The NBA offseason has quieted down as of late in the wake of a whirlwind free agency period and aftermath. As such, it is only natural to try to condense all of the action into qualities and quantities. The Washington Wizards are a team that made a number of roster moves between the draft, trades, and free agency.
Not all of those moves were received with glowing praise, but such is to be expected from a team in the early stages of genuine rebuilding.
This is a no-brainer for anyone who actively uses theirs, but John Wall is the best thing to come out of this offseason. Washington was projected to pick fifth in the draft, but through some stroke of luck or the cosmic intervention of their late owner, the Wizards managed to leap to the top of the draft after winning the draft lottery. With that pick, they took the first step toward ushering in a new legacy for a beleaguered franchise.
Wall is young, talented, and has a true passion for the game. Nevermind the doubters and haters who claim he has been jaded since his high school days; Wall showed his worth during the Wizards' Summer League in Vegas. Forget the part about Summer League having no real structure or defense and you'll see that Wall improved with each game, made the most of his time and touches, while making his teammates better.
The change in ownership did not go unnoticed during the season and became apparent in the offseason. Ted Leonsis took full control of the Wizards, and made his mark immediately by stressing the importance of the draft for the future. When all was said and done, the Wizards walked away with three first-rounders in Wall, Kevin Seraphin, and Trevor Booker.
Ernie Grunfeld may get credit for the success or failure of each draftee, but the action to acquire more picks is a staple of Leonsis' building process. Just look at the way the Capitals have built their foundation.
The injury to power forward Andray Blatche is a blow to the rebuilding Wizards.
Blatche's injury was rumored to have happened playing basketball at Barry Farm in Southeast DC, but he clarified that he landed awkwardly while working out at Verizon Center. Either way, he had to undergo surgery to repair the break and is expected to miss the majority of offseason activities as he'll have to get back into shape following the time off.
Hopefully he will come into the season in shape and pick up where he left off last season, putting up career numbers as a starter.
The draft day trade that netted Kirk Hinrich and Kevin Seraphin is questionable. Hinrich is a versatile, veteran guard that should fit nicely in the Wizards rotation. Seraphin is not so easily placed. He is raw, unrefined, and virtually unknown stateside. He is touted as a strong power forward who does the dirty work in the paint and on the glass. He described his style of play by simply bashing his fists together.
Simply put, Seraphin is a depth pick at best. The Bulls made the pick for the Wizards, but there were plenty of better options at 17 than the chiseled Frenchman.
I don't know which is worse, acquiring Yi Jianlian or not being able to move Gilbert Arenas. Jianlian is a soft seven-footer and Arenas made himself the most "misunderstood" player in the NBA with the locker room gun incident.
However disconcerting it is that the Wizards traded for Jianlian, it appears that he is simply on lease in Washington. His contract is only guaranteed through this coming season, and there is no doubt in my mind that the Wizards have already tabbed him as trade fodder for more picks. Even with Blatche's injury that will likely hold him out of action until the season starts, Jianlian is not a long-term solution.
Along with Hilton Armstrong, Jianlian is insurance for the possible delayed debut for Blatche.
Arenas may prove to be a great complement to rookie Wall, but only if he buys into being the off-guard and not the point guard. He will have to refine his outside shooting to fit into the two-guard better, but it is his ego that must take a backseat next season.
After the media fiasco, felony charges, and a stay in a halfway house, Arenas must prove he is not the distraction he appears and that he can go an entire season without incident. That includes his health more than anything else.
It has been a few years since Arenas played a full season, but his role calls for less ball handling and running the offense, which could be just the thing to keep him off the operating table.
The Jury Is Still Out
The injury to Josh Howard after his midseason arrival spelled almost certain doom for his future in Washington. A torn ACL is hardly the career-ending injury it once was, but it is still pretty serious. After a handful of games with the Wizards, Howard went down for the remainder of the season with the injury, and most experts assumed it was the end of his short stay in Washington.
Following unfruitful attempts to acquire a small forward in the flooded free-agent market, the Wizards decided to sign Howard to an incentive-heavy deal for $4 million next season. That number is a ways away from the $11 million option the Wizards would have had to pick up to keep him from hitting the free-agent market.
I, for one, think that Al Thornton would have been a good enough option at small forward. He isn't a marquee player, but Howard has been known as a black hole on offense. He catches and he tries to score. He can't try to be that type of player with the current make-up of the offense. Thornton is simply a better role player than Howard, but only time will tell in this case.
The Wizards have put themselves in a good position to fly under the radar in the coming season. They've infused their roster with youth and promise, and could make for some entertaining games.
But they're far from ready to climb the mountain, so to speak, and will not be truly competitive for another three or four years. That isn't to say we can't all enjoy the journey towards a brighter future. With Wall, Blatche, JaVale McGee, and plenty of other young names, the Wizards have a bright future indeed.
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