Washington Wizards: 10 Bold Predictions for the 2010-2011 NBA Season
The 2010-2011 NBA season is supposed to be a transitional one for John Wall and the Washington Wizards.
After several years of middling play in the Eastern Conference, Washington cleaned house in the offseason and ushered in a new era. Coach Flip Saunders has a bevy of talented youngsters at his disposal to mesh with established veterans like new additions Kirk Hinrich and Josh Howard.
Though the Wizards certainly aren't contenders this season, 2010-2011 will go a long way in determining the long-term direction of the organization.
Following are 10 bold predictions for the Washington Wizards in the upcoming NBA season.
No. 10: Nick Young Will Be Traded or Released by Season's End
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A fourth-year pro out of USC, Nick Young is an extremely frustrating player. Drafted by Washington in the first round of the 2007 NBA Draft, Young is one of the league's most explosive leapers and a skilled offensive player.
However, Young's production has yet to match his considerable skill-set. He is a poor dribbler and commits a lot of turnovers trying to penetrate. A black hole on offense, Young is a miserable defender and rebounder despite possessing the natural gifts to make an impact on that end of the floor.
As Washington enters the John Wall era, they'll want to rid themselves of any players who could have a negative influence on their precocious young PG. For all of Young's God-given abilities, his poor mental makeup and terrible basketball sense will force him and the Wizards to part ways by season's end.
No. 9: Cartier Martin Will Make the Roster
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A 6'7'' small forward out of Kansas State, Cartier Martin has bounced around the basketball world the last few years. In Washington this season, he'll finally stick with an NBA team.
Martin is a plus athlete, possessing long arms and quick feet. Additionally, he's worked tirelessly to improve the range on his jumper. A player oozing with energy, Martin has the potential to make a sizable impact defensively, as he's able to defend three positions.
Martin may not make a huge impact for the Wizards this season, but he clearly has the combination of athletic ability and work ethic to be at the end of an NBA bench. For a young team like Washington, they could do a lot worse than Martin.
No. 8: Al Thornton Will Shoot Himself Out of the Starting Lineup
Acquired via trade last season, Washington small forward Al Thornton is poised to be a member of his team's starting five to begin the season. Prior to the All Star break, it is likely he will be relegated to a role coming off the bench.
Thornton is a gifted one-on-one scorer, as he's a very good athlete, a good shooter and a plus finisher at the rim. However, he struggles to play within the flow of an offense and lacks the combination of size and athleticism to make an impact on defense.
With Wall running the show, head coach Flip Saunders will want players who work well within his system. That certainly isn't Thornton and he doesn't offer enough in other areas to warrant a starting position. He'll be starting the game on the bench sooner rather than later in Washington.
No. 7: Trevor Booker Will Be One of the League's Most Surprising Rookies
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A first round pick in June's draft, Trevor Booker is an undersized rookie power forward. Though he may not get enough minutes to make an immediate impact, by season's end he'll prove to be one of the year's most effective rookies.
A great athlete with tremendous strength, Booker will try to continue the trend of short PFs thriving in the NBA. Though his physical gifts are sizable, his biggest advantage over other players will be his relentless and energetic playing style. He is the type of player that forces his way onto the floor and has to be dragged off of it.
Booker has a chance to be the best rookie rebounder in the league and should ride his vigorous attitude to challenge for postseason All-Rookie honors.
No. 6: The Three-Guard Lineup Will Prove Extremely Effective
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With the acquisition of veteran guard Kirk Hinrich, Coach Saunders will have the option of running out a lineup featuring three players with exceptional playmaking ability. Though it is unconventional, the trio of Wall, Hinrich and former star Gilbert Arenas will be part of Washington's best five.
The presence of Hinrich will take a lot of pressure off of Wall on both ends of the floor. He will guard the other team's best perimeter player and occasionally relieve Wall of point guard duties, offering the rookie a chance to be more of a scorer. Arenas, meanwhile, will be the biggest beneficiary of this lineup. An extremely gifted scorer, he will be this unit's go-to player.
Though Wall, Hinrich and Arenas likely won't start many games together, they should thrive offensively when on the floor. If they can just hold the water defensively, this trio will be tough to keep off the floor.
No. 5: Kevin Seraphin Will Spend Most of the Season in the Developmental League
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A French import selected by Washington in the first round of June's draft, Kevin Seraphin is an extremely raw player.
Despite his natural gifts of great size and exceptional athleticism, Seraphin has no idea how to play. He will lose in a numbers game of post players and should spend most of the season in the D-League. Still, Seraphin figures prominently into the organization's long-term plans.
No. 4: Andray Blatche Will Be Washington's Second-Leading Scorer
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After the midseason trade of Antawn Jamison last year, power forward Andray Blatche thrived, averaging over 20 points per game.
Blatche is a prototypical new-age post player, possessing ideal length to go along with rare perimeter skills. He is a gifted ball-handler and good mid-range shooter, routinely utilizing a step-back move to gain space against his defender. However, he must improve his shot selection and passing ability, as he rarely makes plays for others.
With Arenas no longer the team's offensive focal point, Blatche will have every opportunity to be an effective scorer. While Arenas or Wall will likely lead the team in points per game, Blatche should be one of the league's most prolific scorers at power forward.
No. 3: Javale McGee Will Lead the League in Blocks
There are few plays in the league more athletically gifted than Javale McGee, Washington's third-year center.
McGee has the ideal height and incredible length for his position, standing a legitimate 7'0'' and possessing an amazing 7'6'' wingspan. Additionally, he has the leaping ability of a player six inches shorter, routinely pulling off incredible dunks and blocks. In fact, McGee led the league in blocks rate last season, averaging a staggering 4.17 per 40 minutes.
Though McGee still has no idea how to play, he'll finally get enough consistent minutes this season that he should lead the league in blocks. If he makes any progress in other aspects of his game, he'll be one of the NBA's most improved players this season.
No. 2: John Wall Will Win Co-Rookie of the Year
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In most any other season, John Wall would be a shoe-in for Rookie of the Year honors. However, due to the presence of Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin in this year's rookie class, Wall will have to settle for sharing the award.
An incredible athlete with elite playmaking ability, Wall will make an immediate impact in Washington. He will start at point guard from the season's beginning and will prove to be one of the league's most exciting players. Additionally, Wall will make an impact on the Wizards not seen in statistics with his mental makeup; he's already been named a team captain.
Wall is one of the most promising first-year prospects to ever come into the league. Despite the fact that he will share Rookie of the Year honors with Griffin, he'll prove to be one of the best young players in the world by season's end.
No. 1: The Wizards Will Challenge for a Playoff Berth
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Not much is expected out of the Washington Wizards this season. The 2010-2011 season is to be a rebuilding year for Flip Saunders' team, one that will be instrumental in the organization's future success.
However, there is enough talent on the Washington roster to challenge for the eighth seed in the lowly bottom half of the Eastern Conference. If Wall is as good as advertised, new additions Hinrich and forward Josh Howard make an impact and Blatche and McGee play up to their potential, there is no reason the Wizards can't win 40 games this season.
In turn, they'll be among several teams fighting for the East's final playoff berth.