As the NBA season quickly approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focus on the Washington Wizards, who last year had a record of 29-53 and missed the playoffs.
Team: Washington Wizards
Coach: Randy Whittman
General Manager: Ernie Grunfeld
2012-2013 Record: 29-53
Place in Conference: 12th
Leading Scorer: John Wall (18.5 PPG)
Key Additions: Otto Porter Jr., Josh Childress, Eric Maynor, Al Harrington
Key Losses: Leandro Barbosa, Jason Collins
To open last season, the Wizards lost 12 straight games. They won only five of their first 33 games. But then, John Wall returned from his knee injury, and they became a different club. With him, they played nearly .500 basketball in the final 49 games. The Wiz showed signs of turning the corner after Wall came back. They made moves in the offseason to put themselves into respectability.
Strengths: In 2012-13, Washington ranked in the top 10 in team three-point percentage. They added Glenn Rice Jr., a superb shooter, which will even better the team’s outside shot. They also cracked the top 10 for team rebounding. At the start of the year, they should struggle on the glass due to an injury to last year’s leading rebounder, Emeka Okafor. Okafor hauled in 8.8 RPG for the Wiz. Starting in his place will be Kevin Seraphin, a guy who only pulled in 4.4 RPG in last year’s campaign. I would classify youth as another bright spot surrounding Washington. They have seven players under the age of 23. The front office has done a nice job assembling young talent as of late. Bradley Beal should flourish in his second season, as well as rookie Otto Porter Jr. The two of them next to John Wall is a strong combination, and other Eastern Conference teams should keep an eye out for them.
Weaknesses: Make no mistake, although they are on the rise, the Wiz still have their fair share of problems to deal with. Last year, they struggled to score. They ranked 28th out of 30 teams. They averaged only 93.8 points. They were a solid defensive club, but did not have the firepower to outscore teams. The young Wizards must improve on scoring in order to challenge for a playoff spot. They were 15th in shots attempted, but a dismal 27th in percentage. This preseason, the second unit for the Wizards has looked below average. Wall and Beal are probably not physically able to log 48 minutes a night, so the bench unit will have to supply meaningful minutes. Al Harrington has been the only bright spot thus far. This should be a concern for coach Whittman as opening night gets closer.
2013-14 Predictions: This one is a no-brainer: John Wall will be the team’s MVP. After getting a huge deal over the summer, I expect him to live up to the money. Look for him to average near 20 points a night and hand out close to eight assists too. I expect Washington to improve on last season’s record by at least 11 wins. I would not be surprised if they finished in the mid-40s. As for playoff chances, I am going to trust John Wall, who is writing playoffs on his shoes every game this year. Come April, I think we will see playoff basketball back in our nation’s Capital for the first time in six years.