As the days approached the beginning of the 2012-2013 season back in October, hope was abound among Washington Wizards fans.
After Bradley Beal was drafted out of Florida, the thought of Beal and point guard John Wall on the court together was enough for some fans to call the Wizards playoff contenders.
Those expectations were tempered when news broke that Wall was going to be out for the first part of the season as he rehabbed his injured patella.
While most predictions ended up with the Wizards at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, there were plenty of player predictions that went both right and wrong.
With a 29-48 record, it seems Washington will be sitting at the bottom of the East once again, but several players ended up surprising fans and experts.
First, let's take a look at fellow B/R writer Eric Johnson's prediction for the Wizards at the beginning of the season. Johnson hit on a number of solid points in his "Optimistic Predictions," but several of them never panned out.
Johnson predicted that Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza would greatly improve Washington's defense.
That turned out to be exactly true, as Okafor is Washington's best defensive player and was one of the great surprises for the team this year.
Okafor leads the team in blocks and rebounds per game, averaging exactly one block and just over nine boards a contest.
Last season, JaVale McGee finished the year leading the team in rebounds with just over six per game and Washington ranked 20th in the league in scoring defense.
Defense has now become one of the Wizards' greatest strengths, and the team is now ranked seventh in the league in scoring defense.
Ariza has also contributed to this improvement, averaging over one steal and four defensive rebounds per game.
However, Johnson missed on his prediction of Beal to win NBA Rookie of the Year. There is no doubting that Beal had a great rookie campaign, but injuries held him back, as he is now out for the rest of the season.
Beal is third on the NBA's rookie ladder, but because he was in and out of the lineup with injury he couldn't surpass Anthony Davis or Damian Lillard to take the ROY award.
Looking at the broader predictions, Mark Hawkins at Yahoo! had Washington starting out strong, but slumping toward the middle of the season in his game-by-game prediction.
Although Hawkins knew of Wall's injury, he predicted Washington to go 10-23 through the first 33 games, the games that Wall ended up missing.
Instead, Washington went 5-28 in those games, including a 12-game losing streak to start out the year.
One telling example came in the second game of the season. Hawkins predicted the Wizards to defeat the Boston Celtics, but backup point guard A.J. Price shot 3-of-10 from the floor and only had four assists.
That ended up being the main problem for Washington,, as the backups were not able to pull though in Wall's absence.
Hawkins' final record of 30-52 could hold to be true, though, depending upon how Washington rounds out their final five games.
Price wasn't the only player to struggle with shooting this year, though. As Thomas Pruitt over at the Bullets Forever blog on SB Nation predicted, shooting was the biggest weakness for the Wizards this year.
No one on Washington's roster is shooting better than 49 percent from the floor, with the top shooter being Jan Vesely, who only attempts just over two shots per game.
The only person to even crack the Top 50 in shooting percentage in the league, according to NBA.com, is Emeka Okafor.
This is something the Wizards really need to address in the offseason if they would like to improve, considering they have the third-worst shooting percentage in the league.
While players were a popular subject of conversation when analysts and fans were predicting this season for the Wizards, some predictions said Washington would be searching for a coach this season.
Rob Mahoney at Sports Illustrated predicted that Washington would have a new coach in 2013, meaning that Randy Wittman would be out after only one full season.
While it remains to be seen if Wittman will finish the season with a better win percentage than Flip Saunders did in his last full year in Washington, the team won't be making a midseason change as they did last year when Saunders was let go.
Wittman's contract is good for at least another season, and it's likely he will be back in Washington in 2014. Wall has played much better under Wittman than he did under Saunders, and his numbers in points, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage are the highest in his career.
No one is ever going to predict a team's season 100 percent correctly, but next year's predictions for the Wizards should be much more optimistic than they were last offseason.
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