The Wizards are ready to take the next step forward this season with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the way.
Note: This article has been updated following the Wizards trade with the Suns to acquire center Marcin Gortat.
The Washington Wizards once again had a disappointing season last year, but the team hopes to rebound and make the playoffs for the first time in five years. Washington has built up a strong core of young players, mainly pairing point guard John Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal up to be the future of the franchise.
But without looking too far into the future, it's important to look back at how the team fared during the 2012-13 season:
- Regular season: 29-53
- Missed playoffs
- Division: Third place in Southeast
- Conference: 12th place in East
The season was clearly broken into two halves for the Wizards, who started off the season horribly with Wall out of the lineup, only winning four games between the start of the season and the end of December 2012.
But when Wall returned during the second half of the season, the Wizards were almost a .500 team, and could have been even better if Beal were able to stay healthy.
Now that the new dynamic duo have the opportunity to play a full season together, fans are anxious to see how far this team can go with Wall leading the charge.
The Wizards brought in veteran Al Harrington to try to boost their offense and drafted two new young guys: Otto Porter Jr. and Glen Rice Jr.
Throughout the season, the rest of the NBA will be looking to see how well these young players perform under the pressure of trying to make the playoffs and if they can succeed in grabbing one of the bottom three seeds in the East.
Al Harrington, Otto Porter Jr., Glen Rice Jr. and Marcin Gortat
Leading up to Friday night, the Wizards had been fairly quiet in the offseason. However, the team recently traded injured center Emeka Okafor and a 2014 first-round draft pick to the Phoenix Suns for Gortat and three other players who the Wizars will waive, ESPN reports.
Gortat is more of a scoring center than Okafor, and the acquisition gives them health at the center position, with Okafor out indefinitely.
Staying in the frontcourt, Harrington is a small-ball power forward who has traditionally been a three-point shooter. Besides Beal and small forward Martell Webster, no one in Washington was very good at shooting from behind the arc last season, and Harrington brings a drastically different play style to the power forward position compared to Nene and Jan Vesely.
Porter may have a difficult time finding playing time on this roster with Webster, Trevor Ariza, Chris Singleton and Rice also at small forward. Porter has also been injured for the majority of the offseason and preseason, so fans haven't been able to see much of the rookie besides three disappointing Summer League games.
With Porter out, Rice has performed well in the preseason. Rice is best at getting to the rim to crash the boards, but also has the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter.
A.J. Price, Cartier Martin and Emeka Okafor
Since Okafor was sent over in a trade, it's not really a loss, since he was immediately replaced by Gortat.
However, Washington is going to miss Okafor's strong defensive presence and veteran leadership, but there was no timetable for his return with a herniated disk in his neck.
The other two players certainly aren't drastic, either.
Both players were quickly replaced on the roster; Eric Maynor replaces Price to back up Wall, while Rice fills in for Martin's depth on the bench.
Will the Marcin Gortat trade pay off?
The Gortat trade makes perfect sense for the Wizards, but they did have to give up a potentially valuable first-round draft pick.
By acquiring Gortat, the Wizards made a clear statement that they're ready to make a push for the playoffs. However, if they fall short of that goal, not having the draft pick could come back to haunt them.
Last season, Gortat averaged 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds, both of which were down from his two previous years with the Suns. But he did pick up 1.6 blocks per game, the best average of his career.
Gortat is a great inside scorer, and does have an average shot from mid-range, especially on the sides of the hoop, but he hasn't played with the Wizards yet, and there's no telling how well he'll fit in to the offense.
Will Martell Webster or Tervor Ariza start at small forward?
Webster and Ariza have rotated the starting duties throughout the preseason, and there still doesn't seem to be a clear-cut answer.
Ariza is a much better defender than Webster and brings more experience to the roster, while Webster is a better shooter and gives the Wizards a real perimeter threat when Harrington is on the bench.
The Wizards will also have to find time for Rice and Porter, if he can come back healthy.
Webster was re-signed in the offseason for $22 million over four years (which some consider an overpayment), and having him come off the bench could kill the momentum he had finishing last season.
When Wall was back in the lineup, Webster played significantly better then when he was injured, so having the backcourt of Wall, Beal and Webster could be a legitimate offensive force in the East.
What kind of role will Al Harrington play in the offense?
Harrington's production in the preseason has been fairly inconsistent, putting up only four points in Washington's game against the New York Knicks, but scoring 14 points in 19 minutes in the team's last preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
His skill set obviously isn't built to fill the Okafor role of a strong defender, and having a lineup of Wall, Beal, Webster, Harrington and Nene would be an awkward small-ball combination with Nene stranded in the middle.
The role that Harrington plays will also depend upon how well the rest of the team is performing.
If the Wizards get up in games and have a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, Nene and Vesely will likely be on the floor to defend, whereas Harrington will be playing if they need to come from behind in the final seven minutes of a game.
As long as Harrington can stay healthy, there's no doubt he adds a much-needed new dimension to Washington's offense, but how many minutes he'll pick up and how visible he'll be in the game plan remains to be seen.
Depth Chart Breakdown and Grades
|Point guard||Shooting guard||Small forward||Power forward||Center|
|John Wall||Bradley Beal||Martell Webster||Nene||Marcin Gortat|
|Eric Maynor||Garrett Temple||Trevor Ariza||Kevin Seraphin||Nene|
|Martell Webster||Chris Singleton||Jan Vesely||Kevin Seraphin|
For the breakdown of the players individually, you can check out the Wizards player power ranking slideshow. Here's out each position stacks up.
Point guard: B+
John Wall is obviously the best player on the team, and is one of the top eight or nine point guards in the NBA.
However, what holds this position back is the backup role. Eric Maynor has bounced around between teams in his NBA career and has generally been disappointing in the preseason, scoring zero points in 18 minutes in Washington's last preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Wall has clearly been spending the preseason working on his jump shot, pulling up on shots far more than last season, when he would traditionally drive to the basket.
It's important for Wall to develop a better mid-range shot, but his real strength lies in his ability to dribble and get the ball to the rim. If he sticks to that and can shoot 40 percent or so from 16 feet, he'll be fine.
Shooting guard: B
Like the point guard position, the starter is set. Bradley Beal had a solid rookie campaign and is looking to come back even stronger this season.
Beal has torn up the preseason, dropping 21 points against the Cavaliers and 29 against the Miami Heat.
However, there is no real backup at shooting guard besides Garrett Temple, who is a career 39.6 percent shooter.
In the preseason, Beal has shot over 49 percent from three, according to Vorped. If he can at least break 35 percent from three, Beal could be the top scorer for the Wizards this season.
Small forward: A
No one small forward sticks out on this roster, but because the position is so deep, it gets the mark for the strongest position on the team.
Martell Webster is a quality scorer (or at least came on as one last season), while Trevor Ariza is a strong defensive player.
Glen Rice Jr. could also turn into the steal of the 2013 NBA Draft if he pans out. Rice is talented and could see a few minutes per game with Otto Porter Jr. still hurt.
If Porter can return healthy, he adds even more depth to this position. Between Webster and Porter, they averaged 39.3 percent three-point shooting for about 20 points per game.
It's not astounding numbers that Webster and Ariza are producing, but with the depth at this position, it's easily the strongest.
Power Forward: C+
With Gortat on the team now, Nene will be allowed to move back to power forward, his natural position.
Behind Nene, there is Harrington, but the more standard power forwards are below-average, including Kevin Seraphin (who can't defend) and Jan Vesely (who can't score).
But if he can stay healthy, Nene is a quality low-post power forward, but is getting up there in age and is coming off one of his worst offensive seasons in the NBA.
With the addition of Harrington, Nene should be able to cut back on his minutes, which could lead to more games played, but it just always seems like Nene finds a way to get hurt.
As previously stated, Gortat is a solid offensive center, should mesh nicely with Washington's backcourt.
But off the bench, the center position doesn't have much to offer. Now that the Wizards have a healthy center, Seraphin will likely be used like he was last season, coming off the bench as a backup center.
Seraphin was good on offense in the preseason, but continues to struggle on defense. Seraphin will likely get quality minutes, too, because Gortat played in 30 minutes per game last year for the Suns, and he'll be turning 30 in February.
The Gortat trade strengthened this position, but there are still some questions that will follow Washington's centers around all season.
What to watch for
Washington isn't the most exciting team to watch on a daily basis, but if they are able to get hot and make the playoffs, it could be one of the top stories in the NBA.
There are also a number of lesser-known storylines that will make the Wizards an interesting team to casually follow as an NBA fan.
Breakout player prediction: Al Harrington
Because he missed most of last season with the Orlando Magic, Harrington ins't getting much attention. But he's been fairly impressive as an offensive weapon in the preseason, and with Okafor out, he's going to get a nice chunk of minutes every game, and he could end up being one of the top four scorers on the team.
Team MVP prediction: John Wall
Is there really any other option here? Wall runs the Wizards offense, and he is looking better than ever coming off of his half of a season last year.
When all is said and done, the Wizards will only make the playoffs if they can stay healthy and if Wall can continue to play like he did in the last three months or so of the 2012-13 season.
Most disappointing player prediction: Otto Porter Jr.
Fans were really excited to see the Wizards pick up Porter in the draft. He is a young talent, and he went to Georgetown, so he'll be starting his NBA career at home.
But so far, Porter has had both a knee injury and a hip flexor, and he's only played in three Summer League games, missing the entire preseason. If he is able to come back, it'll be tough to find any major minutes for him in the current lineup. He could be a quality player down the road, but don't expect him to produce much this season.
Player most likely to be traded: Trevor Ariza
Now that Okafor is gone, the last big expiring contract in Washington is Ariza, who is making just over $7.7 million this season.
If Porter comes back healthy, the Wizards may want to clear space on the roster for he and Rice, or if they start to slide and are on pace to miss the playoffs, team president Ernie Grunfeld my try to turn Ariza into a draft pick or a younger player.
Biggest rivalry: Cleveland Cavaliers
Every Wizards fan of the past seven years or so knows how tough the Cavs have played the Wizards (especially in the playoffs). This regular season should be no different, although Cleveland and Washington only face off four times.
However, those four games could be the best of the year. The Kyrie Irving versus John Wall matchup is always fun to watch, and these two teams could be battling it out for one of the last playoff spots in the East this season.
Best-Case, Worst-Case Scenarios with Predicted W-L record
John Wall doesn't skip a beat from the end of last season, and the offense is able to get going with Gortat at center. With Nene over at power forward, the defense still stays strong and Seraphin becomes serviceable on defense.
Bradley Beal also makes a big leap this season in his production and scores over 20 points per game, giving the Wizards a No. 2 scoring option.
Behind good defense and big offensive numbers from Wall and Beal, the Wizards make the playoffs.
The Wizards are never able to put it all together, and miss the playoffs and are now out of a first-round draft pick in what is shaping up to be an amazing draft class.
Washington simply can't score enough to stay in games and are often beaten by 10 points a night.
John Wall also becomes too focused on getting a jump shot and becomes less effective at the rim, cutting his scoring down by five or six points per game.
Because of the poor defensive play without Okafor, and a lack of offensive weapons to keep the Wizards in games, they miss the playoffs.
Predicted W-L record: 43-41
The Gortat trade helps Washington in the frontcourt, and if everyone can stay healthy, they are almost a lock to finish the season above .500.
About how many games will the Wizards win this season?
Beal is playing extremely well this preseason, and he could become one of the top shooting guards in the league by the end of this season.
The rotation of Webster and Ariza at small forward will also be a strength for Washington, and the addition of Al Harrington will give them an extra scoring threat, increasing their offensive production to 96 points or so per game.
Washington will end up surprising a few teams in the East this year, and the Wizards will sneak into the playoffs as the No. 7 or No. 8 seed.