10 Bold Predictions for Washington Wizards' Comeback Season
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 future in Washington looks bright. This year will inspire hope in a city that has never experienced true success in regards to basketball since the franchise was called the Bullets.
While those three acquisitions will surely help bring change to a weak basketball culture present in Washington, John Wall will certainly be the leader of this resurgence. The former Kentucky star is one of the most promising point guard prospects in the entire league.
Obviously, coach Randy Wittman and the Washington brass made an effort to surround Wall with quality talent. Gone are the days where the young guard would have to rely on the likes of JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Andray Blatche to finish off his passes and generate quality shots.
The city of Washington D.C. should be excited for what is in store for this season. Wall and company will shock the NBA community due to their competitiveness and talent level.
Here are 10 bold predictions for Washington's comeback season.
Kevin Seraphin Will Quickly Swipe Up the Starting Job from Emeka Okafor
Kevin Seraphin showed flashes of brilliance last season for the Washington Wizards. In his second campaign in the Association, the 6'9" big man averaged nearly eight points and five rebounds in a starting role. While those statistics don't jump off the page, his production was a major improvement from his rookie year, where he only scored five points and grabbed three points per contest.
However, Seraphin has just recently been relegated back to the bench due to the acquisition of Emeka Okafor. Don't expect Seraphin to stay on the pine for long, though.
Okafor is a solid big man, but the former UCONN star is more of a center. That is where he has played most of his career, and it wouldn't be wise to switch up his position this late in his career: a perfect "you can't teach a dog new tricks" scenario.
Nonetheless, Okafor resides mostly on the blocks and in the middle of the paint, which is exactly where fellow starter Nenê Hilário likes to receive the ball. This, of course, is going to create a logjam.
Switching Seraphin in for Okafor would eliminate this problem, as his athleticism and face-up game allows him to play a mid-range game.
Jordan Crawford Will Be a Contender in the Sixth Man Race
A year ago, Jordan Crawford made the laughable comment that he strives to not only be a legend, but to surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest player ever:
"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."
While this is a totally blasphemous statement for a player who has yet to accomplish much, it does show Crawford has lofty goals and a great motor. In a league where many players are driven by the money, it is refreshing to see a player with such high expectations for himself on the court.
Now it is time for Crawford to prove that he deserves to be in this conversation. While he will most likely fail, his production will show that his comments were not so outrageous.
Crawford's stats will jump from 15 points to 18 points per night, labeling him as a contender in the Sixth Man of the Year race.
Washington Wizards Will Win Both Early Games Against the Boston Celtics
Washington's second and third games will be against the veteran Boston Celtics. On Saturday, November 3, the Wizards will face this aging core at home, while their game on November 7 is on the road.
The Celtics are, by far, the superior squad. Their experience, coupled with their new additions, makes them a safe pick to acquire a playoff berth. However, these qualities will also be the reasons the Wizards will steal two games from the reigning Eastern Conference finalists.
There is no doubting that the current Celtics era is coming to an abrupt close. Ray Allen has already walked to Miami, and Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are already contemplating retirement. Last season, these seasoned elder statesman came out of the gate quite poorly, as the team failed to be over .500 at the All-Star break.
Additionally, it may take a few weeks for these new rotation players, like Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, to get acclimated to the Boston system.
Washington, on the other hand, is a young, spry squad who will use their athleticism and size to outperform these older opponents.
Nenê Hilário Will Thrive Among the Youth
In December, Nenê Hilário was presented with a massive five-year, $67 million extension by the Denver Nuggets after having a career-year with the franchise. While Denver most likely knew the brass was overpaying for the big man's services, talented centers with an polished offensive game are a rarity in the modern NBA.
However, Denver soon realized that Hilário's production wasn't needed due to their wish to enter a rebuilding phrase. In turn, the team shipped Nenê to the Wizards, in exchange for essentially a younger center in JaVale McGee.
While McGee thrived with his new franchise, Hilário's first season played out a bit differently. The 6'11" big man was a fringe-starter, but still averaged only 14 points and seven boards per game with the Wizards.
Now, Nenê Hilário is the undisputed starter and will excel next to the maturing youth around him. Crawford, Beal and Wall are all talented outside scorers, but Nenê Hilário is the only consistent post presence. Wall will surely be often dumping the ball down low to his center.
Bradley Beal Will Have a Remarkable Rookie Campaign
In the simplest terms, Bradley Beal can play.
In 2011-12, the former Florida star averaged 14.8 points, 6.7 boards and 2.2 assists in 35 minutes per contest for the Gators. That is solid production for the 6'4" guard, who was just drafted third overall by the Washington Wizards.
Expect similar production from Beal this season.
Sure, the rebound average will almost certainly decline, as he won't be called to the boards quite as often, but his scoring average may rise due to the lack of scorers on the roster.
Sixth man Jordan Crawford and John Wall can both create their own offense, but neither have the offensive potential Beal holds. Not only can the 19-year-old shoot the ball with incredible efficiency—he has even drawn comparisons to the legendary Ray Allen—but he can also penetrate effectively and is a solid finisher at the rim.
I project Beal to make a strong case for Rookie of the Year, but New Orleans Hornets power forward Anthony Davis will unanimously win the honor.
Nonetheless, Beal's rookie production will spark excitement in the Washington's franchise.
Jan Veselý Finally Lives Up to His Potential
Jan Veselý's rookie season was rather disappointing. Sure, nobody expected the forward to compete for the Rookie of the Year award, but five points and five rebounds per contest isn't exactly what people were expecting either.
The 2011 sixth-overall pick will burst onto the court next season as he finally taps into his vast potential. With a lanky 6'11" frame and remarkable athleticism, Veselý will be a nightmare for opposing teams to match up against. He may become a regular on highlight reels.
Despite the logjam at the small forward position—as former Florida State star Chris Singleton and starter Trevor Ariza will battle for minutes against Veselý—the Czechoslovakian will find a consistent role in the rotation, significantly improving his output from last year's campaign.
John Wall Will Be Named an All-Star
John Wall did not have the sophomore season he probably was looking for.
The former Kentucky star didn't improve his statistics much from his first year, and his team's win percentage only increased slightly.
Additionally, Wall has become somewhat of an afterthought since his glory days at the collegiate level. Other young stars, such as Jeremy Lin, Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin, have stolen the spotlight, leaving Wall rotting away in Washington.
That's a shame, as Wall is one of the brightest young point guards in the Association. Sure, he didn't have a great season last year, but he still averaged 16 points and eight assists per contest.
The most remarkable part about those stats is the rather weak supporting cast around him. I wouldn't call Nick Young, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche the most talented or smartest trio in the Association, which made Wall's job much more difficult to excel at.
Now, Wall has the likes of Hilário, Ariza and Okafor to dish the rock off to in transition. The higher talent level around him alone will help increase his numbers. Twenty points and 10 assists per game should not be out of the question, and with Rose down with a torn ACL, Wall's All-Star chances are solid.
The Wizards Will Be an Elite Defensive Squad
Last season, the Wizards ranked 20th in points allowed, giving up nearly 99 point per contest. If the team only scored 93 points per game, their record obviously could not have been that impressive (which it wasn't, at 20-46).
Nevertheless, the Wizards will drastically climb up the rankings and become a top-five defense. Due to their recent acquisitions and the improvement of their prospects, Washington will be a tough, gritty squad under coach Randy Wittman.
Former New Orleans Hornets players Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza specialize on this side of the court and will be relied on to guard the opposing squad's best perimeter player and big man, respectively.
Additionally, Hilário, along with bruiser Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker, will add size to a core that has been desperately needing it. And if there is one common theme in the NBA, it is the fact that size is often tied to success.
Sophomore Chris Singleton will also be a major factor on defense, as he made a name for himself due to his stifling defense while playing for Florida State.
Randy Wittman Wins Coach of the Year
The NBA's Coach of the Year award recipient is supposed to be the best coach of the year, but that philosophy is now outdated.
Now, it seems the award goes to the coach whose team overachieves the most during the regular season.
All three of these coaches' respective teams were counted out in the beginning of the season only to be labeled as an elite squad by the end of the season.
It's now time for Randy Wittman to join this impressive group of coaches, as the winner of the 2012-13 Coach of the Year award.
With a revamped roster, this coach's team will win many more games than last year, but how much?
Well, you are going to have to go to the next slide to see the answer to that burning question.
The Wizards Barely Miss the Playoffs, but Improve Record
The Washington Wizards' final record will be 37-45, which is a huge improvement over the last two seasons. This, in turn, will put Washington barely out of the postseason, as the Philadelphia 76ers sneak into the eighth seed.
Nevertheless, the Wizards still have some work to do regarding their roster.
Their first goal is to further develop the prospects and create more chemistry between them. The team's bright future is dependent on this critical stage where cohesion is formed.
Step two should be to add another post presence. A power forward with a solid mid-range jumper would be preferable, as that would open up the lane for the penetrating guards and Hilário to maneuver.
The last goal is an absolute necessity, as the team still lacks a quality backup point guard. The young Shelvin Mack is still too raw to have a clear role in the rotation, and playing A.J. Price is a terrible way to fill this need.
In the end, Washington is on the right path to have major success in the immediate and distant future, but these holes in the roster need to be addressed.