Believe it or not, the NBA's regular season is this week. To get you ready, Crossover Chronicles will be profiling a team each day for the next few weeks. This week is the Southeast Division. Today is the Washington Wizards.
2011-12 Record: 20-46
Key Losses: Andray Blatche (amnestied), James Singleton (free agent), Rashard Lewis (traded to New Orleans)
Key Acquisitions: Bradley Beal (draft), Trevor Ariza (traded from New Orleans), Emeka Okafor (traded from New Orleans)
Washington wanted to clean house a bit last year and create a positive growing environment for the young players the team was about to bring in. JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and Nick Young were all incredibly talent but struggled to mesh together as a team rather than chase their own stats.
That needed to change if John Wall was going to realize his full potential and not fall into a rut of wasted talent on a team destined to go nowhere. All those players Washington traded away needed a change of scenery and the franchise needed to re-commit itself to the team concept.
In one offseason, it seems like the Wizards did that. Washington acquired veterans Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and Nene after the trade deadline and during the offseason. It is the first time in quite some time the Wizards have had veterans with some hunger and some talent on the roster to play a major role. Washington is feeling excitement about its basketball team once again.
The Wizards are turning this team completely over to John Wall and, for this year at least, surrounding him with an interesting array of weapons.
Trevor Ariza has championship experience with the Lakers title team in 2009 and is a superb defender. Emeka Okafor is still trying to live up to the Rookie of the Year Award he won over Dwight Howard in 2005, but also is a good defender and rim protector. And Nene is a solid pickup who can also provide a lot of defense and a good low-post scoring option.
The focus is clearly defense for the Wizards now as they try to lay a foundation for a new future.
With more veterans and more low post options, that may lead to a slower game for the Wizards. Washington was ninth in the league in pace last year according to Basketball-Reference.com. Nene is not quite known for running the floor, although Ariza is extremely athletic and Okafor can get up and down provided he is healthy.
With this team begin all about John Wall, however, pace is incredibly important. Wall is extremely gifted when he is going at full speed and running the fast break. His playmaking and ability to score in the open court should rank him among the elite finishers in the NBA.
However, Wall's biggest weakness is what he does when he is not going at full speed. Wall struggled some at Kentucky running a true half-court offense (i.e. not the dribble drive motion that John Calipari used to take Memphis to the national championship game) and has really struggled in the NBA. This is the biggest part of his game that Wall has to improve.
Wall has put up a gaudy 36.4 percent assist rate for his career, but also has a career 18.9 percent turnover rate. Clearly Wall can be one of the elite point guards in the league. This season and the way this team is built is all about his development. Adding some new half-court options could be the boost to help him learn how to really run a half-court offense.
It still feels like the Wizards are a bit far away from the Playoff picture. Certainly Washington will compete for a Playoff spot and might even finish second in the Southeast Division. The Wizards are climbing out of the basement it would seem. But the Wizards, despite all the new players they brought in, are still extremely thin behind them.
Jan Vesely was a disappointment last seaosn and still has a lot of growth to do to become "NBA-ready." Shelvin Mack, Jordan Crawford and Chris Singleton are nice young players, but still have growth to make.
The big problem is that Nene and Okafor have not had a sterling history of health and the Wizards' front-court depth is not particularly strong. Nene appeared in only 39 games last year and Okafor appeared in only 27 after a four-year run of playing in at least 70 games.
If both can stay healthy, Washington could be a sleeper to make the postseason. If not, there will be a lot of on-the-job training and growing pains to get through for this team.
Have thoughts or predictions on the Wizards? Leave them in the comments below or drop us a line @CrossoverNBA on Twitter or join the discussion by using the hashtag #WizardsDay. We will be back with a closer look at the Wizards throughout the day.