Washington Wizards: Nene's Season Debut Won't Save Wizards' Sinking Ship

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 20, 2012

October 1, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards center Nene (42) poses for a portrait during Wizards media day at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

The transformation from basketball's best punch line in to legitimate playoff contender hasn't quite gone as expected for the Washington Wizards and coach Randy Wittman. If the Wizards' playoff ship hasn't sunk yet, it's because it hasn't made it out of the harbor.

Injuries have kept the team's top two players (Nene and John Wall) in street clothes and the guys left donning the uniforms have looked more like the Washington Generals.

With the league's worst offense (86.89 points per game) and second worst scoring differential (minus-7.67), the Wizards have once again alienated themselves from their NBA brethren. Whereas past Washington teams saved their dysfunction for after hours, this team's collapse has been played out on the NBA hardwood.

So any optimism emerging from Comcast Bay Area's Ric Bucher's report that Nene could make his season debut versus the Atlanta Hawks on November 21 is tempered at best.

The arrival of Nene (and his career 12.4 points per game) will clearly help what's on pace to be the league's worst offensive team in a decade, according to Kyle Weidie of Wizards' blog truthaboutit.net. But any visions of him emerging as a franchise savior capable of pushing his club back in to the playoff hunt are as misguided as a Wizards' field-goal attempt (their 39.6 field-goal percentage ranks dead last in the NBA).

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Only three players on the roster are averaging double-figures (Jordan Crawford, Kevin Seraphin and rookie Bradley Beal) and no one averages more than 12.2 points per game. To put that figure in further perspective, Crawford's 12.2 points per game ranks 93rd in the NBA.

Washington figured to have some winnable games on their schedule with expectations as low as they could get for any Southeast Division team not named the Miami Heat. But the emergence of the Charlotte Bobcats (5-4) and the relative competitiveness of the Orlando Magic (3-7) could have Wizards fans already counting the days until the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery.

The assumed offensive production of Wall and Nene was meant to balance out the offensive shortcomings of notable defenders Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor in the starting lineup. But Wall's placeholder, A.J. Price (33.7 field-goal percentage), and reputed marksman, Bradley Beal (33.3), have shot the ball so poorly that Nene's biggest offensive supporters will be those pesky defenders Ariza (34.9) and Okafor (39.4).

To say that opposing defenses can cheat toward Nene is like saying that NFL defenses can cheat toward the line of scrimmage when Tim Tebow lines up at quarterback. Nene is a talented offensive player, but he's not a miracle worker.

Wall's return is still without so much as a target date (according to a recent report by nba.com's Jeff Caplan), so Nene's biggest concern isn't even righting this ship. He's just trying to keep it from capsizing before that day comes.

All stats used in this article are accurate as of 11/19/2012.