Wall and the Wizards hope to make big strides this year
The Washington Wizard's recent decision to amnesty Andray Blatche is the mark of the end of a transitional period for the team.
On Tuesday, they cut ties with the 25-year-old power forward. Blatche was the last remaining player that had ties to the playoff team that included Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.
As per Michael Lee from washingtonpost.com, the Wizards will pay Blatche the remaining $23 million he is owed through 2014-15, but his salary will be removed from their payroll.
In doing so, they avoided paying Lewis a $13.7 million buyout, according to Marc Stein from ESPN.com.
In the 2012 NBA Draft, they selected shooting guard Bradley Beal with the third overall pick.
Here's a look at the eight-man rotation we can expect in Washington and player grades.
(Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com)
John Wall (B+)
Bradley Beal (B-)
Jordan Crawford (C+)
The Wizards have the makings of nice backcourt that can grow together, Their grades may not reflect it yet, but all three players are very young and have potential. Wall is 21, Beal is 19 and Crawford is 23.
In two seasons, Wall has averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals a game. He is a fast, athletic and explosive talent. Any time he gets the ball in the open court, it is a scary sight for an opponent.
The biggest area where he can improve is his shooting, and he already has made some strides in terms of improving his shot selection. He only took .6 three-pointers a game (42) after taking 1.7 (115) his rookie year.
He essentially abandoned the three-point shot last year; however, his overall shooting percentage increased from .409 percent to .423. This shows that despite his poor three-point shooting Wall was more effective inside the arc in his second year.
Wall needs to improve his three-point shot so that he can knock it down when he is wide open to at least make defenders respect his shooting ability. The trend of him improving his percentages inside the arc is promising. Wall's shooting development could be similar to Boston's point guard Rajon Rondo, another point guard previously notorious for his poor outside shooting.
Otherwise, Wall will be playing with better talent around him. Beal will give him a young backcourt mate and improved defenders like Ariza and Okafor can spark the fast break offense with their defense.
Beal, just 19 years old, is a top talent in this year's draft class. At Florida he put up 14.8 points and 6.7 rebounds a game playing more small forward than shooting guard.
Many analysts considered him a top two or three talent in the draft. Jay Bilas of ESPN gave him enormous praise, likening him to Ray Allen.
I think he's a tremendous young prospect. His ability to guard people, his ability to rebound, and he can shoot it, put the ball on the floor, attack in transition and gets to the free-throw line, knocks his free throws down. There's very little he's not capable of doing. He just needs to get older, strong ... he's going to be really good.
His performance in the NCAA tournament when the ball was in his hands has to be a promising sign for the Wizards. He led Florida to the Elite 8 and was arguably the best guard in the tournament.
For a 19 year old, he has some size at 6'5' and just over 200 pounds. He needs to use his strength defensively and in creating space to get his own shot on the offensive end. Much of his success could arise from knocking down open shots that John Wall creates running the point.
Jordan Crawford started to emerge for the Wizards after they traded Nick Young to the Los Angeles Clippers. He scored 14.7 points a game in just his second NBA season and first full year with the Wizards.
While playing just 27.4 minutes a game, he could light it up at times with his shooting; however, his percentages were by no means spectacular. He shot 40 percent from the field, 29 percent from three and 79 percent from the stripe.
Crawford took almost 14 shots a game, so he gets opportunities. I can't see him taking many more shots next year with the arrival of Bradley Beal, but he should expect to see similar time and just needs to be more efficient.
If he can improve to 35 percent or so from three with the amount of shots Wall can generate for an offense, he could easily average 16 to 18 points a game in 28 to 30 minutes. That would be a nice contribution for a third guard on this team.
GUARD RATING: B-
How does age factor for Beal? How good of a shooter will he be?
Can Wall make the leap to be a top PG?
Trevor Ariza (B)
Emeka Okafor (B-)
Kevin Seraphin (B-)
What seed will the Wizards be in the East?
Trevor Booker (C+)
Trevor Ariza is a nice addition. He is just 27, but he provides dependability and versatility. The highlight of his career came in the 2009 Finals, where his perimeter defense and athleticism played a key role in the Lakers championship run.
Last year in New Orleans, Ariza averaged 10.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 steals. He has the potential to be a box score filler at a wing position, providing nice perimeter defense and the ability to convert on the break. Ariza has decent range, shooting 33 percent last year and 42 percent overall.
Pairing him with a young, athletic backcourt should only energize his play on both ends of the court.
Emeka Okafor is another strong veteran pickup by the Wizards. At 29, the only concern with him is his knee. He missed 39 games in 2012, and it's possible that it was because of the condensed season. It's reasonable to expect that Okafor will be fine; prior to this past year he played in 82, 81, 82, and 72 games respectively.
For the most part, he has been a durable player and solid rebounder and defender. Though his minutes went down to 28.9 per game this year, Okafor still averaged 9.9 points and 7.9 rebounds. In his career, Okafor has impressive splits of 12.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks a game.
With Booker and Seraphin also able to provide versatility at power forward, the Wizards would be happy if Okafor can stay healthy while defending and rebounding well.
Kevin Seraphin is an interesting talent for the Wizards. He made a nice improvement this past year from his rookie season, and he got more playing time.
Seraphin averaged 7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a game in just 20.6 minutes. At 6'9" and 275 pounds he also has nice size.
In the last month of the season, Seraphin played really well. In 21 games as a starter, he averaged 14.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a game.
At 6'8" and 240 pounds, Booker is more of an undersized forward. He averaged 8.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per outing while only playing 25 minutes a game.
Still only 24 and entering his third NBA season, Booker will be an energy player off the bench that should continue to improve.
Forward Rating: B-
There isn't much scoring at this position, but defensively this is a formidable group.
Seraphin and Booker are two talented young pieces.
Which player is most important to the Wiz' success?
Nene is a legitimate big man who, together with Wall, really forms a solid foundation for the Wizards. He can run the floor, rebound and score at a nice clip.
He is still only 29 and played nicely in 11 games with Washington last year. He averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 boards in just 25.8 minutes a game while also shooting 60 percent from the field.
With Seraphin and Okafor also capable of spelling Nene at the 5, the Wizards would love similar production in a full year from Nene.
Primary Center Rating: B
Nene is a legit big and he played well in his short time with the Wiz this past year.
The Wizards really have put together a solid team and rotation.
Moreover, they have youngsters Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack, who started to play better at the end of the year. Cartier Martin, just 27, also became a decent bench player, averaging 9.3 points off the bench.
If anything happens to one of the primary rotation guys, the Wizards should be able to swap one of these youngsters in.
Since Booker, Seraphin, Okafor and Nene will likely form the PF and C positions, Ariza will need a backup at times that can play the SF.
When they go small, the Wizards could go with Wall, Crawford and Beal on the court at the same time. So it's possible Beal could play some at the three.
They can also go big if they want and let Booker play at the three; however, it's likely that the Wizards will need to go nine or ten deep at times, meaning Vesely and/or Singleton will play there.
Just the different combinations and permutations and the fact that the Wizards can go up to 10 deep is a strong plus. The Wizards haven't had this combination of youth, athleticism and versatility in some time.
No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the East (possibility to sneak into playoffs)
Best case No. 7, Worst case No. 10.
I don't think it's out of the question for the Wizards if they really click to steal a No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the East.
Realistically, a No. 10 seed should be the worst scenario. In any situation, I think enough pieces are in play that they should do much better than the last two seasons.
They have made quality additions in Ariza and Okafor, brought in a talented youngster in Beal, and their bench guys have promise and talent.
It would be quite an accomplishment considering they had the first overall pick in 2011 and third overall pick this year.
The Wizards frontcourt can really rebound and is formidable defensively, but their success may lie in the hands of the young backcourt.