For the first time since the "Big Three" era, which was led by the triumvirate of Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and the infamous Gilbert Arenas, the Washington Wizards are talented enough to not only compete for a winning record, but create some major headlines with their improved roster.
With the new acquisitions of swingman Trevor Ariza and center Emeka Okafor, both sent over from New Orleans for forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick, the Wizards have a solid team composed of established veterans and blossoming prospects.
The most promising addition for the Wizards, though, may be a player who has not even suited up as a professional yet. Bradley Beal, this year's third-overall draft pick out of the University of Florida, can score in a multitude of ways due to his NBA-ready skill set, and he has even drawn comparisons to guards Eric Gordon and Ray Allen.
The franchise's starting lineup is one of the most promising cores in the entire Association. Okafor, Beal and Ariza, along with franchise centerpiece John Wall and Nenê Hilário, comprise a group that will strike fear in the eyes of Eastern Conference foes.
Washington's bench isn't too shabby either. A second unit—comprised of Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, Jan Veselý, Chris Singleton, Cartier Martin, Jordan Crawford and Shelvin Mack—is young, but it also possesses the ability to put up a multitude of points in a flash.
Simply put, Washington's massive rebuilding phase has finally paid off, as Wizards coach Randy Wittman has a strong team that will shock the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Few organizations' second unit can match toe-to-toe with Washington's bench. By bolstering their starting lineup, the Wizards have incidentally moved a few of the team's former starters to the pine, strengthening their backup core.
Young big men Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker have turned a few heads in their respective brief careers. Neither have All-Star potential, but both are capable of developing into bright role players.
Jan Veselý and Chris Singleton possess extremely different skill sets at the small forward, which brings versatility to the roster. Former Florida State star Singleton is already a lockdown defender and will be assigned the task of guarding the opposing team's best wing scorer.
Veselý is filled with potential. With a lanky 6'11" frame and a guard-esque skill set, this Czechoslovakian forward may need time to develop before he is able to truly handle starter minutes. However, he showed flashes of brilliance last season and will be a valuable contributor off the pine next season.
Out of all the team's bench players, however, Jordan Crawford may be the brightest. The younger man out of Xavier was a starter for the Wizards after Nick Young was shipped to Los Angeles last season. He will be most likely relegated to the second unit due to the selection of Bradley Beal in this year's draft.
Crawford is a consistent three-point threat and efficient penetrator, as he averaged nearly 15 points per contest last season. Along with the ability to score in numerous ways, the 6'4" guard strives to become the next NBA legend, hoping his legacy surpasses that of Michael Jordan's:
"I don't tell nobody, but I feel like I can be better than Michael Jordan," Crawford said. "When I'm done playing, I don't want people to say, Michael Jordan is the best player. I want that to be me. That's how I am. That's how I was built."
It's never bad to dream big. Now it's time for this young man to back up his claim.
In the month of December, the Wizards spend seven of their 14 games on the road, but the competition is quite poor.
December will transpire as follows:
-Tuesday, December 4 vs. Miami Heat
-Friday, December 7 @ Atlanta Hawks
-Saturday, December 8 vs. Golden State Warriors
-Tuesday, December 11 @ New Orleans Hornets
-Wednesday, December 12 @ Houston Rockets
-Friday, December 14 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
-Saturday, December 15 @ Miami Heat
-Tuesday, December 18 vs. Atlanta Hawks
-Wednesday, December 19 @ Orlando Magic
-Friday, December 21 @ Detroit Pistons
-Saturday, December 22 vs. Detroit Pistons
-Wednesday, December 26 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
-Friday, December 28 vs. Orlando Magic
Saturday, December 29 @ Chicago Bulls
Beside the Miami Heat, who the franchise plays twice, and the Los Angeles Lakers, none of the teams the Wizards are scheduled to take on are locks to make the playoffs.
The Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls made the postseason last year, but all three of these teams have question marks regarding their star players. Derrick Rose of the Bulls tore his anterior crucial ligament in his left knee, the Magic have finally ended the "Dwightmare" situation and the Hawks just shipped Joe Johnson to the Nets.
The Pistons, Hornets, Rockets and Cavaliers all are in a rebuilding phase, and the talent level on those respective rosters doesn't match up with the rotation players of the Washington Wizards.
However, expect the Wizards to drop both games against the Heat and their home contests against the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers.
Nonetheless, the Wizards' success in December will surely strengthen their chances of acquiring a playoff birth.
After being the most-hyped prospect since LeBron James, John Wall never became the household name everyone expected the point guard to become.
However, his relative obscurity isn't due to the fact that he hasn't posted impressive numbers over the past two seasons, but due to the success of other young players from around the league.
In Wall's rookie season, the "Blake Show" was in full effect, as Blake Griffin soared his way to an All-Star appearance, a Slam Dunk title and the NBA community's heart.
Sappy, yet true.
Of course, Wall, who averaged nearly 16 points and eight assists per night in his rookie year, was left in the shadows next to Griffin basking in the spotlight. The Clippers forward would earn the Rookie of the Year award, while Wall would be named runner-up.
This past season, Wall's statistics would not improve significantly, mostly due to the poor surrounding cast around him, but again he never received the attention that a player of his caliber would normally see. Instead, "Linsanity" was the talk of the proverbial town, culminating in Jeremy Lin signing a massive contract with the Houston Rockets.
This year, however, Wall has the players around him to thrive. No longer will he lean on the likes of JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and Nick Young to score the ball after his pass or alleviate the pressure defenses press on him.
Twenty points and nine assists per contest should not be out the question, and with Derrick Rose out for a majority of the year, John Wall's being named an All-Star reserve is a likely possibility.
Unlike many lottery picks, Bradley Beal has been thrown into the perfect situation.
Not only will he immediately start for the Washington Wizards, but his scoring prowess will be heavily relied upon due to the lack of consistent scorers on the roster.
Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor—fellow starters—are solid players, but their main contributions come on the defensive side of the court. Nenê Hilário can score in bunches when called upon, utilizing his solid post-up game, but his production will also be geared towards put-backs and hitting the boards.
Along with John Wall and sixth man Jordan Crawford, Bradley Beal will be the team's primary offensive option. The best part about his new role is that the opposing team's best defender will most likely be assigned on Wall, allowing him to thrive at the shooting guard position.
Anthony Davis will probably earn top rookie honors with the New Orleans Hornets, but Beal's projected 15 points per night will put him the running.
Randy Wittman and Jordan Crawford
The NBA's Coach of the Year award recipient is supposed to be the best coach of the year.
Now, it seems the award goes to the coach whose team overachieves the most during the regular season.
The last three winners were Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks (2009-10), Chicago's Tom Thibodeau (2010-11) and San Antonio's Greg Popovich (2011-12).
The year Scott Brooks won was the same season the Thunder established themselves as a top-tier team, behind the triumvirate of James Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The franchise finished with a 55-27 record, increasing their win total by five from the previous year's breakout season.
Tom Thibodeau in his first year with the Chicago Bulls improved the team's record by 21 wins from the previous season, earning the title of best team in the league with a record of 62-20 in 2010-11.
Greg Popovich, on the other hand, didn't significantly improve his team's record, as the San Antonio Spurs have always been considered an elite squad due to their consistency. Instead, many experts counted the Spurs out because of their star players' respective ages, namely Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
The Spurs, though, finished with the number one record in the league at 50-16, earning their 13th consecutive 50-plus win season, an NBA record.
This year, Randy Wittman will have a perfect opportunity to join this elite company. His roster is much more talented and will almost certainly improve from their dismal record last season at 20-46.
Acquiring a playoff berth should be the Washington Wizards' primary goal. Period.
The team is definitely talented enough to accomplish this feat, and the organization presides in the weaker Eastern Conference.
However, the team will barely fall short despite their best efforts.
Their final record of 37-45 is a major improvement over the last few seasons, but the franchise still has work to do.
Their first goal should be to further develop their prospects and build chemistry between them. Obviously, the team's bright future is dependent on this critical stage where cohesion is formed between these young players.
Step two should be to add one more reliable scorer, preferably a post-presence. Crawford, Wall and Beal won't be able to single-handedly keep the Wizards competitive offensively with high-octane scoring teams. Additionally, the last few championship squads have had a solid post-up threat.
Nenê Hilário won't cut it when the Wizards actually do see postseason action.
Lastly, the team needs to sign a solid backup point guard. Shelvin Mack may turn into a decent reserve, but A.J. Price should not be the team's primary facilitator off the bench.
Nonetheless, this franchise is on the right track to make some major headlines down the road.