by many as a "safe" pick that he will be able to make an impact on the NBA court from day one. His Vegas Summer League play proved otherwise, the Georgetown product scored 6.3 PPG on 30 percent shooting, 3.7 RPG and only 1 assist per game through 3 games before ending his summer league play to injury. One of the main problems for Porter's struggles is his lack of strength, Porter has a lanky frame of 6'9 205 and guarding the LeBron James and Carmelo Anthonys of the world will pose serious problems for him. There are many things that Porter does well but he does not really stand out in a particular skill set. He shot 42 percent from three in college but can he get his shot off against the NBA caliber talent? Can he make his lanky frame work ala Tayshawn Prince and become a terror on the defensive end or will he have similar struggles ala Wesley Johnson?

Big men Nene and Emeka Okafor are getting up there in age, both 30 years old. Can Nene stay healthy and provide the inside scoring he was known for 11 years in the NBA? Can Emeka Okafor provide the defensive presence necessary to compete with the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks of his division? They will also be backed by young promising bigs; Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker. The Frenchman Kevin Seraphin is similar to Nene in regard he knows how to score in the paint using his 275 pound frame to average 9.1 PPG in 21.8 minutes of play. Trevor Booker also provides energy off the bench grabbing 5 rebounds a game in 18.5 minutes of play. The bench also provides athletic utility man Trevor Ariza and the sharpshooting Martell Webster. Eric Maynor will look to forget his horrible Portland stint being over a year removed from his ACL injury, Jan Vesley has been disappointing so far in the NBA and this will be his make or break year and Glen Rice Jr. will look to crack the rotation after an excellent showing in the D-League.

Head Coach Randy Wittman is on the hot seat this year, and a playoff birth could prove to be all the difference to keep his job. The Wizards should be able to improve their total points per game that was ranked 28th in the league with 93.2 with a healthy John Wall, Beal and Nene. Their strength was in rebounding(43.2) and defense(95.8 allowed) that had them 8th and 9th in the league respectively and should be able to maintain their output. Everything I said about Kyrie Irving is the same with John Wall, I expect him to take his game to the next level. I had a tough time with this prediction, but the Wizards will just make the playoffs next season if Wall, Beal and Nene can stay healthy and if Porter can put his summer league play behind him.

Projected All Stars: John Wall

Season Projection: Playoff Contention(8th place if healthy)