(Check out our season preview from the District by our resident Zardos fan, AO.)
Starting Five: PG John Wall, SG Bradley Beal, SF Martell Webster, PF Nene, C Emeka Okafor
Key Bench Players: PF Trevor Ariza, PG Eric Maynor, F Jan Vesely, F Otto Porter, F Al Harrington
Notable Offseason Additions: Harrington, Maynor, Porter (#3 pick in 2013 Draft)
Notable Offseason Subtractions: None
FACT OR FICTION: There’s stability in Washington. Does it matter?
FACT. Ernie Grunfeld is betting his last chips on YES. Take a look again at the notable offseason subtractions: No one. Everyone who mattered, from a statistical or locker room standpoint, is coming back. Any NBA fan worth his salt knows that the Wizards aren’t betting on theIR year end record of 29-53. What they’re letting simmer is the .500+ ball they played with John Wall in the lineup, and the hope is that the simmer carries over to this season and begins to boil.
What’s that you say? A watched pot never boils. Well actually, it does. Try it some time. It will eventually boil, I swear. The key ingredient is patience. And four things that Grunfeld did this offseason exercised that virtue to the fullest:
1) He did not wait until October to extend John Wall. He got it done in the summer in the form of a max five year, $80 million contract. Some say they overpaid and that Wall deserved Ty Lawson/Steph Curry money (in the neighborhood of four years, $44 million). I’m not complaining. Disregard the fact that personally I think Wall has more of an upside than those two guys, even if we did overpay a bit, the point is we locked up our key cog. All signs point to him liking DC and wanting to bring the franchise back to relevance. I’m glad the Wiz jumped on that, and didn’t risk lingering resentment as the deadline to extend Wall approached. This guy put up 21/4.5/8 post All Star break and I expect more of the same this year.
2) Resigned free agent Martell Webster to a 4yr $22 million contract. Martell has an orgasmic 3 point stroke, we all know that. What people may not know, especially the one’s crowing about how much the Wizards overpaid here, is how beloved he is in the locker room. He was widely regarded, along with Emeka Okafor and Nene, as the most important voice in the huddle. It makes sense too. The guy has had a tough road since being selected 6th overall out of high school in 2005. He’s largely been a failure. Washington took a flier on him last year and he worked his butt off. He embraced the role of veteran for a young team looking to build on Randy Wittman’s ideals of toughness/defense/accountability. It makes sense. He could have been playing abroad easily if it weren’t for Washington. He appreciated they took a chance on him, and took advantage of it. I don’t expect him to slow down now that he’s locked in for four years. He, more than anyone, sees what’s forming in the District.
3) Re-signed Garett Temple to a one year contract, veteran’s minimum. Again, patience, stability. Temple is not a stats guy. He won’t get much burn. But he goes hard every practice, especially on the defensive end. And judging by various Wizards tweets, they were ecstatic to have him back.
4) Drafted Otto Porter with the 3rd overall selection in the draft. There were many moves to be made here. Trade down, trade up, trade the pick altogether for a proven vet. Ernie stood pat, and took the safest/smartest pick out there. Porter is ready to contribute, he’s so mature as a player (JT III called him the most mature freshman he had ever coached at G-town), but the Wizards don’t need it right now. They’ve got a log jam at SF with Webster and Ariza, which allows Otto time to get his NBA legs under him, adjust for the speed of the game, and be ready when he’s called on. Most people expect the Wizards to move Ariza at the deadline (7 mil expiring) at which point Otto will get his chance. It’s just refreshing to see the Wiz brass content with letting a player develop instead of claiming they’re building around young projects (Nick Young, Javale McGee and Andray Blatche were trumpeted as the core for multiple years! I know, sickening).
Finally, the whole coaching staff is back despite a lot of hotheads calling for Wittman’s head because of his W/L record. Wall likes Wittman, and I can see why. He’s helped transform the culture in just one and a half years at the helm. Why not give him the chance to see it through to real results? He deserves it. Don’t sleep on the effect of Don Newman (assistant coach hired away from SA last offseason) either, he was a huge reason the Wizards made such strides on the defensive end last year. I can’t even remember the Wizards being known as a defensive team any other time in my life time. It’s really a sight for sore eyes. Defend, hard, rebound, get the ball to Wall, and run, hard. That’s the plan.
Best Case Scenario: The stability pays off. The Wizards pick up where they left off in ’12-’13, playing .500 or better ball with all of their horses in the lineup. Wall ascends to top 5 pg status, leading a relentless fast break/corner 3 attack with Beal and Webster being his two snipers. Watergate! They’re the feel good story of the league and somehow fight for home court advantage and the 4 spot, coming up short and ending up in the 5 or 6 seed with a 45-37 record. They get beat in the first round, but not embarrassingly so. They fight, and even steal a game or two.
Absolute apocalypse: This Emeka Okafor injury is serious, and holds him out for the first couple of months. The aforementioned SF crowd is a disaster as all are sensitive about playing time. What Wittman has built gets destroyed by injuries, a slow start, and public pressure for his firing. The Wizards limp to the finish, winning just 30 games. Wittman and Grunfeld are disposed of and talks of “is Wall a winner?” pave the airwaves. Also, Steve Buckhantz’s announcer seats get pushed further back and he resigns, sighting the despicable disrespect as the final “dagger” to his announcing career for the Wizards.
Expected Outcome: This Okafor injury is certainly a curveball, but Washington fans expect nothing but the worse. I think they can go small with Harrington at the 4, sacrifice some of their defense and try to out run and gun people. Hold down the fort until Mek is back and then regain your identity as a tough, defensive team. I expect Wall to be an All Star, and Beal to vault into the top 5 SG discussion. Patience. Stability. Simmer to Boil. Playoffs.
3rd in the Southeast, 9th in the Eastern Conference (by a hair)
Do you smell what MAMBINO is cooking? Check out the rest (so far) of our 2013-2014 NBA Season Preview series: