Who will help the Wizards coast to a strong 2013-14 season?
With a 29-53 record this past season and a plethora of injuries, one would not expect the 2013-14 Washington Wizards to be contending for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Washington's core of returners, nonetheless, are gaining familiarity, and the bench is slowly developing quality depth.
It did not hurt that the Wizards' 2013 draft received tremendous praise from around the league, including an A-grade from Adi Joseph of USA Today.
Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Jonathan Munshaw concurred with that grade, as he was impressed with both of Washington's selections.
The Wizards are certainly a trendy team as the new NBA season approaches, and though they still have some major issues, they may have enough depth to overcome inevitable adversity.
The following slideshow will outline both these issues and Washington's strengths, as each current Wizard is ranked heading into the upcoming year.
All contract details courtesy of www.spotrac.com
Vesely often plays with his eyes closed.
2013-14 Cap Hit: $3,340,920
One of the primary reasons the Wizards have been unable to sustain any recent success was the selection of Jan Vesely in 2011.
With the No. 6 overall pick, the Wizards took Vesely, who spontaneously kissed his girlfriend after the pick in front of a myriad of cameras.
One would hope after finishing the season averaging just a shade above two points and two rebounds per game, Vesely would be working on other things.
Better yet, his 30 percent mark from the free-throw line was not only laughable, but also raises serious doubts about the worthiness of anyone naming a shooting machine after Vesely.
Vesely will still be given every opportunity to prove he was not the worst pick of GM Ernie Grunfeld’s career.
NBA/Wizards reporter Michael Lee of The Washington Post wrote that Vesely hopes to develop some confidence in summer league games, but the Czech Republic native has yet to make many fans believe in him and his 6'11" frame.
The ceiling remains high for Vesely, and he is more than capable of soaring out of this lowly spot and into the 10-man rotation.
Such is the nature of power rankings, where when great expectations, high salary figures and disappointing results meet, a very low ranking is achieved.
2013-14 Cap Hit: $916,099 (final year, UFA)
Temple got a lot of playing time a year ago filling in for the injured Bradley Beal and John Wall. He had some impact scoring the ball, but overall the Wizards could have done much better in terms of replacing those two stars.
Temple has good size for a guard, at 6'6'', and finished with a decent assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.3/1.2.
The former LSU player, nevertheless, lacks the talent at this point to be anything more than an injury replacement.
Barbosa never panned out for Washington, and it remains a mystery whether or not he will be re-signed by Washington or any other team.
Simply put, the less Temple plays, the better off the Washington Wizards will be in 2013-14.
Singleton's "lockdown D" is not quite what the Wizards thought it would be.
2013-14 Cap Hit: $1,618,680
Yet to blossom and still expected to be in Washington for at least two more seasons, the Florida State alum has struggled since being picked at No. 18 in 2011.
Though he has performed slightly better than fellow draft member Jan Vesely, Singleton holds a firm spot in head coach Randy Wittman’s doghouse.
At 6’8’’, Singleton plays both forward positions at an average level—the most likely reason he has yet to pan out.
By setting career lows for every statistical category outside of field-goal percentage during the 2012-13 campaign, Singleton regressed in his second pro year.
Singleton ultimately fell out of the rotation completely in favor of Vesely, as it appears going forward only one of the two players will have an opportunity to succeed.
As more depth accumulates behind Singleton and Vesely, the fewer minutes each will see.
It is my belief that Singleton’s defense and toughness will give him the edge over Vesely’s length, but one member of the 2011 draft class will need to step up to salvage the obvious bust label each of them faces in the near future.
Singleton better act quickly. He will need to prove his worth before the Wizards bury him on the depth chart.
He could learn a thing or two from similarly sized teammate Trevor Ariza. While Ariza is the lankier of the two players, both have the ability to guard multiple players on the floor.
Or at least that is what NBA scouting websites thought of Singleton, as he even drew comparisons to Gerald Wallace, Josh Smith and Rudy Gay.
Looks like Singleton has a lot to live up to, and a lot of work still to do.
Rice (left) won a finals MVP award in the D-League a year ago.
2013-14 Cap Hit: Signed rookie-scale contract recently
Going into the draft, Glen Rice Jr. was one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire class.
After being dismissed from Georgia Tech for an incident involving a passenger in Rice's car firing a gun, Rice Jr. spent a year with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-league.
Rice Jr. had a solid scoring season with the Vipers, but come playoff time, he was lights-out. Rice Jr. led his team to the championship and won the Finals MVP award, as he needed to step up once teammate Andrew Goudelock was forced into action for the then-injury-riddled Lakers.
Injuries always open the door for someone to step up, and while Goudelock impressed as a Los Angeles Laker, the depleted Laker backcourt may have done more for Rice Jr. than Goudelock.
With a year to erase doubts of his immaturity, Rice is saying all the right things according to The Washington Post's Michael Lee.
Rice Jr. could be the athletic, offensive-minded scorer the Wizards need coming off the bench going forward.
While he will likely start deep in the rotation and see few minutes, Rice Jr. is no stranger to hard work. In an April 24 interview with Eric Woodyard of the Michigan-based mlive.com, Rice Jr. pointed out that his year as a Viper began “not even being activated and not playing too much.”
Clearly, Rice Jr. overcame this early adversity to become the most critical player on his team.
If he exerts a similar work ethic going forward, he could emerge as a quality sixth man for a team in need of bench scoring.
Eric Maynor is a solid option as a backup point guard
2013-14 Cap Hit: $2,016,000
The Wizards made their first splash in free agency by signing Eric Maynor from the Portland Trail Blazers.
The former VCU point guard starred for Shaka Smart and the Rams, finishing his career as VCU’s all-time leader in points, assists, and free throws made. Though he was unable to make as much noise in the tournament as other Shaka Smart teams, Maynor has had a decent NBA career thus far.
He will take over the role in Washington once occupied by A.J. Price as the backup to John Wall and primary distributor of the second-team offense.
Maynor excelled in this role in Portland, averaging 6.9 ppg, 4.0 assists, and only 1.8 turnovers in 27 games with the Trail Blazers.
Maynor is excited to play behind John Wall and the young nucleus of talent in Washington, and had this to say to via Michael Lee of The Washington Post
I think this is the kind of team that's going to be on the rise. I just wanted to get it out the way. I didn't want to be waiting. I felt like this was a great situation for me. Young team. Up-and-coming. Nice deal for me. I'm excited about being here
Maynor’s enthusiasm off the bench should be helpful for a team that struggled when Wall was injured a year ago.
Injuries have been an unfortunate part of Wall’s career, and while the star point guard should be motivated to play an 82-game season in 2013-14, there should certainly be time for Maynor to shine in Washington.
2013-14 Cap Hit: $2,350,852 (final year, RFA)
Booker remains the same gritty rebounder he was when he starred in the ACC at Clemson. His 6’8’’ height, nonetheless, has limited his NBA potential.
With purely a center’s skill set but lacking center height, Booker falls into the realm of bulky 4s who cannot stretch the floor.
It is always unfortunate when solid players like Booker simply do not fit in with the current NBA world.
Developing a jump shot would go a long way for Booker, as his offensive game has never really met up with NBA standards.
Now in the final year of his contract since the Wizards selected him with the No. 23 overall pick in 2010, Booker is making almost double the amount of money he has made in any other season.
He would have to contribute a lot or show significant improvement in order for the Wizards to pick up his option at the end of the season, as he has been a relative disappointment thus far in the same mold as his fellow ACC alum, Chris Singleton.
Wizards fans all likely expected more from Booker, as though he can rebound well, with 5.3 per game in less than 20 minutes of action, he remains a work in progress in other areas.
The Newberry, South Carolina native may be counting his days in Washington and, sadly, in the NBA as well.
2013-14 Contract: $2,761,113 (final year, RFA)
A raw prospect from France in 2010 who was selected with the No. 18 pick, Seraphin delivered well for the Wizards in terms of scoring last year, as he posted a career-high 9.1 PPG.
In every other category, however, he was a below-average center.
Thomas Pruitt of SB Nation calculated that Seraphin finished the year adding -4.9 wins to the Wizards' season total.
For a team that only won 29 games, that is a serious negative contribution.
Pruitt’s article mentions Ian Levy, the founder of Hickory-High.com, awarding Seraphin the Andrea Bargnani award that appears as the very last award on the page.
The award, which funnily enough used to be named after former Wizard Darius Songalia, is given to the player “who has provided his team with the least overall production” as Levy writes.
So, despite this career high in points, Seraphin has a significant amount of work to do before he can become a starter in the NBA.
With Emeka Okafor’s contract potentially coming up at the end of the 2013-2014 season, the Wizards may need Seraphin to emerge as a starting-caliber player sooner rather than later.
He certainly has the bulk at over 270 pounds, and his 6'9'' frame is not by any means too short. It is the number of turnovers that Seraphin commits that causes him to struggle.
If he can cut down on the turnovers, Seraphin could be a serviceable NBA big man.
Ariza (left) remains a great hustle player even into his 30s.
2013-14 Contract: $7,727,280 (final year, UFA)
In his first season as a Wizard, the Trevor Ariza who once averaged 14.1 points per game with the Rockets averaged his lowest PPG since the 2008-09 season.
He was a Los Angeles Laker in 2008-09 and averaged a then-respectable 8.9 points per game in only 24 minutes of action a night as primarily a guy who got out of Kobe Bryant's way.
Getting two more minutes of playing time coming off the Wizards' bench in 2012-13, Ariza may not have lived up to his hefty salary, but he was efficient.
The forward set career marks for free-throw percentage and three-point percentage in this most recent season.
His free-throw percentage of 82.1 was the second best on the team behind fellow 3 Martell Webster.
The 28-year-old remains a defensive presence on the team and a critical depth player going forward. With Ariza begins the segment of the power rankings devoted to players who are capable of starting for NBA teams and are not merely bench players benefiting from the luxury of too many minutes on the floor.
Ariza should also be an ideal mentor for Otto Porter. Still clinging to his reputation as a tremendous defender, Ariza could teach the equally defensively capable Porter a thing or two about how to match up with elite talent at the NBA level.
Ariza remains a key cog for the Wizards, particularly on defense. He should see close to the 26 minutes a game he saw a year ago and remain an important part of Washington's team.
2013-14 Cap Hit: $13,000,000
Nene turned in a strong 2012-13, setting a career mark for assists with 2.9 a game.
Though he contemplated retirement after a serious foot injury, it appears Nene will return this season after contributing 12.6 points per game in 61 contests, an average good enough for third on the team behind Bradley Beal and John Wall.
Nene played in more games than both Wall and Beal, however, and was a reliable source of points despite his injury issues.
Mike Prada of SB Nation points out a few major topics from GM Ernie Grunfeld's end-of-the-season address, especially whether or not Grunfeld and the staff are considering monitoring Nene's minutes.
It appears the 11-year veteran may be getting some of the Tim Duncan treatment from his coaches in his older years.
This should serve Nene well, as he has long been a productive scorer but has had trouble playing a full 82-game season. He has not achieved the feat since 2009-10.
His career-high assist mark was no accident either, as Nene was arguably the most effective passer not named John Wall on the Wizards.
With Otto Porter ideally logging minutes at the 4 despite his lack of bulk, Nene's role as the first guy off the bench could lead to a fresher, more effective version of the 6'11" Brazilian from the beginning of 2013 until the end.
2013-14 Cap Hit: $14,487,500 (final year, UFA)
The former No. 2 overall pick, as he is often referred to, turned in a solid season a year ago for the Wizards.
While no one can argue the Orlando Magic made the right pick in taking Dwight Howard over Okafor way back in 2004, every team the University of Connecticut product has played for has experienced far less drama, turnovers and attitude than those who have dealt with the man selected No. 1 overall in 2004.
Okafor was the most durable Wizard, with a team-high 77 starts, and leading in blocks and rebounds.
While he posted a career-low scoring number, he remains the defensive presence a young Wizards team will need if they want to succeed in the near future.
In likely his last year as a Wizard, Okafor will be the key piece in determining how far Washington is able to go. With no other true center on the roster, it will be up to Okafor to control the paint and protect the rim.
2013-14 Contract: $4,278,000
At just over 6’8’’ and with a 7’1’’ wingspan, Porter is a defensive monster who can disrupt passing lanes and quickly turn defense into offense.
Due to his skills on both ends of the floor, it is hard to see head coach Randy Wittman keeping his high draft pick on the bench in favor of Trevor Ariza.
We’ve talked about what we wanted to establish here last year from a defensive standpoint; he fits that category. He’s a guy that’s versatile. I think he’s going to be able to guard multiple positions. He gives us really good size. He’s just a guy you can put in there and he’s going to make different players better. That’s a huge asset for us.
Porter's length allows him to defend bigger 2-guards who may be a mismatch for his new teammate, Bradley Beal. Taking on Kawhi Leonard-types who can post up on the low blocks also should not be a problem for Porter, particularly if he adds some bulk to his 197-pound frame.
Considered by some one of the more polished prospects in the 2013 NBA draft, Porter should be given every opportunity to make a run at the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
At the most, the playmaking Porter could average close to the 1.8 steals per game he averaged his sophomore year at Georgetown, along with the 0.9 blocks he managed that same season. That block number would put him right behind Okafor for the team lead.
If he cannot defend at the same level he did in college, which would likely be due to his skinny build, he could be a solid threat from the three-point line.
Porter made massive strides in improving his three-point shooting, such that it is becoming a go-to part of an already highly efficient offensive game.
While he finished a mere 22.6 percent from three as a freshman, he raised that mark to 42.2 percent from beyond the arc in 2012-13.
Look for him to continue to work on his long-range game as he becomes more comfortable from NBA range.
Martell Webster is a beast.
2013-14 Cap Hit: $5,150,000
With a strong stat line (11.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.9 AST, 42.2% 3PT and 84.4% FT in 76 games), Martell Webster was the most consistent offensive weapon for Washington a year ago.
Though Nene, Beal and Wall finished with high point-per-game averages, Webster played 14 more games than any of these players (Nene played 61.)
Webster's percentages from three and from the free-throw line were also the highest marks on the team.
After the Wizards and the forward recently agreed on a free-agent deal and Webster was allowed to test the market, it looks like the relationship between Washington and its electric swingman will continue for another four years.
A former No. 6 overall selection by the Portland Trail Blazers, Webster scored above 10 points a game over the course of a season for the just the second time in his career during 2012-13.
This is not terribly impressive, but the strong showing Webster put on in the nation's capital a year ago should lead fans of the team to believe he will be a part of the rotation for the near future and beyond.
Even the selection of Porter at No. 3 in the 2013 NBA draft did not scare away Webster, who signed shortly after the draft and may cherish a mentor-like role with the youngster.
Bradley Beal seems to play well with John Wall.
2013-14 Cap Hit: $4,319,280
The No. 3 overall pick of the 2012 NBA draft turned in a solid rookie season.
He finished second on the Wizards in scoring at over 13 points a game and was a threat from three-point land as many had predicted he would be.
While it is never easy for any player to live up to Ray Allen comparisons, Beal did a decent job in his rookie year and appears poised for bigger and better things going forward.
If he can play more than the 56 games he participated in a year ago, the Wizards will succeed and be able to score with any team on a given night.
The combination of Wall and Beal made for a solid backcourt combo—one that, at its young age, should be the core of Washington's success for years to come.
2013-14 Cap Hit: $7,459,924 (final year, RFA)
No one else could have claimed this top spot. The player who wears No. 2 on his jersey was No. 1 in scoring for the Wizards and was a former No. 1 overall pick.
Naturally, Wall is No. 1.
Now in the final year of his rookie contract, Wall is in store for a huge pay-day this offseason, and Washington should have the cap space to take care of its best player.
It was unfortunate to see Wall unable to stay healthy a year ago. The former Kentucky Wildcat was clearly the engine that made the Wizards go, and they began the year 4-28 in his absence.
With a healthy starting five of Wall, Beal, Webster, Porter/Nene and Okafor, the Wizards will compete with any team in the Eastern Conference.
Without any of those pieces, however, the team will struggle unless Trevor Ariza can play big minutes and one of Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton or Jan Vesely can play big.
Ultimately, this is Wall's team, and he will have to play at an All-Star level in order to take them to the playoffs.
It is a level he is more than capable of playing at, as the point guard should be a dark-horse candidate for Eastern Conference MVP in 2013-14.