The Wiz Kids will be balling again soon. Oh happy days!
Six months after it started, the lockout looks to be ending. If all goes according to plan, December 9th will be the start of training camps, free agency and the yearly pro-basketball hype machine.
After months of wondering what this iteration of the Wizards would look like on the court—and not just in their brand spankin’ new-ish uniforms—we are finally close to finding out. A lot of youngsters, a lot of new pieces and a lot of rust to shake off in less than a month makes this quite a variable exercise.
While the team looks to be one of the more exciting in the league (if also one of the less competitive), what can we reasonably expect from them during the season? The roster isn’t set (will Nick Young still be a Wizard in three weeks?), and injuries can impact and derail the season in unpredictable ways (see: your 2010-11 squad). But out of the prognostic fog, I intend to pull down some startlingly accurate predictions about player stat-lines.*
The next 10 slides detail what I think currently locked-in Wizards will be able to produce this season. Because of potential injuries and trades, individual totals will not add up to "team totals" (for reference, if you look up scoring averages for last season, the total is around 182 points per game…though mine will not be so egregious).
So please, allow a bit of leeway, while also enjoying my season box score for the Washington Wizards.
*Results may vary, see your local psychic for details.
The rookie guard was considered by many to be a steal in the early second round of the 2011 draft. After two NCAA Tournament Finals appearances, Mack is a proven leader and winner on a team that needs both.
Mack will spend time at both point and shooting guard spots, but will primarily back up John Wall. If Nick Young gets a monster contract elsewhere, the Wizards will likely look for a free-agent veteran to team with Jordan Crawford—one of the reasons I don’t see Mack getting more than 15 or so minutes a game this season.
Mack is, however, a good shooter and ball-handler, so I see him making an impact in both points and assists categories. He has the potential to be a solid, Wes Matthews-type player for the team—but barring injuries to other players, I don’t think he'll get the chance in his first season.
4.9 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, .6 SPG
The second-year F/C saw limited minutes last year, but with the departure of Hilton Armstrong and the lack of another defensive center on the roster, he may get some burn this season. He surprised some in making the French national team over the summer, and his physical style of play makes him a likeable "lunch-pail" type player for the team management.
Still, Seraphin’s offensive shortcomings are hard to ignore. He produced almost as many fouls (2.2) as he did points (2.7) in his 10 minutes a game, while shooting under 45 percent. His PER of 8.4 was the worst of any player on the team with as much playing time.
Seraphin may be in line for even fewer minutes this season—Trevor Booker showed an ability to play big in his limited minutes last year, and newcomers Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton figure to eat up some minutes at the PF spot. I see a slight regression in offensive statistics, though he can make up for it with improved efficiency and solid defense.
1.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, .2 APG, .8 BPG
A lot has been made of his precipitous fall out of the lottery, since he was already viewed as an NBA-ready wing defender. Singleton needs a lot of work on his shot, but he will probably get minutes early in his career—though it depends somewhat on what the Wizards decide to do with Rashard "Amnesty" Lewis.
Singleton can make his mark behind the three-point line, where he’s developed considerably over the years and has the height (6'9") and length to get up shots with ease. He will get opportunities with John Wall ripping up floorboards on his way to the paint.
Splitting minutes between SF and PF will give Singleton a chance to guard multiple positions as advertised, and I expect better production from him than Trevor Booker in his rookie campaign.
8.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1 SPG, .9 BPG
With their first pick, the Wiz took Vesely, someone viewed as one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft. He’s got great length and will hopefully contribute as a rebounder, particularly out of the 3-spot in the lineup. His speed and energy are also likely to get him easy buckets.
Vesely is not a great shooter, and while he’ll get minutes for his transition play, Rashard Lewis is another tall and lean forward who can provide a long-distance threat when John Wall kicks the ball out. If Lewis is not waived in an amnesty move, I expect Vesely to compete with Singleton for a lot of the same minutes, each logging about 20 a night.
8.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, .8 APG, .7 SPG, .7 BPG
Booker is currently looking like the Wizards' first "center" off the bench—with Kevin Seraphin unlikely to be a major contributor this early in his career. In some of those scenarios, Andray Blatche will guard the opposing center, with Booker shifting to somewhere he can better use his athleticism and weak-side shot-blocking prowess—making his size less of an issue.
But despite an impressive rookie campaign that had T-Rex looking like a potential double-double every night, Booker was greatly impacted by the Wizards' draft choices. Vesely and Singleton will compete with him for minutes at forward (along with presumptive starters Blatche and Lewis). That means his ability to defend various positions will be key in getting him minutes.
While I love Booker’s motor and defensive ability, I see a regression in stats for the coming season. If he can fight off the injury bug and gets a couple of breaks along the way, he has the ability to give the Wizards a nice punch off the bench.
4.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG, .3 APG, .9 BPG
Despite being past his prime, these recent CBA negotiations have made Rashard Lewis one of the most talked about players in the league. His monster contract is certainly one of the most likely amnesty targets.
But will it be this year? The Wiz are already solidly under the cap, there isn’t a game-changing free agent on the market and they won’t be competing for a title in 2012. The team will have another year to decide whether or not to take his salary off the books.
For now, we know what Lewis is a plus-three-point shooter who is smart and a good presence in the locker room. The Wizards are young, and while Lewis can’t defend either forward position as well as he used to, he will definitely get minutes under Flip Saunders.
However long Lewis is in town, he will be able to do what he’s done in his recent career—and the Wizards will have a positive influence for the young forwards who all need to improve their long-distance shooting.
11.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, .5 SPG
Crawford may be the biggest question mark here. If Nick Young finds better money elsewhere, Crawford will be the presumptive starter and in line to score about 18 points per game. If he’s the backup, and the Wiz re-sign Young or someone like Denver’s Arron Afflalo, then he’ll be coming off the bench and probably settle in the low double digits.
Crawford has seemed to me like a Jason Terry-type—a high confidence player who sometimes takes low percentage shots coming off the bench, but is effective with the ball and can energize your team. But his comments over the summer about wanting to be better than MJ have me excited that he’s got goals and the motivation to achieve them.
Crawford won’t know his role until the start of the season in all likelihood, and while I’d love to see him bang home a 17-point, 4-rebound, three-assist season, I think we’ll end up seeing him as a backup and injury fill-in.
11.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG
This shirt seems particularly apt for McGee
McGee has given Wizards fans both optimism and headaches this offseason—blocking everything in his sight, and later that evening planking in the street. Seems like more of the same from JVMG.
McGee’s biggest problem is his basketball IQ, and particularly his ability to understand where he should be at all times on defense. His lack of post moves is also concerning, but given his age he should have time to develop some of those in the next couple seasons (anyone want to chip in to send him to Akeem’s Dream Camp?).
Because of his size and athleticism (and his distributor point guard), he will get some easy buckets, but will he get back down court and stand his ground on the defensive end? Will he run through picks and maintain balance in the post?
I see McGee making some strides this season in that department, and hopefully improving on his woeful free-throw percentage—one that’s dipped every year he’s been in the league. He’s currently the only true center on the roster, so he should have plenty of playing time coming his way.
10.8 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.6 BPG
Blatche is the second-most talented guy on the team, but perhaps the most likely to get caught with his guard down or loaf back on defense.
Despite his near-center size, he plays more like a small forward at times—a matchup he could successfully exploit on occasion, but one that pales in comparison to what he could ultimately do down in the post. His ball handling, passing ability, soft touch and shooting prowess should be a nightmare for Eastern Conference big men.
Yet, as many have pointed out, he’s quick to take a midrange jumper and sometimes hesitant to pass to a teammate with a better matchup. It’s not that he isn’t capable of doing the right thing, it’s just that he hasn’t been committed to doing it.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts the similarities I see between him and Zach Randolph. Both had some maturity issues coming into the league that made people wonder if they’d ever realize their enormous potential. Blatche is taller, Randolph is stronger on the block, but it was clear early on both were capable of a 20-10 every night.
Blatche is the better shooter too, but if he decides to make smart passes and slash to the bucket for easy scores and put-backs, he’ll have a breakthrough season. For me, it all comes down to crashing the boards—if he can improve as an offensive rebounder, he could be in line for two easy lay-ups a game because of his above-average quickness.
18.8 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, .9 BPG
Wall is obviously the team’s future, and this summer saw him jet-setting all over the country to play against other NBA-level talent. We got to see him some in the Goodman League—indication he’s been working hard on his shooting. I certainly hope he can improve that 41-percent mark from last season, and a marginal improvement in FT percentage would be great as well—and help dissuade players from fouling him as he drives into the lane.
My biggest expectation is that Wall will be healthier this year than last. He had some bumps and bruises from the tiring NBA schedule and never really got right over the course of the season. Those injuries seem to have finally healed. More recently, Wall pulled his groin and had to sit out of an exhibition game. If I were John, I’d sit in a hyperbaric chamber until practices start.
With a year under his belt, I expect huge things from the former top pick this season. His competitiveness was evident last season as he quickly tired of being a punching bag for the Eastern Conference elite. The motivation to win is there and will be a great tool for a guy who has all the physical ability in the world.
He’ll also have an improved cast of characters around him, one that he’s maturing with and can hopefully create some symbiosis with on the court. For that reason, I think he’ll get better shots and have teammates who can make them when left open.
18.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 9.2 APG, 2.1 SPG, .6 BPG