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2013-2014 Washington Wizards Season Preview
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On September 12, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
The Washington Wizards haven’t reached the postseason since 2008, but will enter the 2013-14 campaign with legitimate playoff aspirations. For the Wizards to ultimately achieve this goal, a lot will ride on the continued maturation of dynamic point guard John Wall. The fourth year guard missed 33 games last season recovering from a knee injury, but scorched the league in March and April averaging 23 points and eight assists per contest. The Wizards have surrounded Wall with a capable supporting cast and with a payroll near the luxury tax threshold it comes as no surprise expectations are sky high.
- Lang Greene
Additions: Al Harrington, Eric Maynor, Otto Porter Jr., Glen Rice Jr.
Subtractions: A.J. Price, Leandro Barbosa, Jason Collins
When John Wall and Bradley Beal were healthy and on the floor at the same time, the Washington Wizards were a nasty, nasty team last year. We’ve seen how good this group can be when they’re firing on all cylinders, but that happened too few times last year for the Wizards to actually have a shot at the 2013 postseason. Nene and Emeka Okafor aren’t exactly a backcourt to believe in, but they’re good enough as long as they stay healthy, and the additions of Otto Porter and Al Harrington give Washington a little much-needed frontcourt depth. There are two or three playoff spots up for grabs at the bottom of the Eastern Conference postseason picture, and the Wizards absolutely are one of the favorites to nab one of them. As long as their injury woes are behind them, this could be a quietly dangerous team in 2013-2104, especially if Wall finally has the breakout season many expect him to have.
3rd Place – Southeast Division
– Joel Brigham
Entering last season, the Wizards talked about making the playoffs, but it quickly became clear that wasn’t going to happen due to injuries to key players such as John Wall and Nene. The team dropped their first 12 games of the season, and 28 of their first 33 contests. However, the Wizards finished last season strong and managed to win 29 games. Washington was a .500 team once Wall returned from injury, including a number of wins against playoff teams, which gave the group a lot of optimism heading into this season. The team is once again setting their sights on the postseason and believing this to be a realistic goal. If Wall can play like he did at the end of last season – he averaged 22.4 points, 7.9 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals in March – then the Wizards will certainly be in the hunt for one of the East’s final seeds. Washington didn’t make any splashy moves this offseason, besides drafting Otto Porter, because they’re confident that they already have the talent in place to make the playoffs.
3rd Place – Southeast Division
- Alex Kennedy
All eyes are on dynamic point guard John Wall. Can he consistently harness all of his talent and finally blossom into an All-Star performer? Is this the year he straps the Wizards to his shoulders and leads the franchise back into the realm of the playoffs? The Wizards’ front office is betting on the answer being yes to both of those questions and rewarded Wall with an $80 million deal over the summer. The team has also provided him with even more depth by drafting Otto Porter in the lottery and signing veterans Al Harrington and Eric Maynor in free agency. Perhaps one of the biggest keys to the Wizards’ success, outside of Wall, is the play of Nene. The big man has been unable to stay healthy over long stretches the past two seasons. Brad Beal, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and Martell Webster round out a solid supporting cast. If Wall is as good as being advertised, there’s no reason why the Wizards shouldn’t be a playoff team in 2014.
2nd Place – Southeast Division
- Lang Greene
The Wizards were a completely different team last season when John Wall was on the floor. He showed just how important he was to them and as a result was rewarded a max contract extension this offseason. Now it’s on Wall to go out there and prove that he is worth it and lead them to the playoffs. His health is as important as anything, but he doesn’t have to completely carry this team by himself. Brad Beal is coming off of a very solid rookie campaign and lottery selection Otto Porter Jr. has the well-rounded skill set to help them out in a variety of ways. They also have good experience on the interior and a deeper roster than last year. With the Atlanta Hawks potentially taking a step back and the Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic still too young to compete, the Wizards have a real shot to build off a strong second half and become the second best team in the Southeast Division. The separation between the Wizards, Bobcats and Hawks, though, is not much.
2nd place – Southeast Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
At some point, potential must materialize. John Wall is at that point. Now entering his fourth season as an NBA professional, Wall just signed a four-year maximum extension worth about $80 million. This happened despite the fact that the Wizards have not come close to sniffing a playoff spot in his first three years in the league. Though that is not all of Wall’s fault, he is the franchise and the old adage holds true: to whom much is given, much is required. With Bradley Beal, Jan Vesely and Otto Porter, Wall has young running mates. With Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza and the newly signed Al Harrington, Wall has a few veterans who have made enough laps around the NBA to help his team ascend. And with Nene and Emeka Okafor, he has a duo of big men that most of the league’s other young talented point guards would be able to excel with. This year in D.C., it is playoffs or bust, and all eyes are on Wall. With the expected continued regression of the Hawks, the Wizards should leapfrog them in the Southeast Division.
2nd place — Southeast Division
- Moke Hamilton
Top Offensive Player: The Wizards don’t have an established 20-plus point per game scorer on the roster, but point guard John Wall can put up points in a hurry when he’s in attack mode. Wall shot a career best 44 percent from the floor in 2013 and has improved his field goal percentage each year since entering the league. Part of Wall’s efficiency improvement is due to relying less on the three-point shot and putting forth a more concentrated effort getting into the lane and causing havoc.
Top Defensive Player: Center Emeka Okafor is getting a little long in the tooth but the veteran remains an above average low post defender, excellent rebounder and paint protector. Okafor will provide the Wizards with a much needed rim protecting force as the team relies on younger wing players Brad Beal and Otto Porter to play significant minutes on the perimeter. Per 36 minutes Okafor averaged over 12 rebounds and 1.5 blocks last season. The veteran’s presence on the floor has been an integral part of the Wizards’ defensive efforts since his arrival to the team.
Top Playmaker: The Wizards’ offense starts and ends with the play of point guard John Wall. The former No. 1 overall pick has struggled with his decision making at times, averaging close to four turnovers per game for his career. However, Wall’s ability to get into the lane on demand consistently opens up teammates for easy scoring opportunities. Wall’s assist per game numbers have steadily declined since his rookie campaign, but with more weapons at his disposal this trend should end next season.
The Clutch Player: Wizards head coach Randy Wittman doesn’t call plays for specific players in late game situations so the Wizards have placed the ball in multiple guys’ hands over the past year. But, when the game is on the line you can be sure John Wall will be utilized to create the opportunity for a teammate, look to find his own shot or strategically utilized as a decoy to free up a teammate.
The Unheralded Player: Forward Martell Webster won’t win any national popularity contests, but the veteran’s presence has been a stabilizing force both on and off the court. Webster averaged a career best 11 points per game and knocked down 139 three-point shots with an impressive 42 percent accuracy rate. The team rewarded Webster with a new four-year deal this summer which is a testament to his on court performance but also credit to his leadership in the locker room and presence in the local community.
Best New Addition: The Wizards selected forward Otto Porter with No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft. The team won’t have to force the former Georgetown product into the lineup with Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster, but the rookie is one of the most NBA ready guys in the draft class. Porter brings a set of versatility to the Wizards and a strong mid-range game. The hope from Washington’s front office is Porter being able to become the team’s starting small forward in the next 2-3 years.
- Lang Greene
1. John Wall: The former No. 1 overall pick has all the tools to become an All-Star caliber performer and for the first time in his career is armed with a supporting cast capable of helping push the Wizards back into the postseason. Wall signed a lucrative new deal over the summer, so the team is fully behind him as the face of the franchise moving forward – without question.
2. Brad Beal: The second year guard struggled with his shot early in his rookie campaign. But most of those struggles could be attributed to Wall’s absence in the lineup, giving opposing defenses the opportunity to key in on the rookie. However, once Wall returned to action Beal’s productivity and efficiency from the floor improved dramatically. If Beal’s health holds up, missed 26 contests last season, he could be in for a very productive sophomoric campaign.
3. Nene: Yes, the center’s health hasn’t held up since arriving to the Wizards in 2012 and he’s owed $39 million over the next three seasons but the veteran is still a formidable force on the interior. The veteran is also a locker room leader who guys respect and keeps everyone loose during those dogs days of the season. For the Wizards to realize their playoff potential, Nene must remain healthy.
4. Otto Porter Jr.: Veteran forward Trevor Ariza is entering the final year of his deal and the hope is Porter can eventually step into that role at a high level. The Wizards selected Porter with the third overall pick in this year’s draft and the forward had an up and down summer league stint. However, Porter has the size and perimeter game to eventually become a solid contributor at some point during his rookie campaign.
5. Al Harrington: The Wizards’ front office has made it their mission over the past two seasons to surround their young talent with established veterans. Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and Nene will be leaned on heavily this season. Harrington’s signing, late in free agency, gives the club extra insurance on the wing in the event Ariza, Webster or Porter are injured. Harrington only played 10 games in Orlando last season while working himself back from injury, but averaged 14 points per contest as recently as the 2012 campaign. Harrington is closing in on 1,000 three-pointers for his career and will give the Wizards another long range option to keep opposing defenses honest.
- Lang Greene
The Wizards’ backcourt will be an entertaining one throughout the season provided John Wall and Brad Beal can stay healthy. The duo combined to miss 59 games last season due to injury, but showed promise combining to average over 32 points per contest. Wall received a lucrative deal before the start of the season and has publicly stated he wants to be considered among the league’s elite players. Beal is primed for a sophomoric jump after adjusting to the nuisances of the NBA game as a rookie. The team also added guard Eric Maynor in free agency. Maynor was once considered one of the best backup point guards in the game before suffering a serious knee injury.
- Lang Greene
The Wizards have solid talent at each position, but the team will enter the season relying heavily on players who have had a penchant of missing significant time. John Wall, Brad Beal, Trevor Ariza and Nene all missed more than 20 games in 2013. All of those guys are expected to start and play quality minutes this season. Durability is a legitimate concern for the Wizards to overcome in 2014.
- Lang Greene
Can John Wall lead the Washington Wizards to the playoffs?
The Wizards faced a similar question entering last season but Wall suffered a knee injury which derailed the team’s playoff hopes early. Now Wall is healthy, armed with a new $80 dollar contract and out to prove he should be considered one of the league’s best guards. The Wizards have surrounded Wall with veterans such as Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, while also drafting lottery picks such as Otto Porter. The stage is set for Wall to lead his team into the playoffs and prove his name deserves to be mentioned amongst the best.
- Lang Greene
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