Why This Season's Washington Wizards Are Just Different, Not Better
Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
Despite the expensive additions and top draft selections, the Washington Wizards have failed to show even the slightest improvement in their first few games of the season, making fans wonder if this year is going to be an encore of last season's campaign.
The Wizards have dropped all eight of their games to start this 2012-13 season, which marks the second consecutive year this team has managed to not win a game in their first eight exhibition matches. In fact, this franchise is one of only two teams (Memphis Grizzlies in 2001-02) to pull off this horrendous of a start, and they have done it twice in a row.
Washington will obviously point the finger to the absences due to injury of John Wall (stress injury in knee) and Nenê Hilário (torn ligament in foot), but it is painfully clear that this roster has a few more holes than just at the starting point guard and center positions. Neither of these players are expected back in the next few weeks, so the team must correct the persistent problems.
Rookie Bradley Beal, the third overall pick of this year's draft, has vastly underperformed after a fantastic preseason, only averaging around 10 points on 33-percent shooting from the field. Former New Orleans Hornets stars Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, both acquired in a trade during the offseason, have failed to live up to their billings as legitimate starters.
These two defensive stoppers have contributed well on the defensive side of the floor, but both are playing poor on offense. Neither have found a groove scoring the ball, which helps explain why the Wizards are last in the league in scoring, only putting up 86.6 points per contest.
Okafor is only adding eight points and seven boards per contest. Considering his career averages are 12.6 PPG and 10.0 RPG and the Wizards are paying him $13.5 million this year, Washington needs to start praying this former UConn star starts bringing a bit more to the table.
Ariza, on the other hand, isn't faring much better. In his first stint with the Wizards, the high energy defender, who is also a solid scorer at the small-forward position, hasn't truly made a mark on his new squad, yet. He is only scoring eight points per night on 36-percent shooting from the field.
In review, all three of their major new pieces haven't performed to the level the Wizards were probably hoping for, which does explain much of their woes.
You can't just blame their early woes on this trio and the sudden series of injuries, though, as the coaching staff is still making the same mistakes that plagued them last year.
First and foremost, coach Randy Wittman needs to start making some changes to the team's starting five. In their first eight games, the bench has produced more points in four of those contests.
While a productive bench unit is always a plus, it should not come with the cost of sacrificing the talent on the starting unit. Wittman finally made a step in the right direction when he gave the nod to the more experienced Jordan Crawford over Beal, who has absolutely struggled.
Additionally, the inconsistent playing time Wittman is handing out to his prospects is beyond aggravating. It is hard for young players to develop in the NBA if they don't even know their own role on the team. A perfect example is Jan Veselý, the sixth overall selection of the 2011 NBA draft, who is averaging only 14 minutes per contest, but for some reason was placed in the starting lineup on Saturday against the Utah Jazz.
Will the Wizards make the playoffs?
Other players who seem to fall in and out of favor with Wittman are Chris Singleton, arguably the team's best isolation defender, Kevin Séraphin, the team's best power forward, and Trevor Booker, a bruising big man with potential.
For some odd reason, the coach feels compelled to refrain from giving the aforementioned group of players a set role, which was a problem last year.
In the end, the Wizards are failing to do the one thing that is a positive when you lose in the Association: learn from your mistakes. While the injuries are a problem, this team is far from the worst team in the league, which is exactly where they should be in the power rankings with a record of 0-8.
The Wizards play the Indiana Pacers on Monday, November 19 at home. Hopefully, this will be the game that the Wizards finally start righting the ship.
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