2012-2013 Washington Wizards Season Preview
The Washington Wizards won just thirty percent of their games during the 2012 campaign finishing 20-46 and missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. However, there is more optimism surrounding the Wizards heading into training camp than in recent memory due to the arrival of some established veterans and a highly touted lottery pick. The postseason may once again prove to be elusive for Washington in 2013, but the franchise has seemingly remedied some of the maturity issues which were unfavorably impacting the team over the past few seasons.
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2012-2013 Washington Wizards:
Five Guys Think…
The Washington Wizards made several quality moves this offseason, highlighted by the acquisitions of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. The experienced veterans will join Nene and form a viable frontline that should help the Wizards improve defensively. The combination of John Wall and rookie Brad Beal in the backcourt holds great potential. Their lack of depth is a concern, though, and it will ultimately keep them from passing up the Miami HEAT and Atlanta Hawks. Wizards head coach Randy Wittman received a two-year contract extension this offseason, but if this team doesn’t make big strides early on he could be on the hot seat.
3rd Place – Southeast Division
– Yannis Koutroupis
Washington Wizards point guard John Wall desperately wants this to be a banner year for his team. He wants to be an All-Star himself, but more than that he desperately wants to get to postseason play this year. The Wizards have a revamped roster, and the front court additions of Nene (at the trade deadline last season) and Emeka Okafor give Wall exactly the foundation he needs to push for a playoff berth. Bradley Beal is expected to be one of the top rookies in the league, and with Trevor Ariza on the wing the Wizards have a strong defensive presence on the perimeter, too. Coaching is suspect, as the team opted to keep Randy Wittman rather than bring in a more experienced head coach, and that may be the real weak spot on the team. A lot of things have to go right for the Wizards to be postseason hopefuls, but it’s not completely out of the question.
3rd Place – Southeast Division
– Bill Ingram
This offseason, John Wall made it very clear that he’s tired of mediocrity in Washington. He wants people to start taking the Wizards seriously and he’s ready to play in his first playoff series. After stockpiling young talent in recent years, the Wizards traded in some of their prospects for veterans who will allow the team to compete as early as this season. Nene, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor were brought in so that Washington could make a playoff push, which isn’t out of the question especially considering division rivals like the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks have made cap-clearing moves that could lead to fewer wins this season. The Wizards will have to get everybody on the same page, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Many of the team’s significant contributors have spent the offseason working out together in Las Vegas, which should allow them to hit the ground running once the season begins. The Wizards have bolstered their roster, but they’ll need Wall to take the next step in his development if they want to become a team to watch in the Eastern Conference, which is something that the 22-year-old point guard acknowledges. Whether or not the Wizards make the playoffs this season remains to be seen, but they should be able to improve on last year’s win total with their recent acquisitions.
3rd Place – Southeast Division
– Alex Kennedy
Despite the fact that the Wizards had the second-worst record in the league last year, they look like a team poised to the make the postseason in 2013, not only because this could be the year John Wall makes The Leap, but also because there is finally enough veteran help on this roster to make a playoff appearance possible. Nene, Emeka Okafor, and Trevor Ariza all add quite a bit to this organization, and rookie Brad Beal should be a big deal, too. At the end of the day, though, this team’s success falls on Wall’s shoulders, and I’m in the camp betting this is the year he finally gets to see what the postseason is all about.
2nd Place – Southeast Division
– Joel Brigham
Realistically, playoff aspirations are still a ways off for the Washington Wizards but you have to credit their progress in turning the culture of the franchise around in relative short order. Gone are young players oozing with talent but lacking maturity such as Nick Young, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee and in are established veterans like Emeka Okafor, Nene and Martell Webster who know what it takes to be a professional. The infusion of veterans will undoubtedly help point guard John Wall elevate his game to the next level, while first round pick Bradley Beal will ease some of the pressure off of him in the backcourt. No playoffs in 2013 for Washington, but tons more respect on and off the court will be earned this season.
4th Place – Southeast Division
– Lang Greene
Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: The Wizards will be led offensively by explosive point guard John Wall who recorded sixteen games with at least 20 points last season. Wall is the team’s leading returning scorer and possesses the speed and quickness to penetrate the lane and attack the basket at will. The third year player also finished in the league’s top ten in free throws made (seventh) and free throws attempted (eighth) which illustrates how tough a defensive assignment it is trying to contain his talent. But Wall will need to significantly improve his shooting percentage as the team’s top offensive option after connecting on just 42 percent of his attempts in 2012.
Top Defensive Player: The Wizards will be armed with quite a few players who excel defensively this season. Small forward Trevor Ariza is a strong perimeter defender and Wall is a ball hawk known to stalk passing lanes, but center Emeka Okafor will be the team’s defensive lynchpin. Okafor entered the league with a strong defensive reputation after starring at UCONN collegiately and after eight seasons it is still intact. Okafor possesses good timing which allows him to block shots at a solid rate, while avoiding foul trouble. Okafor, although somewhat undersized, is also rarely out of position when guarding the post. Okafor may not start this season at center due to the presence of Nene, but when the team needs a defensive stop he’ll likely hear his number called.
Top Playmaker: Wall created plenty of scoring opportunities for his teammates averaging 8 assists per game last season, which was good enough to rank seventh in the NBA. However on the flip side, Wall also turned the ball over a league high 255 times in 2012. But there are signs of Wall’s growth, as he cut down his turnover output post All-Star break while averaging an impressive 9.1 assists during the month of April.
Top Clutch Player: Wall didn’t produce stellar clutch numbers in his sophomore campaign, but there is no doubt the ball will be in his hands in late game situations when the Wizards need to make a play. Wall’s knack for getting into the lane, collapsing defenses and ability to get to the free throw line at a high clip will be relied upon heavily in Washington this season.
The Unheralded Player: Okafor is owed $28 million over the next two seasons and that is usually the popular narrative when the center is discussed, however when completely healthy the eight year veteran is a remarkably consistent performer capable of providing a double-double on a nightly basis. Okafor is far from a household name, but is a great locker room presence, will provide Wall with a capable scoring option in the post and his ability to block shots will help the Wizards’ fast break offense thrive.
Best New Addition: Shooting guard Bradley Beal, a long range marksman, was selected by the Wizards with the No. 3 overall pick in this past June’s draft. Beal is expected to eventually earn the team’s starting shooting guard and pair with Wall to form the club’s backcourt of the future. The two players will form an interesting dynamic as Wall is known more as a penetrator and Beal is hailed as having one of the best long range jumpers in his draft class. The Wizards will likely open the 2013 campaign with Jordan Crawford playing the majority of minutes at shooting guard as Beal adjusts to the pace of the NBA game, but opportunities for the rookie to contribute to the Wizards’ success this season will be plentiful.
Who We Like
1. Nene: During his time with the Denver Nuggets, Nene established himself as a borderline All-Star at center. The Wizards acquired the veteran center in a surprise three-team trade at the deadline last season, but Nene only appeared in 11 contests with Washington due to injury. Nene, who played for Brazil in the 2012 Olympics this summer, will in all likelihood be the Wizards’ starting center and one the primary go to players on the offensive end of the floor this season.
2. Ernie Grunfeld: A year ago the Washington Wizards possessed talented young players such as JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Andray Blatche, but the team’s locker room was filled with selfishness and immaturity. The longtime league executive decided the club needed to surround Wall with veteran talent to spur his growth and dealt McGee to Denver, Young to Los Angeles (Clippers) and used the one-time amnesty provision on Blatche, basically paying the forward $24 million to go play elsewhere. The remaining return for those players, Nene, Okafor and Trevor Ariza, won’t win many name recognition contests but the Wizards are in much better shape on and off the court from a chemistry standpoint.
3. Martell Webster: Injuries have derailed the career of the former lottery pick, but the seven year veteran is another key piece in Washington’s changing of the culture rebuilding project. Webster is quite simply a guy who knows his role and is committed to providing leadership to younger players; the areas which won’t appear in the nightly box scores but are the intangibles needed to ultimately get Washington back into the playoff hunt.
4. Kevin Seraphin: The rising third year pro played for the French National Team in the 2012 Olympics this summer, and ended last season on an absolute tear when given the opportunity to start full-time at forward averaging 15.5 points, 7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game during the month of April.
5. Jordan Crawford: If you have shots to spare, Crawford will undoubtedly take them. While Beal may be the team’s long term choice for their shooting guard spot, Crawford is a high volume scoring machine who is capable of erupting for 20-plus points (eighteen times in 2012) on any given night, against any given defender or team.
– Lang Greene
The Wizards’ young backcourt of the future is promising, but the team’s strength this season will be in its frontcourt which contains plenty of depth and proven ability. Nene and Okafor will split time at center this season and both players are versatile enough to log minutes at power forward if the need arises. Seraphin continues to emerge, while Ariza and Webster will provide stability to the team’s small forward position. The presence of veteran guys who can fully operate and thrive within a half court offense will be a change from year’s past for the Wizards who relied on youthful legs who were often stifled when teams slowed the tempo.
– Lang Greene
The NBA is a star driven league and most franchises ranking at the top of the league possess players who are prolific scorers. This is where the rebuilding Wizards will potentially have issues. Wall is a dynamic talent but he’s yet to record a season averaging more than 16.5 points since entering the league. The Wizards’ most natural scorer is Jordan Crawford, but he’s a career sub 40 percent shooter from the field and sub 30 percent shooter from three-point range. Nene, Seraphin, Ariza and Okafor are all capable of recording double-digit scoring games but none are what you could consider go to options for big offensive nights –on a routine basis. If Wall struggles to assert himself offensively this season, Washington will struggle.
– Lang Greene
What Needs To Be Said On Opening Day….
There are no excuses this year. With the new faces in this locker room, our approach has changed. The goal now is the playoffs. That means our young guys must get up to speed quickly with the help of our veterans. We will be a defensive team first and foremost. Our perimeter players like Trevor, John and Martell will have the freedom to pressure the ball and let our big men, especially Emeka and Jan, clean up any contested drives. From game to game, we need to focus on strengthening our defensive identity. I promise you that if we put in the effort and focus to be a top 3 defensive unit in the East, we will be playing deep into April.
– Brett Koremenos & Anthony Macri
The Burning Question
Is John Wall Truly A Franchise Player?
The fate of the Wizards this season and beyond rests solely on the shoulders of John Wall. The speedy point guard is obviously the face of the franchise, but the question remains is the former University of Kentucky standout truly a franchise player? There’s a difference in those two distinctions. Surrounded in the past by a cast of talented but immature youngsters, Wall now has experienced veterans alongside him in the lineup. Each of the veterans have played with some of the game’s best with Okafor (Chris Paul), Ariza (Kobe Bryant) and Nene (Carmelo Anthony) all having success in their respective roles behind those stars. This is year three of the Wall era in Washington and if the dynamic playmaker fails to play at an All-Star caliber level the Wizards may have to start looking for a new leading man.
– Lang Greene