Washington Wizards – Season Preview
After a disastrous 2009-2010 season, the Wizards off-season went well by officially making Ted Leonsis team owner and winning the NBA Draft lottery, where they selected Kentucky point guard John Wall with the first overall selection. The 2010-2011 season is rapidly approaching and the Wizards don’t figure to be much more than a rebuilding team, but if the ball bounces the right way, Washington has enough talent to challenge for the playoffs.
Backcourt – The Wizards will either have really good guard play, or their backcourt will be an absolute mess. Call me an optimist, but I think the Wiz will have one of the best backcourts in the NBA. I don’t think Gilbert Arenas can afford to be a petulant crybaby now that he must make the move to shooting guard. If anything, Agent 9(Gil needs a new nickname) is a scorer at heart and a move to SHOOTING guard should fit him perfectly. In fact, Arenas’ best season was with Larry Hughes running the point, and perhaps Arenas is finally able to realize SG is a better fit for his skill set. The NBA Draft’s number one overall pick, John Wall, is a truly special talent, and if he doesn’t win the rookie of the year it will be a shocker. Wall is a clone of Derrick Rose, and in a couple years he will add the muscle mass Rose has added during his time in the league. Kirk Hinrich is a great option off the bench thanks to his above-average defense, great three point shooting ability and his overall experience as an NBA point guard. Nick Young is still adjusting to the NBA, and he needs to find ways to contribute when his shot isn’t falling. With his size for a shooting guard, he has the potential to be a great defender, but he hasn’t shown the discipline to work on that aspect of his game. Lester Hudson will try to make the team in the preseason, and while he has great scoring ability, it is hard to see where he fits in the backcourt.
Frontcourt – The Wizards have very talented players in the paint, but they are still hoping someone steps up and takes control of the small forward position. At center Washington features JaVale McGee, who I believe will contend for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. McGee has finally added muscle mass to his lanky frame, and his athleticism is of a freakish nature for someone standing 7’0” tall and weighing 252 pounds. McGee and John Wall made beautiful music together on alley-oops in summer league play, and that should continue this season. Meanwhile, Andray Blatche is coming off a broken right foot, but his scoring ability and physicality in the paint makes him a handful for opposing defenses. Blatche needs to impose himself more on the defensive end, but he figures to be the second leading scorer for the Wiz. Hilton Armstrong has had a very good camp according to head coach Flip Saunders, and the former UCONN star looks to be a key man off the bench. His defense has always been good, but it will be intriguing to see whether he has taken his game to the next level on offense. An intriguing offseason addition to the power forward/small forward spot is Yi Jianlian. Yi had a solid, if unspectacular, season with the dreadful New Jersey Nets last season, and he continued his good play at the FIBA Championships in Turkey this summer. Yi was the only player in the tournament to average 20 and 10 (20.2 ppg and 10.6 rpg), and if given enough minutes could be a double-double type player for the Wiz at either SF or PF. Although he is better suited at the four, Yi should get some playing time at the three this season, for no other reason than to create a match-up nightmare for opposing coaches. Rookies Trevor Booker, Hamady Ndiaye and Kevin Seraphin will all be role players this season. Booker should follow the example of the Spurs’ Dajuan Blair, another undersized big man who was drafted lower than his talent warranted. Booker is a better athlete than Blair, but needs to play with the same drive and fearlessness.
At small forward, three names will battle for playing time and roster spots. Al Thornton figures to be the starter right now, as the score first wingman looks good in camp despite being hit by a car on George Mason’s campus. Thornton will never be the go-to guy on offense, but he has more than enough ability to average double-digit points. The question facing Thornton is whether he has improved on defense, and Wiz fans probably won’t like the answer (No). Josh Howard remains with Washington, but an ACL injury means he likely won’t return until mid-season. That leaves Adam Morrison, the former Gonzaga star who has been a major flop in the NBA after going third overall to Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Bobcats. Morrison always lacked the athleticism to justify his lofty draft position, but his shooting ability has suddenly disappeared, and he must rediscover that touch if he hopes to make the Wiz roster. This could be his final chance to make an impact in the NBA, and it will be interesting to see if he makes the best of his opportunity.
Season Outlook – This season boils down to how Gilbert Arenas performs in his return to the Wizards. If Arenas and John Wall can play together, this team has some nice pieces and could be a surprise playoff team. However, Arenas seems to be pouting and frustrated with his new role, so I see a good year for Washington, but one that doesn’t get them into the playoffs. They will battle for the eighth spot until the last week of the season, but a lack of experience will cost them down the stretch.
Predicted Record – 39-43, 4th Southeast Division, 10th Eastern Conference
About the Author
Written by Robert Bode
A sports die-hard through and through. I grew up playing almost every sport possible, and to this day I try to stay as active as possible. However, since I'm not a professional athlete, talking and writing about sports is the next best thing. A University of Florida graduate but living in my hometown of Washington D.C. (well Northern Virginia), my favorite teams are the Florida Gators, Miami Dolphins, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, Real Madrid, good up-tempo NBA teams (so not the Knicks), and Washington Capitals.