Every week Wizards Extreme will feature 5 burning questions and their answers pertaining directly to the Washington Wizards and the current state they are in. This week's segment addresses Randy Wittman and how the Wizards have performed under his new regime; John Wall's recent improvements; the NBA trade deadline: how the Wizards should approach it and what it could mean for Andray Blatche.
1. The Wizards are 5-7 since Randy Wittman took over. What do you think is the biggest change if anything under the new regime?
Trevor: Rotations seem to be better than they were under Saunders. Wittman appears to be playing the guys who are making an impact on the floor rather than sticking with guys w ho are not getting it done. The immediate benching of Andray Blatche (prior to injury) was just 1 example of this. The Wizards also appear to be playing with more tempo. I have seen Wittman urging Wall and Mack to push the ball up the court faster multiple times. The effort and intensity has picked up on both ends of the floor since the coaching switch, and although it has not translated to a large increase it wins, it has at least made the team more watch-able over the past few weeks.
Mike: The biggest change would have to be the way he is handling the rotation. Vesley, Booker, and Mack are all getting more minutes which is great to see as they are obviously building blocks for the future of this team. It's evident that they can contribute and their intensity has kept us close in many games.
Chuck: The biggest change by far has been the level of intensity and effort. The Wizards are playing much harder for Wittman. He has made it clear to these guys that if you don’t hustle and play hard you will find a seat on the bench right beside Andray Blatche. The Wiz under Randy Wittman are a run and gun team, they push the ball up the court every chance they get and the players seem to be responding to his tutelage.
Saam: You could point to a lot of things but for me, the biggest reason for the turn around is in the coaching. Randy Wittman's intensity and use of his players is making a huge difference. He's dividing the playing time evenly amongst the players and as a result, it's keeping most guys fresh. It looks like everyone is more comfortable on the court because, for the most part, they are all able to stay fresh. We're seeing Shelvin Mack get more playing time, Mo Evans certainly is being a factor and Jan Vesely is coming in to his own. One thing we were saying with Flip is that the guys aren't exactly "buying in" to what he was selling but with Coach Wittman it really looks like they are because he's holding all the players accountable. He's quickly become my favorite coach in D.C. Sports.
Joe: First things first, it has t o be the accountability. Randy came in from day 1 saying the way things were going was not the way it was going to continue. We've seen him pull John Wall a couple times, and I don't think it's a coincidence that we haven't seen Dray around either - although I will say, when Asad and I talked to him last week he looked significantly slimmer. When a coach is not afraid to "bench" his star player it sends a message to the rest of the group, and I think as you can see by his record in comparison to what we were getting from Flip, this team has responded to the new voice. Now, as fans we should wait to place our "Fat Lady Sings" Playoff shirts, there is a long road to climb but I love Wittman's approach and even more so, the guy is a walking soundbite!
2. John Wall seems to be getting out of the funk that he was in at the beginning of the year. What has been the catalyst for the change in his play?
Trevor: Although he still needs to work on it, John Wall has slowed down a bit and let the game come to him. He still has plays where he tries to rely too much on his speed and quickness and tends to get out of control, but those plays are now coming less frequently since the beginning of the year. He has also been finishing at a higher rate at the rim, which was obviously frustrating him ea
rly on in the year. Since Wittman took over, the Wizards have also utilized the pick and roll with JaVale McGee much more, giving Wall and McGee an effective go-to play.
Mike: I hate to say it but is has to be the coaching change. It's possible Wall was the main player who was tuning Saunders out. That's an awful characteristic for a star player to have but at least Leonsis and Grun
feld noticed it and did something to light a fire under him. In close second, it's evident that he's just sick and tired of losing. And when the team only had 4 wins is when I started to notice a change in his play and intensity.
Chuck: John seems to have embraced that he has to be the man here, he can no longer defer to the players around him all the time. Even though he can still get to the basket anytime he wants to, he’s picking his spots much better and knocking down his outside shots on a much more consistent basis. His jump shot looks completely different than it did at the beginning of the season. He still has to cut down on the turnovers but all in all his play has improved dramatically.
Saam: I've been saying all season long that John has to be a "scorer" this season if the Wizards want to win games in the short term. I know he's not built to be that kind of player but he has to be the "go-to" guy on a team that, simply put, has no go-to guy. He's improved on his jump shot and has been shooting a higher percentage as of late. He's able to hit the 20 foot jumper that he wasn't hitting as consistently earlier in the season. It also helps that the guys around him are playing better as well. JaVale has picked his game up, Nick Young continues to score and had a career game last night and Jordan Crawford is more comfortable in his role coming off the bench. The guys around him playing better is allowing John more room and giving him more confidence to make plays on the court.
Joe: I'd have to agree with Trevor, John's game has slowed down a bit and we're not just talking about the speed at which he was running. He seems to have a better feel for where he can get away with drives to the hole but at the end of the day he's only going to be as strong as the players around him. There is no doubt in my mind that Wall has superstar ability, the problem is at 6'4 he doesn't have the same impact on a team that say a LeBron James had on Cleveland. Different team, different players. John needed his teammates to step up and start making shots and recently they have been playing better as a team. As I told Abby today, I think the post-game meeting between Wall and the Miami Vice duo of James and Wade was a hell of a lot more important than anyone seems to be giving it credit for.
3. The Wizards have been trotting out a sta rting lineup of McGee, Book, Singleton, Young, and Wall. What do you think of this lineup and what if any changes would you make?
Trevor: I believe with this current Wizards roster, this should be the starting lineup that will give you the best opportunity to win. Wall is a no-brainer, and Young is Washington's most effective shooting guard. Young has raised his shooting percentage as of late, and is the best offensive player on the team. McGee is also a must start, as he is the only impact center on the roster. Trevor Booker has been playiing very good, smart basketball as of late and brings hustle and energy that was lacking on this team before he moved to the starting lineup. Chris Singleton's offensive game has slowed down since the start of the season, but he is still making an impact on the defensive end and should continue to start over the aging Rashard Lewis. This lineup also allows Wittman to bring Jan Vesely off the bench, where his high energy game can be maximized in spot situations.
Mike: I'm beyond thrilled with this starting lineup. I've been begging and praying for this to be the starting lineup. It gives the Wizards a boost of energy to start out the game which has been evident in many games. The only issue I have is that Mason and Evans should get some more playing time to try and stay in games after the initial energy rush in the first quarter
Chuck: Before this was the starting lineup, I called it the hustle lineup. Im not necessarily sold on Singleton in the starting lineup. I think I would like to see him paired with Jordan Crawfor d off of the bench to be the defensive spark alongside Crawford’s offensive spark. However, if the alternative is starting Rashard Lewis then maybe this is good enough.
Saam: I think if you're the Wizards you have to put out the guys who are going to give you the most energy on a consistent basis. With that said, I think that the current starting five of Wall, Booker, McGee, Singleton and Young is perfect for the roster you have. I sometimes find myself struggling with putting Chris Singleton out there because of the lack of offensive production he brings to that starting five but I understand the value he has on the defensive side of the ball. I really love the way Booker plays and the energy he gives to the rest of the team. I don't think it's any coincidence that the team has been playing better while Trevor has been inserted in to the starting line up. Coach Wittman has been saying since he took over, "We want guys in there who want to win."
Joe: I'd much rather see a starting 5 of Wall, Dwight Howard, Eric Gordon, Booker and McGee but given our current roster this is a whole lot better than having to see Rashard Lewis announced with the starters. I would have liked to have seen Jan Vesely get more of a chance to prove himself but I was concerned with the play of Singleton when he got sent back to the bench after starting for a few games earlier in the season. Chris seems to be much more engaged in the games throughout the entirety of the game when he is starting and as long as they can give a solid 20+ minutes to Vesely each night and barring a trade I see no reason why this lineup should be tinkered with.
4. With the trade deadline approaching, Is there any way that Andray Blatche is still a member of the Wizards after the trade deadline?
Trevor: Where there is a will, there is a way. Actually, despite a lot of criticisms regarding Ernie Grunfeld, he has actually be fairly active and successful around the trade deadline when moves are necessary. If I were the GM, there would be no chance Blatche is still on the active roster. If the trade market will not yield anything of value in return, the amnesty option should be looked at. This would be a classic scenario of addition by subtraction. But to answer the question, since we are discussing DC basketball, never say never. I give it an 80/20 that Blatche will be in a different uniform.
Mike: There's just absolutely no way he will be here. The Wizards are playing much better without him. He hasn't been at most of the games and I'd have to guess the team is trying to distance themselves from one of the last remaining players from the "Big Three" era since he has shown little improvement since then.
Chuck: I pray everynight that I will wake up and he will be gone. With that said there is a good chance that no one wants him. Blatche’s injury has been a blessing in disguise, while other teams don’t get a chance to see him play which hurts his trade value, one could argue that him playing would hurt his trade value even more. Im not won to bet against Ernie Grunfeld, since I said he couldn’t move Gilbert Arenas but he will be hard pressed to find a team interested in an out of shape and soft big man who loves the club. OTIS SMITH AND DAVID KAHN PICK UP YOUR PHONES.
Saam: I don't thin k there's any way the Wizards are able to get rid of Blatche during this season. For starters, the guy is hurt and not able to give the other teams in the NBA a fair "audition" to see what the guy's got. Second, his contract almost makes him unmovable because assuming there is a team out there that might be interested, that albatross salary will quickly remind them why he's trade bait for Washington. Third, on a team that's struggling to get wins, Blatche could be very effective coming off the bench. Before he got injured, he showed that he could play well coming off the bench and now with Randy Wittman balancing everyone's minutes and finding ways for each player to be effective, I think it's more likely you see the Wiz Kids hold on to Blatche and have him play 20-25 min a game coming off the bench for the remainder of the season. Once the season is over and the team has a full off-season to work things out, I think you're more likely to see a move get made. But in order to trade him, they have to get him on the court to show other teams what he can do and a lot of it is on Andray to play better otherwise he won't be playing in the league much longer.
Joe: So much for out of sight out of mind. Honestly, when it comes to Dray I'm sick of all the crap this kid takes. At the end of the day, he's a talented 6'10 basketball player who when he is in shape and dedicated to his craft can be an 18pt/8reb guy. Why do I say that...because he's done it before. Yes, you can find flaws in Dray's game, or in the things he's said and done but since the young man has been in Washington he hasn't exactly had the steadiest of "role models" around. If he is here in Washington past the trade deadline, much like I said at the beginning of the year, temper your expectations for this one time 2nd round pick. He can play ball and he can be a productive memeber of this team. If he isn't in Washington I fully expect The Curse O'Les Boulez to kick in and see Blatche win multiple NBA championships with whatever team low balls the hell out of us with an offer of cash and the 287th pick in the 2024 draft we would get in return.
5. Speaking of the trade deadline, what is a realistic trade you’d like to see the Wizards make?
Trevor: This is a tough question, because it is very hard to gauge how other teams value the cast of misfits Washington would be looking to unload. Jordan Crawford and Nick Young could be on the trading block, and I could see a playoff team in need of an upgrade on offense giving Nick Young a try. The Wizards will certainly want to shop Andray Blatche, but will he have any value at this point? The biggest trade chip Washington has at this point is JaVale McGee. I know it might not be the most popular option, but I think the front office should take a look at what he could possibly bring back in a trade. For a specific trade, looking to Minnesota might be an option. They have a need at both center and shooting guard. The number 2 overall pick in last year's draft, Derrick Williams is in a situation where he isn't getting much playing time. He is stuck behind All-Star PF Kevin Love, who the Timberwolves recently extended. Minnesota could be open for a move if they think they can upgrade their roster, and a McGee/Young package could be enticing. Obviously Washington would have to take back another player, but Derrick Williams is the type of young, talented player I would target if I were the Wizards.
Mike: I'm going to go ahead and follow up with the Blatche trade rumors to Charlotte and propose a trade. Blatche and Turiaf to Charlotte for Tyrus Thomas and Gerald Henderson. I don't expect too much to be done by the trade deadline except for getting Blatche off the roster. I think free agency acquisitions during this and next summer's free agency will be much more active. But for now, I could see them doing this trade in order to acquire a more skilled Power Forward and maybe use both players as placeholders for off-season acquisitions.
Chuck: I would like to see the move either Blatche or Crawford for whatever they can get. I feel like these two players pose the biggest threat to John Walls continued development, which should be priority number one for the front office. If they are unable to move Crawford I would not be devastated but as I have repeatedly said, trade Andray Blatche for anything that you can get. Even if it is a bag of chips.
Saam: I personally don't think that this team is in a position to make any trades right now. They're a young team that starting to gel and come together. They just posted back to back wins for the first time all season and guys are finally buying in to what the coach is selling. Let's just see if this team can be a little more consistent as the season moves along so we can better judge what needs to be added or removed from this roster to make them better for the future.
Joe: Trades in the NBA are so hard to predict and any trade that any of the five us comes up with will be critiqued and criticized by the millions of readers we have. So that said, I have two thoughts on trades for Washington. First, there is one, count em, 1 untouchable player on this roster. John Wall. After that, if the trade is fair and we get guys in return who can burn and get up the court, selfless ball players who want to win at any cost, I'm all for it. Second, any trade where we get draft picks back is ideal. With the draft class that is coming out, and this 2012 NBA Draft may be DEEEEEEEEEEP, I would love to see a situation where Washington could land two lottery picks (their own - assuming we don't go to the playoffs - wait, what?) and perhaps a combo package of later picks or purchased picks to move up into the top 14. I also approve of any trade involving Rashard Lewis taking his talents elsewhere.
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