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Solving Problems: Tapping Wizards’ Potential
Posted By Joel Brigham On September 19, 2011 @ 12:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
A lot of teams in the NBA have problems that are technically pretty solvable as we’ve proven in the multiple “Solving Problems” articles we’ve posted here at HOOPSWORLD over the course of the last couple of weeks. When it comes to the Washington Wizards, however, the real problem isn’t one that the organization can do a whole lot about.
The problem for Washington is the really important players on the roster haven’t yet lived up to their potential.
You could argue that a coach—in this case, Flip Saunders—is responsible for getting the most out of his guys, that in the right system anybody could flourish, but Washington is full of really talented young men that just can’t seem to figure out how to get to the next level as burgeoning stars.
Shooting guard Nick Young is an excellent example of this. There’s no questioning that 2010-2011 was a career year for Young in regards to his scoring. With more minutes came more opportunities to shoot the ball, but it would be easy to question a lot of his shot selection, and defensively he’s one of the most uninterested players on the Wizards’ roster.
He’ll be a restricted free agent whenever free agency officially begins, and some team will likely overpay him for that 17.4 ppg average last season. That team may even be the Washington Wizards, but until Young figures out how to pour his heart and soul into the game, to play defense and work hard over the summer, he may never transcend.
Fans love his numbers, but does anyone really believe he’ll ever be an All-Star?
You could say the same thing for young guns like Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, and even perennial disappointment Yi Jianlian (an unrestricted free agent). These are key guys on the Washington roster, and each and every one of them has gotten fans’ hopes up multiple times, only to leave them completely frustrated.
Showing flashes of brilliance doesn’t count. What the Wizards need is for players to bloom into bonafide stars. How do you fix a problem like that?
Find a leader, then get him to lead.
If Young, Blatche, or McGee can’t be the star of the team you’re going to have to find a player who can, and luckily for Washington they’ve got a guy that fits the mold.
You thought I’d forgotten about John Wall, didn’t you?
As far as living up to potential is concerned, this is a kid that’s well on his way there and should end up an All-Star someday. If (more likely when) that happens, Washington will find themselves on the right track towards winning some games, hopefully some of which will occur in the postseason.
That’s a lot to put onto the shoulders of so young a player, but early in his career Wall has shown he can be the leader Washington needs. He’s been very active socially with a lot of the league’s younger players, already turning himself into a young man that even younger men look up to. From a basketball standpoint, the skill is most certainly there; compare his rookie year stats to those of Derrick Rose, another point guard recently taken with the #1 overall pick in his draft, and you’ll notice that Wall appears to be coming along even more quickly than the reigning MVP:
Wall (2010-2011): 16.4 ppg, 8.3 apg, 4.6 rpg
Rose (2008-2009): 16.8 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.9 rpg
If the talent is there, and the leadership qualities are there, it shouldn’t be considered too lofty an expectation for Wall’s organization to expect greatness from him. Rose took Chicago from mediocrity to contention in three years, and Wall could do the same for Washington. So far, he hasn’t led anyone to believe he’s capable of anything less.
It also helps that the Wizards do have some flexibility. The Wizards have only seven players currently under contract, one of which is Wall, three of which are only heading into their sophomore campaign (Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, and Jordan Crawford). That leaves Rashard Lewis, Blatche, McGee and a promising trio of rookies (Jan Vesely, Shelvin Mack, and Chris Singleton), meaning the rest of the free agents could technically be allowed to leave. Only Blatche, Wall, and the two first-rounders from ’11 are officially on the books beyond 2013, so there is a way to revamp the roster if revamping is what John Wall needs.
And that might be exactly what he needs, eventually. In the meantime, he’ll hone his skills as a leader with the group he’s got. He’s already started by convincing four of his teammates to sign up for Impact’s highly-competitive pro league, which has been some of the best hoops competition these players have seen since the season ended. Outside of Rashard Lewis, however, the only non-Wall Wizards who made the trip are Jordan Crawford, Larry Owens, and rookie Shelvin Mack. The good news is that Wall talked a lot of the more promising younger guys on the Wiz roster into making the trip.
The bad news is who’s missing. No Blatche, no Young, no McGee.
But again, you can’t teach a kid how to live up to his potential. He’s either got it or he doesn’t. Crawford might have it. Jan Vesely might, too. John Wall definitely does, but three (maybe) studs in training don’t guarantee any championships. The rest of the guys have to carry their weight, too.
It’s not an easy problem to solve, but it is the problem Washington has. Their young guns either grow up, or they don’t. The short- and long-term fate of the franchise depends on which way they go.
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