The Washington Wizards are going into next year looking to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. They ended last year on a hot streak, getting Nene in a trade from the Nuggets and finishing off 2012 winning six straight and eight of 10.
They've continued their improvement into the offseason, trading the useless Rashard Lewis for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. To top it all off, they selected Bradley Beal with the third overall pick in the draft. Here's why Beal puts the Wizards over the edge and makes them a contender for a a playoff spot next year.
Upgrade at SG
The one position the Wizards hadn't addressed thus far was the shooting guard. Jordan Crawford was less than spectacular in that role last season, shooting just 40 percent from the floor and under 30 percent from behind the arc. He may still be the starter come opening night, but he won't last through the end of the year.
Beal is a tremendous shooter, drawing comparisons to Ray Allen but with a bigger body. He can rebound the ball well and gives Washington a perimeter game to balance well with Nene inside. The upgrade over Crawford will be huge, and a pure shooter will go a long way in helping the team contend for a playoff spot.
Beal shot 44.5 percent from the floor in his only season with the Florida Gators. He was inconsistent from three-point range, but turned it on when the pressure of the NCAA Tournament came. In his four games in the tournament, he shot 60.5 percent from the floor and 42.1 percent from behind the arc. He's a big-time shooter that thrives in the spotlight.
Will the Wizards make the playoffs in 2012-13?
The backcourt combo of John Wall and Bradley Beal may be the best young duo in the league. Wall's talented passing skills and drives to the basket are a perfect fit with Beal's spot-up shooting skills. Wall will have plenty of options when he decides to drive the lane next season.
This is something the Wizards desperately needed, ranking 23rd in the NBA in scoring last year. They didn't shoot well from the floor, either. Wall and Beal will be a tough matchup for opposing defenses with their complimentary skills.
In the last five games of the 2011-12 season, Wall showed glimpses of reaching an elite level. He averaged 14.2 points and 12.4 assists over that stretch, and shot nearly 46 percent from the field. Pair that up with Beal and the Wizards will be a dangeous team in the coming years.
With John Wall and Bradley Beal 21 and 19 years old, respectively, there is a lot of room for growth. The inexperience will also lead to mistakes though, and the prominently young team won just 20 games last season.
In the past few months, the Wizards have done a tremendous job adding veterans to their club. Nene and Okafor are both 29 and have a solid defensive presence. Ariza is 26, but has been in the league for eight years.
For two young guards just beginning to play together, the big men inside play a large role. Nene and Okafor are talented veterans that will help the young guys through their development process. Both are highly efficient inside shooters that can make life a lot easier for Wall and Beal.
Their mix of experience and youth is deadly, and if the young guys can take a step forward this season, Washington will be a very intriguing team.