Tag Archives: brook lopez
Last night while I was looking over the latest Dwight Howard trade rumors, getting entirely too excited about him being shipped out of the Southeast Division, something of an epiphany struck me: the Wizards are almost a shoo in for becoming the second best outfit in the division. I know that’s a gutsy statement to be made about a team that finished with the second-worst record in the NBA last year at 20-46, but it’s actually the most plausible scenario.
See, what I failed to realize (and what I should have as soon as Joe Johnson left for New Jersey) is that the consolidation of great players in the East onto one team is an amazing thing for the Wizards. Johnson was the first superstar to abandon the Division, sending the Atlanta Hawks into, at least partially, a rebuilding mode. The guy who averaged 22.7 PPG last year against the Wizards? See ya when I see ya, bud. The second best team in the division just lost a player who has scored the sixth most points of any NBA player in the past seven seasons (good for 10,606 points). Think that’s not going to hurt a team in the scoring department? Think again.
Losing Joe Johnson is going to leave Atlanta without a premier scorer who can create his own shot and help create for others. Mercurial forward Josh Smith isn’t a number one option on any team, and he’s far too inconsistent to be considered a legitimate superstar. The talent is there, but when you can’t hit a jump shot, it’s not going to come together for you.
The team’s presumable starting rotation? Jeff Teague, Anthony Morrow, Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Jason Collins. That’s what they’re working with right now, and to be quite honest I’ll take the Wizards against that team any day of the week. We beat them at three or four positions, and the team with the best players typically wins the game. Even if they acquire some more talent in the offseason, it’s looking like a lengthy rebuild for the Hawks, one in which the Wizards are going to capitalize on. The second best team in the division just took some serious strides in the wrong direction.
Advantage – Washington.
Then there’s the Orlando Magic, a team wasn’t even that good last year with Dwight Howard at 37-29. The Howard distraction clearly trashed the chemistry of that team (and rightfully so, as it’s hard to play good basketball with a team that hates his team and coach), and they were a shade of the squad that challenged the Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals. Nonetheless, Dwight Howard against the Wizards tended to be an absolute disaster for the good guys: last year alone he averaged 21.7 points and 16.7 rebounds per contest. He abused JaVale and was the main reason the Magic would beat Washington. Having a legendary player like that (by “like that” I mean leading his team every year in scoring, rebounds, and blocks every season he’s been in the NBA sans his rookie year) in the division meant guaranteed losses to the Magic year in-year out. But guess what? He’s probably not going to be in Orlando anymore!
And neither is Ryan Anderson, the Orlando Magic’s second leading scorer at 16.1 PPG. Anderson, a three-point specialist who had his coming out party last year headed for greener (or teal-er) pastures with the New Orleans Hornets. He’ll presumably get the added benefit of playing with another future All-Star center in Anthony Davis. Good for him! Better for us because he’s not going to be able to drain 14 total three pointers in 4 games against us. His loss is equally as important as Dwight Howard’s in the Wizards success, because one player does not a team make.
With their two leading scorers from last year gone, the Orlando Magic are going to have to hand over the reigns to Jameer Nelson, an undersized point guard who has struggled to be consistent and healthy throughout his 8 year career. Nelson is not even a bad player by any stretch of the imagination, but imagining him becoming the second best player on a team without a superstar is a scary thought. If the trade goes through with the Nets for Dwight Howard, that means they’d likely pick up a very good center in Brook Lopez, who would end up being the replacement center and best player on the team. If that’s the case, the Wizards do not have much to worry about.
Brook Lopez as a center is an American version of Andrea Bargnani, meaning he shoots less three pointers and is a tad less soft. He still doesn’t rebound well at all (he’s never grabbed 10 rebounds over the course of the season) and was injured all but five games last season. I’ll take him being the best player on the court alongside Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkgolu. That’s just not a good team. If Lopez could barely lift the Nets out of obscurity with a superstar in Deron Williams, I’m almost certain the Magic aren’t going to be a threat next year at all.
Advantage – Washington
I’m not entirely certain I need to explain why the Charlotte Bobcats aren’t going to be better than the Washington Wizards next year, but I will do it in brief. The Bobcats finished with the worst winning percentage in NBA history last year, and that fact alone means they won’t get better overnight. They won six games all year! The Bobcats could multiply their win total by 6 and not make the playoffs in the East. They finished 30th in points per game, 29th in rebounds per game, and 27th in points allowed per game. Those are awfully telling statistics that, while they can only improve, can’t get much worse.
Charlotte picked up a winner in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the draft, but I’m not sure he’s going to come in right away and completely change a losing culture. They need efficient scoring, and Kemba Walker won’t be providing that in the near future. Neither will their other building piece Bismack Biyombo, who may be a good defender but will most certainly struggle against Nene and former Bobcat Emeka Okafor. They’re rumored to be getting Kris Humphries via that ridiculous Dwight Howard four-team trade, so I guess there’s that.
That leaves their starting roster with Biyombo, Humphries, MKG, Ben Gordon, and Kemba Walker. That lineup is horrible, plain and simple. It’s got tons of potential, without question, but having former college stars and three offensively inept players in the starting five is a recipe for another bad season. Not that they aren’t trying, though. I actually see the Bobcats as becoming a surprisingly solid team next year, but not second place talent.
Advantage – Washington
That leaves us with the Miami Heat, and I don’t need to dwell on the fact that they just came off of winning an NBA championship and are were playing the best basketball in the NBA upon finishing up. I don’t need to dwell on the fact that they always, always, always beat the Washington Wizards. Or that they’re better than Washington at shooting guard, power forward, and small forward; the addition of another Hall of Famer (Ray Allen) is never going to help Washington. The sad fact is that for the time being, Washington is really far behind against Miami and that is unlikely to change, for now.
Here’s the thing, though: head to head match ups aren’t the deciding factor in winning your division in basketball. A perfect storm would obviously have to occur for Washington to leap from Miami, but it’s not even unreasonable to think about. Miami might have a bit of a championship hangover, much like the one the Dallas Mavericks suffered/the Spurs suffered every season following a championship. Let’s say LeBron is a little tired from playing in the Olympics this summer, and Dwyane Wade still isn’t up to form after having offseason knee surgery to fix whatever was going on with that thing during the NBA Playoffs. A team already susceptible to boredom might just slip a little bit and give an opening for an up-and-coming Wizards team a chance. The Hawks were only six games out of first place last season, and the Wizards could play with them.
Of course, this is all hypothetical nonsense; it’s the offseason, though, and that’s what you’re going to get. Washington obviously has to improve from last year, and the younger players need to continue taking steps forward. Kevin Seraphin needs to show that he wasn’t just a flash in the pan and become a dominant second unit low-post performer (I think the Olympics are going to help a lot in with his progression in that regard). Bradley Beal is going to need to show that he is not a young, talented, project. He has to come in and immediately help. Not to mention Emeka Okafor and Nene have to stay healthy for an entire season and John Wall has to shake off that sophomore slump.
A lot has to go the Wizards way, but the opening is there for glory to be captured. The glory of second place, of course, but it’s something. I’m of the firm belief that this upcoming season, year three of the rebuild, is when the Washington Wizards make the move into playoff contender and young team to look out for. All this moving and shaking within the division has done nothing but help “The Plan” progress at a faster rate.
Tags: basketball, brook lopez, chris bosh, Deron Williams, dwight howard, joe johnson, kris humphries, lebron james, magic, miami heat, nba, orlando, pay riley, sports, washington, Washington Wizards, Wizards