After the debacle of last season, it is no surprise that not much is expected from the Wizards this season. No one is discounting the excitement that John Wall brings to the table, but most experts are prediction 30 to 35 wins for Washington. What those experts don't know is that Wall isn't the only young gun on a roster with a ton of talent no one knows about.
Wall, along with Andray Blatche and Al Thornton, could be the best trio the Wizards have had since the days of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Larry Hughes.
The trio of Arenas, Jamison and Hughes averaged 65 points per game in 2004 and led the Wizards to a second round sweep in the playoffs. Hughes left after the season, and even with Caron Butler in his place, the Wizards never got past the first round in the three playoff appearances after his departure. The original Big Three in Washington was an offensive juggernaut, but the defense left a lot to be desired.
The same could be said for the current iteration of the Wizards, but the current roster is built for the long haul and not a limited window of opportunity.
Both Arenas and Hughes were scoring guards, and while it worked for most situations, it didn't allow the rest of the team to get involved. Come playoff time, teams could neutralize one or more scorers and place the game on the abilities of the team's role players. It didn't help that Brendan Haywood couldn't match Shaquille O'Neal's power inside during the Wizards' playoff series against the Miami Heat.
Wall is a distributor as well as a scorer, which plays better over the course of a season than if he was only a scorer.
With six games under his belt, Wall is averaging 19.3 points, 10.2 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 steals per game. He recorded his first triple-double against the Rockets with 19 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. Whether he is tossing lobs, kicking it out to the open shooter or dumping the ball off on the fast break, Wall is finding ways to get his teammates involved.
Arenas is averaging just 12 points per game, but is taking a lot of shots. If he knocks down more of his open looks, Wall's assist numbers will be even more impressive.
Wall's success has made things much easier for Thornton and Blatche, who have been doing serious work everywhere from 15 feet out to under the basket.
Blatche was probably the biggest question mark heading into this season. He has had a history of offseason troubles and this year was no different, as he suffered a broken foot during a pick-up game. His recovery time held him out of some team activities, but he started the season with no problem. He started the season with a poor 2-for-9 shooting night and finished with six points and four fouls.
Since the opener, Blatche has averagd 19.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
After bursting on the scene last season following the trade of Jamison, there was a worry that Blatche would fall on old habits and not put in the work during the offseason. He has always been a player with a ton of potential, but never worked to get on the floor enough to put his skills to the test. Last season and this season, Blatche not only looks like the real deal, but has added to his repertoire of moves to make him a threat with his back to the basket, faced-up or along the baseline.
Blatche is also 24-of-26 from the free throw line, good enough for 92.3-percent and 11th in the NBA.
Thornton was not supposed to be the starting small forward, but has played well in the absence of Josh Howard, who is still working back from his knee injury.
The season opener was a poor showing for the entire team, as most 30 point losses are, but the Wizards have rebounded nicely. Thornton followed his nine point opener with a 24 point, seven rebound performance against the Hawks. Excluding the opener, Thornton has averaged 17.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Along with Blatche, Thornton has been doing a great job on the offensive glass.
Together, they average six offensive rebounds per game. It doesn't sound like much, but when added to McGee's three offensive rebounds, it means around 10 extra possessions for the Wizards. For a young team, extra opportunities are invaluable and can spell the difference between a 10-point loss and a four-point win.
When added together, Blatche, Wall and Thornton are averaging 52.8 points, 18.8 rebounds, 13.5 assists, and 5.9 steals per game, which is over half of the team's total production.
They have a long way to go before they can be considered contenders, but don't be shocked if the Wizards make it into the playoffs as an eight seed. If Blatche can continue to progress, Thornton can be a steady contributor and Wall keeps playing at a high level, the Wizards have a high ceiling for success.
There is no rush for Washington to reach contender status, but with veteran presence at a premium, the young Wizards need a ton of experience before they can beat the elite teams not just in their division, but the NBA.
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