NBA Roundtable

2012 Team Preview: Washington Wizards

In Season Previews on October 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Washington Wizards

Starters

  • PG – John Wall
  • OG – Bradley Beal
  • SF – Trevor Ariza
  • PF – Nene
  • C  – Emeka Okafor

The Wizards lineup has one above average starter, three middle of the pack starters (with Wall having lots of room for improvement) and one unknown in Bradley Beal.

John Wall is the face of the franchise and the main key to how Washington does this season. His development has fairly stagnant since joining the NBA two years ago but there is no denying his immense talent. Wall has excellent size (6 foot 4 with a 6 foot 9 wingspan, 200lbs) combined with exceptional quickness and explosiveness. Wall’s physical talent and ball-handling skills allow him to get separation from his defender and create shot attempts both for himself and for others with relative ease.

John Wall also has good vision in finding passing avenues for his teammates (in terms of assists) but so far has struggled to really impose himself as a floor general in terms of setting the tempo and executing precisely. That is the next area for him to work on as a passer. Defensively, Wall is still figuring things out but anybody with his size and athleticism has the tools to be a high level defensive player in the NBA. It’ll just take some time, patience and effort. As a possession creator, Wall is a strong rebounder and is good at collecting steals.

As a scorer, Wall is a very good finisher around the basket (62% on nearly 6 attempts a game) and gets to the free throw line very well too (6.1 FTAs against 13.5 FGAs). However, that is where the effective scoring ends. Wall shot only 30% (or so) on two-point jump shots last season and has made only 23-24% of his three point attempts over his first two seasons in the league. This lack of shooting ability allows defenders to step off of him and dare him into lower percentage shot attempts which in turn also makes it harder for Wall to get into the paint and to the rim. Overall, in terms of scoring efficiency, Wall posts only a 50.2% TS% (after 49.4% his rookie year) and posts very high turnover numbers (3.9 per game) making him an inefficient and ineffective scorer at the NBA level so far. But clearly, with his ability to create separation from his defender, Wall has the talent to become a very good effective scoring option as gets that jump-shot up to a respectable level (a common enough problem for young guards).

This is a big year for John Wall after failing to show (substantial) improvement last season. Everybody (including me) will be looking to see whether Wall can take a major step forward and show everybody why he is such a highly touted prospect and that he is the man to lead Washington back to prominence. I’d love to see him make the leap to a top ten PG by season’s end.

Bradley Beal was the #3 pick in this year’s draft and their best young talent outside of John Wall. It’s hard to know what to expect of him this season so he is a major unknown for the most part. Given Beal’s size, position and lack of experience – I think it’s fair to expect him to struggle both as a defender and as a rebounder in his rookie year. His main value will be offensively where Beal can show off his explosive scoring/shooting skills, dribble penetration and passing ability.

Trevor Ariza is a good starting small forward. A very talented defensive player with excellent quickness and length. Capable of defending all three perimeter positions at an elite level. A good possession creator who rebounds and forces a large number of turnovers. An iffy jump-shooter offensively but a strong cutter and transition threat. A serviceable ball-handler and passer but not a creator.

Emeka Okafor has been quite inconsistent over the last three years with his play yo-yoing from horrible to very good. It’s very difficult to know what to expect from him … but Okafor is capable of being a good defender/rebounder and a decent offensive threat. Okafor has a little bit of short jump-shot and post game but he is mostly a garbage man.

Nene is a very good PF/C. He can play either as a power based four or as a highly skilled offensive center. A good defensive center and/or a very strong defensive PF. A below par rebounder.

Nene is expected to play the majority of his minutes at PF this season for Washington where he’ll be a very effective post-up threat against his fellow fours. He played there quite a bit for Denver last season too in order to free up minutes at center for Mozgov/Koufos/Andersen. The problem there was that none of those players where able to provide effective spacing for Nene which saw Nene’s FG% (scoring efficiency) plummet. I’d expect the same to happen to Nene this year with Okafor there.

It’s a shame because Nene is an ideal type of center to pair with John Wall’s game and Washington’s PnR centric offense. Hopefully, Washington will see the error of their ways and trade Okafor to move Nene back to the center position that should have been his all along.

Bench

  • PG – AJ Price, Shelvin Mack, Jannero Pargo
  • SG – Jordan Crawford, Cartier Martin
  • SF – Martell Webster, Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Tomas Satoransky
  • PF – Trevor Booker, Brian Cook
  • C  – Kevin Seraphin

A very weak bench.

Kevin Seraphin looks a solid player in the making but I don’t see him becoming any more than a good reserve center. Limited physical talent combined with limited skill-level offensively are not good signs for major improvements in the future. But continued gradual development should be on the cards.

Jordan Crawford is ideally either a third string combo guard or primary backup PG but I am less of a fan of him as an out and out two guard. He is too limited as a defender/rebounder and too inefficient offensively. All too often a net negative (as a two guard).

The small forward corps have three-four options.

  • I know nothing about Satoransky.
  • Chris Singelton is a defender/rebounder with an extremely limited offensive repertoire. He struggled mightily as a rookie but looked a solid prospect coming out of college. I don’t think he’ll play much a role this season for Washington because his lack of jump-shooting and overall offensive value is a bad fit alongside John Wall + they’ll already be giving considerable minutes to Trevor Ariza who is a far superior version of Singleton which will make it doubly difficult to get minutes.
  • Jan Vesely was the Wizards lottery pick two years ago. A big three at 6 foot 11 and 240lbs. Vesely is capable of playing both forward positions but still needs to improve his defense/physicality to play longer minutes at power forward. His jump shot is still too streaky and his defense on the perimeter is often slow-footed. His main value offensively is his ability to create in the low post against small forwards which makes him a good fit in a power based offense as a power three.
  • Martell Webster is the guy I’d expect to claim most of the minutes as their backup wing due to his shooting ability. He is the only player above 6-4 on their team with a consistent jump-shot. Webster, however, was more of a big two guard than a true small forward prior to his injury due to his struggles with bigger more powerful wings and lack of rebounding at the SF position. So his overall game at SF leaves a lot to be desired despite his strong jump-shooting.

Trevor Booker is a serviceable scrappy backup power forward. A limited jump-shot. More of a garbage man offensively. A so-so defender and decent rebounder.

Shelvin Mack, AJ Price or Jannero Pargo. I have no idea how that PG battle will play out but whoever wins the minutes will end up being one of the weaker backup PGs in the NBA.

Brian Cook could be a useful third string big man for the Wizards. They lack a big with legitimate shooting range so Cook could give them some good minutes now and then.

Washington’s bench is a major drawback for them and will cost them wins.

Offensive System

So this brings us to a question – with a young PG like John Wall, what would be the ideal type of team / offensive system to build around their budding young guard?

For a guard who’s game (offensively) revolves around explosive speed, dribble penetration (leading to scoring/assists) and who lacks an effective jump shot (creating spacing issues), I would say Washington should be trying to build an uptempo team with a spaced out offense. Providing Wall with plenty of shooters to capitalize on his dribble penetration and playmaking + freeing up the paint to make it easier for Wall to get to the basket for high percentage hoops.

So what have Washington done?

Well, they’ve done two different things:

(1) This year’s draft pick – excellent job

  • Bradley Beal = a sweet shooting two guard with a strong dribble penetration game and a capable passer. Ideal backcourt mate for John Wall and player for an uptempo spaced out offense.

(2) Their frontcourt – complete opposite of what they should be trying to do

  • C – Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin = both have limited offensive games
  • PF – Nene and Trevor Booker = Nene is a very skilled offensive center but for a power forward he lacks true range on his jump-shot and is more of a power-orientated player in the post. Booker has an iffy jumper too.
  • SF – Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely, Martell Webster and Chris Singleton = Ariza has a weak jumper. Singleton has no jumper. Vesely continues Washington’s power based game with an effective post game at 6-11 against SFs. Martell Webster is a strong shooter.

Martell Webster is the only frontcourt player in the squad with a true jump-shot in his arsenal. And Webster has declined considerably since his back injury and now merely an middle of the pack backup SF in terms of overall talent.

It’s like Washington is going out of it’s way to hurt John Wall’s game.

Note: Again, it’s a shame they didn’t just leave Nene at center because he is an ideal candidate at center to pair with John Wall.

Ernie Grunfeld

Grunfeld has built three teams in Washington

  1. Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Eddie Jordan = an all offense no defense team
  2. Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Nick Young = a team full of questionable immature characters. Any one of which (well maybe not Blatche) could be a fine project to work with but putting that many dodgy characters together led to an impossible situation for Wizards.
  3. John Wall’s and Bradley Beal’s ideal uptempo spaced out offensive system vs the power based system of it’s frontcourt (Nene, Okafor, Vesely). Two contradictory (unbalanced) groupings within the team.

His teams have shown a clear lack of cohesiveness and overall balance (offense, defense, rebounding) throughout his tenure and this mismatched squad is another example of that.

Old (Big) Men

Not only is their frontcourt a mismatched pairing with it’s backcourt but they are also old and unable to be a long term fit for the Wizards. Both Nene and Okafor are 30 years old and owed $52 million / four years and $28 million / two years.

Not only are they highly paid + short term answers but they will improve Washington just enough to take them out of the running for high lottery picks but not enough to make them a threat to advance in the playoffs. Those lost future lottery picks could be the difference between Washington building a title contender around John Wall and not. A massive risk.

The most worrying part is this appears to be the mandate given to their front office by new(ish) owner Ted Leonsis. Perhaps a foreboding sign of things to come under his leadership to the Washington Wizards.

Overall

A borderline playoff team. They’ll either finish with a low playoff seed in the East or a low (11-14th) lottery pick. The progress their two young star guards (Wall, Beal) make will play a major role in deciding whether they earn that playoff spot or not.

If Washington does make the playoffs, it’ll be on the back of their defensive talent and not due to their offense which figures to struggle considerably due to their ineffective spacing offensively which will drag everyone on the team’s efficiency down.

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  1. Reblogged this on famondafarm and commented:
    The Wizards will win more than they lose this season.

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