Tag Archives: dwight howard
The news that Dwight Howard is out of the Eastern Conference, even better, the Southeast Division, just doesn’t seem to get old now, does it? I hated the trade because it created yet another megaladon-sized powerhouse for the Washington Wizards to have to fend off en route to a championship; on the other hand, Dwight Howard can’t abuse the Wizards anymore! Over 31 games against the Wizards during his eight year career, Howard has averaged 18.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He has crushed Brendan Haywood, Etan Thomas, and JaVale McGee in every way possible since entering the league, but all that ends in 2012.
The Wizards now boast one of the best front courts in the NBA, and within the East it is as formidable as any that they will face throughout the season. But where does it rank? Well, let’s just break down all of them and try to peg where they stand….starting with the worst in the Eastern Conference.
#15. Charlotte Bobcats
Centers: Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood
Power Forwards: Byron Mullins, Tyrus Thomas
Small Forwards: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Reggie Williams
If you want to start any NBA list about the “Worst-anything,” all roads lead to Charlotte. Their front court situation does not veer far from that trend, as they are without a doubt the pits of the Eastern Conference. Part of that stems from how young their roster is, with only 154 games played in total between Bismack Biyombo, Byron Mullens, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Obviously, with that type of youth up front, there are going to be some serious rough spots. The Bobcats are headed in the right direction with the drafting of MKG, but they have a lot of ground to make up in order to overcome that fateful 2011 season.
Best Case Scenario:
The best case scenario for the Bobcats is that MKG shows signs of becoming the next Scottie Pippen, Bismack Biyombo turns into Dikembe/Serge Ibaka, and Byron Mullens manages simply to be better than Tyrus Thomas at his worst (which, mind you, is all the time). Really, though, the best case scenario only requires one thing: noticeable progress. If they can do that, they may end up coming out of the gutter of the Eastern Conference front courts.
Starting with the most important piece, the franchise player and youngest member on the team, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The strategy of hinging your future on an 18 year old kid is a dubious one at best, but those are the demands which the Bobcats have placed upon MKG’s shoulders. I actually believe that, if anyone can impress so much in their rookie season, it will be him. Watching MKG in his one summer league game was all I needed to see to decide he would be incredibly effective at the professional level. It was against the Sacramento Kings, but I was awe struck at his versatility. In that game, he scored 18 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, dished out 5 assists, and nabbed 4 steals en route to a 121-87 victory. That’s right, the Bobcats won, and it was on the back of a young kid.
As was his modus operandi in college, MKG was all over the court hounding defenders and making plays. He made the entire roster look better simply by his disruption of plays. Whenever he scores, it’s never a drawn up play, but rather an exploitation of a defensive scheme. His talent is that there is really no definitive defensive strategy to guard him; if you force him to shoot, he’ll just pass to an open man. If you’re not on him immediately, then he’ll shoot the ball; if you’re late on a rotation then he’ll be there to score. He has an incredibly good knowledge of how an offense functions, and where points are to be had on put backs opportunities, cuts, and steals. That’s where he’ll make you pay on the offensive end.
Furthermore, if you make a sloppy pass, MKG will be there to take it away, because he seriously doesn’t take plays off. It’s natural for any player to do it, but I’ve never seen a guy work as hard as him. He has the quickest feet on a 6’7ish player I have (yep, I’ll say it) ever seen. MKG runs the court like a guard, and doesn’t often lose his defensive assignment. I think he’ll get schooled by LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, but when I look at the Eastern Conference list of small forwards, I see him being a defensive stopper on all but those two. That’s how much praise I’m heaping on this kid, and a reason why he might just be able to turn Charlotte into a defensively stout front court for any team.
Enough about MKG, what about the rest? In Bismack Biyombo, they have an incredibly athletic and long defender who can do only that–defend. Statistically, Biyombo averaged a paltry 5.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. On paper he isn’t going to look good, but watching him play is a different story. He appears to have solid defensive instinct, loves to block shots, and actually fights for rebounds. Biyombo is very physical down low, and if he can learn to combine that physicality and length with actual box out skills, he should be grabbing 10 rebounds a game. Of course, part of that is on his teammates, but I do see lots of potential. He is young, and his progression will be key.
Biyombo will more likely be offensive on offense before he becomes an offensive threat (read it, it makes sense). He has no post moves at the moment, has no jump shot, and does not resemble Serge Ibaka in any way, shape, or form on offense. But the potential is there for him to have the same effect; fantastic defense coupled with a single post move or patented way to score enough to justify staying on the court. Also, his Per 36 minute stats suggest he could become a double-double guy in the future, believe it or not. When you take that into account, it’s easy to see why Bobcats fans have slightly high hopes for him to become a 12-10-2 (block) guy in the very near future.
(Last thought: I think former Wizard Brendan Haywood was a great offseason addition to help Biyombo’s development. Haywood is far from an offensive threat, but he is passable on that end. It took him a long time to establish himself as a solid option, so perhaps he can quicken that learning curve for the Bobcats. Haywood is getting older and requires less minutes, but when he is on the court his defense is decent enough where he can spell Biyombo perfectly without sacrificing too much.)
As for Byron Mullins, he finally escaped from the Oklahoma City Thunder and their far too talented roster, in hopes of carving a name for himself in Charlotte. Last season, all that was really asked of him was to become a better player than Tyrus Thomas, the incumbent unhappy power forward who just collects paychecks at this point. Did he succeed? Yes, because he actually played, where as Tyrus just mailed the season in.
Byron played well enough last year to give Bobcats fans hope that he might become a scorer for them. His midrange ability showed itself last season, albeit a bit inconsistently. He will never be Dirk Nowitzki, but he can hit enough to keep defenses in check and counteract Bismack. Charlotte really liked making him the focal point of their offense last year (his usage rate was a crazy 22.5), but unfortunately he couldn’t hit shots consistently. Then again, no one on the Bobcats could do that, either.
Mullens issue was at the defensive end, where he couldn’t stop a beach ball. He really hadn’t played NBA basketball consistently until last season, and it showed. If Mullins can adjust to the speed of the game accordingly, his hard work and good size could make him passable on the defensive end. He needs to help Biyombo out more, because he is a sloth on defense. I think, in time, he could become better with help defense and fulfill the potential that Thunder GM Sam Presti once saw in him.
Worst Case Scenario
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’ knee ends up being far more of a problem that originally presumed. The same one that made him sit all but one summer league game just isn’t right, and he is forced to miss the majority of the season. That would leave their small forward position in the hands of Reggie Williams, the soon-to-be 26 year old Virginia native who failed to make an impact in Golden State prior to last season. MKG, when healthy, proves that his shooting ability leaves more than a bit to be desired, and his offensive production is disastrous. Add in his lingering knee issue, and his lateral movement and ability to stay in front of the man he is guarding is robbed. After realizing that MKG is obviously hurt, Charlotte sits him for the remainder of the season, and his effect is marginalized.
Bismack Biyombo, on the other hand, makes little progress in terms of anything outside of blocking ability. Offensively, he is a disaster and, while he tries to shoot more jumpers, fails to make any of them. His progress resembles more Olowokandi than that of Serge Ibaka, and justifying him being on the court becomes a harder and harder task. Instead, they opt for Brendan Haywood, in hopes of some marginally better production. The result is that Haywood, having complained the entire season of coming off the bench (as he did earlier in his career with the Wizards), becomes a malcontent. He failed to put in the effort earlier in the season, and his conditioning is poor. He proves to be a worse option than Biyombo, and thus the Bobcats are stuck with two poor performers occupying the same position.
Byron Mullens, on the other hand, shoots about as poorly as Adam Morrisson, and stagnates the offense with his ball stopping, ill-advised jumper hoisting ways. He doesn’t provide anything on the defensive end, and what was once predicted to be a stingy defense is now a sieve. With Mullens playing terribly, the Bobcats have to rely on, quite possibly, a worse option in Tyrus Thomas, who is already fed up with the Bobcats. His sour mood infects the front court, and the rest of the team feeds off his dismal morale, leading the entire team into mutiny. In a worst case scenario, the Bobcats have an offensively brutal, malcontent, and slightly injured front court that lacks the wherewithal to do any better than last season. They don’t stop anyone, and continue having the worst record in the league.
The ongoing saga surrounding Dwight Howard has come to a close. Last night the all-star and former defensive player of the year was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four team deal.
With all the rumored offers on the table from teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Houston Rockets, the Magic decided to send Howard to Hollywood in return for Aaron Afflalo and a bevy of protected first round picks from teams that will almost assuredly be outside of the lottery. While the reasoning behind Orlando pulling the trigger on this deal at this time is perplexing to me, as I believe Brooklyn and Houston’s offers were better, it signifies that the Magic are entering “rebuilding mode”– which is great for the Wizards.
This marks the second time this offseason where a playoff team from the Southeast division has shipped their best player out of town (Joe Johnson to Brooklyn being the other instance). In each case the argument can be made that the Hawks and Magic took a step back (in Orlando’s case a few hops, skips and jumps back) in order to rid themselves of massive headaches inside their organizations.
How does all of this movement effect our Washington Wizards? In short, it brings them closer to the top of the division. While the Miami Heat are still the cream of the crop in the division, that race for number two in the Southeast is up for grabs.
Atlanta should still be competitive with Josh Smith and Al Horford in their lineup but the loss of arguably their best perimeter scoring threat in Joe Johnson will hurt. The thing about the Hawks is they are a much better team when Josh Smith isn’t continuously falling back in love with his jump shot. With Joe Johnson now gone, all I can see is J-Smoove thinking it’s his time to become “The Guy” on the perimeter for Atlanta. Keep pulling up from 18 feet and beyond and you’ll make a lot of Wizards fans happy, Josh.
Orlando has taken a massive step back and will more than likely be challenging the Bobcats for the Cellar Dweller award in the division. Without Dwight Howard in the fold first year head coach Jacque Vaughn has his hands full figuring out how to make this team competitive. They did pick up some nice young pieces in this deal in Afflalo and Mo Harkless, but to think that those two, in addition to Jameer Nelson and Hedo, will be enough to vault Orlando to the playoffs again is a bit extreme.
Charlotte, fresh off becoming statistically the worst team in NBA history, hasn’t done much to shake up their roster this offseason. In are Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions and out is D.J. Augustin. I think in time MKG will be an impact player for Charlotte but to think he’ll be able to really help carry the load on offense as a rookie is extreme. The fact of the matter is the Bobcats still aren’t much of a threat to do anything in the division with the roster they have assembled. Quite frankly I’m not sure why I dedicated this much space to a team that is coming off a 7 win season.
The Wizards are set up nicely to make a move towards the top of the division. With perennial playoff teams Orlando and Atlanta taking steps back it is possible to think that a 2nd or 3rd place finish in the division isn’t out of the question. The Southeast has been at least a three playoff team division for the past five seasons. There is little doubt in my mind that this trend will continue going forward.
Should the Wizards make the type of jump that we believe they are capable of making this season with the additions of Nene, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal they should absolutely contend for one of the eight playoff spots in the East. John Wall said he wanted to be the “savior” of the Washington Wizards…here is your chance John, lead us back to the playoffs where the Wizards belong.
*This is a two part series wherein I will be breaking down Nene and Okafor both offensively and defensively*
After watching the fifth and final game for the Washington Wizards in Las Vegas for the Summer League, I couldn’t help but get a little giddy for next season. Our biggest offseason addition (via the draft), Bradley Beal, looks like his career is going to be defined by his ability to be one cool customer at all times. The Andray Blatche demons of the past have been excised from the franchise, and a comeback win to give the Wizards young guys some momentum for the remainder of the summer was just what this roster needed. Or at least, almost, because we also forget that the Wizards added another piece that figures to play largely into their future: Emeka Okafor.
Okafor is going to be combined in the front court next season with another veteran big man in Nene Hilario, who can also be considered “new” because we only got to see him suit up for the Wizards 11 times last season total. Adding the two together means that Washington’s front court is completely revamped heading into next season, and it’s worth trying to peer into the future to see just how well it’s going to mesh/what fans should be expecting.
Okafor and Nene have a surprisingly huge amount in common. The two were both born just 12 days apart in September of 1982, stand in the 6’10 – 6’11 range, weigh between 250-260 lbs, and play incredibly similar positions on the court. Seeing as how both guys are going to be 30 when the Wizards begin the opening season, this gives us a bit of a safety net in terms of projecting their success next year. Around that age, players are directly in the middle of their prime; any extra stellar performances are more statistical aberration than future performance indicators. So that being said, just how good is this front court going to be?
From a scoring standpoint:
Simply put, the Wizards have two of the most efficient scoring big men in the NBA playing at the power forward and center position.
Let’s look at Nene for now. Nene’s career shooting percentage sits at an immaculate 56% from the field. That number ranks 11th All-Time amongst NBA players; it’s better than Kevin McHale, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlain — it’s that impressive. His efficiency is off the charts good, but the tradeoff is that Nene is never going to be a prime time scoring big man because he just doesn’t shoot enough. For example, during the 2010-2011 season (which we’ll use because it was not a shortened season and Nene was actually healthy) Nene only attempted 654 field goals. That’s a paltry number, and it’s worse than low scoring players like Rajon Rondo, Charlie Villanueva, Chase Budinger, and even ‘ol Gilbert Arenas. Obviously, that number is going to be lower because Nene requires less shots to score his points, but it also means that he doesn’t demand the ball nearly enough. The end result is that Nene will always give you about 15 points per game every single night, with not much more and not much less.
Nene’s shots, during his last healthy season in ’10-’11 (because believe me, we don’t want to look at the last year’s small sample) came largely from inside at 52% from close range. The others came from his jumper that he showed off last year in spurts, sitting at 29%. Believe it or not, Nene still only converted 39% of those, which, brace yourselves….is actually lower than JaVale McGee (he completed 44% of his, while shooting more of them). I know that’s a tough pill to swallow, but the reality is that Nene’s jumper is on and off, much like McGee’s. Which means if you’re expecting him to be a stretch 4, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed.
The statistical aberration may have come last season when Nene was traded to Washington, because for one reason or another he ended up taking 56% of his shots as jumpers. The result was that he hit 46% of them, and that is why most Wizards fans peg him as having a knock down jumper. If Nene has, in fact, gotten significantly better at that, then without a doubt it’s good news for the team, but if he hasn’t then it does not mean he’s necessarily a worse player by any means.
Okafor is slightly less effective with the ball on offense, but he remains one of the more efficient centers in the league today. Oddly enough, Okafor’s best shooting season was during 2010-2011, where he was third in the NBA at 57.3% behind only–you guessed it: Nene and Dwight Howard. His career percentage is a bit lower at 52%, but if you exclude his rookie season that number is quite a bit higher. Again, because they’re similar players in terms of offensive demand, Okafor’s number is a tad deceiving as well when you consider he only shot the ball 7.3 times a game that season, averaging 10.3 points per. He is not a guy you can even come remotely close to considering instant offense. Want a scary statistic about Okafor?
Over 72 games during the 2010-2011 season, Emeka didn’t break 10 points 31 times. His first game of the season against the Milwaukee Bucks, Emeka didn’t even attempt a shot over about 26 minutes of play.
An interesting little factoid is that, despite the notion that JaVale McGee scored the vast majority of his points on dunks, he was actually at a lower rate than Okafor when you compare their most recent healthy seasons (2011 for Okafor and 2012 for JaVale). 16% for Emeka and 15% for JaVale according to 82games.com. Emeka surprisingly takes a lot of jumpers, as 32% of his shots in ’11 comprised of them. Except that he was brutal at converting, making only 39% of his jumpers. That mark actually ties the McGee of last year, who shot them 42% of the time and with the exact same amount of success. The rest of his shots come from close range at 46%, where he completely 95% of them. Basically what this tells us is that offensively, Emeka may very well be a downgrade from the previous center.
Their abilities to move the ball:
One thing that Nene has been notorious for throughout his career is his uncanny passing ability. For a center, the ability to pass out of a double team is a coveted skill, and it is where Nene excels. During the 2010-2011 season, Nene distributed 149 assists over 75 games, for an average of 2 per game in about 30 minutes of play. The distribution is as follows: 43 of those assists were to three point shooters, 38 assists for jump shots inside the three point line, 52 assists for close range layups, and 16 assists for dunks. What stands out is his distribution of those assists; he can get the ball to shooters and slasher anywhere on the court. If the Wizards decide to run set plays, Nene will be there to hit open jump shooters. The implications of applying Nene’s passing ability with Bradley Beal are absolutely frightening.
Also key to note is how smart Nene is with the ball. Despite having a turnover rate of 2.8 in 2010-2011, those were more related to his small hands than his inability to pass. His passing turnovers were actually incredibly low at only 41. That means for every 3.6 assists Nene dishes out, he’s turning the ball over once. That assist to turnover ratio was only .4 % points worse than John Wall’s last year. So yeah, Nene can pass really, really well.
Thank goodness we have Nene as a low post passer, because Emeka is pretty much a black hole down low. In ’10-’11, Okafor couldn’t manage to average one assist per game, and the result was that he finished with fewer assists than another notorious basketball vacuum in Nick Young. His 42 assists put him in the same company as former Supersonics draftee Johan Petro; he’s that brutal at it. The distribution is scant, but it can be noted that over half of his 42 assists were on jump shots. I think that number might be low because of the team he was playing on — New Orleans had Trevor Ariza and Marco Belinelli shooting for them. Neither of those guys is a knock-down shot specialist, and that may have lowered Okafor’s ability to get more assists. Honestly, I think it could just be that he’s not a good passer.
Their Free Throw shooting:
Again, in this category we see how different these two actually are. Whereas Nene is fantastic at drawing fouls and making his free throws, Okafor fails to accomplish either of those two things offensively very well. Nene attempted 402 free throws in 2010-2011 for the Nuggets, making 286 of them at the charity stripe (71%). That makes sense, since his low field goal attempts indicate that his points have to come from somewhere, and it’s at the line where he gets them. Nene also does a very good job of drawing fouls; that same season he drew 201 fouls at a rate of 23.5% (in terms of the amount of field goals he attempted). That puts him in the upper echelon of power forwards in terms of being fouled, which is a great thing for the Wizards. Free points from a big man who can actually make his shots at the line are always welcome.
But conversely, Okafor is your typical big man with regards to free throw shooting. Again in ’10-’11, Okafor struggled to get to the line and when he did, he missed a lot of them. He was fouled 126 times that season, and shot 258 free throws as a result. But Okafor left points on the board because he could only complete 56.2% of them (he made 145). He also wasn’t very good at drawing fouls, either, as he was fouled on only 19.5% of his field goals attempted. That paints the picture of a guy who is a very vanilla offensive threat whom defenses just don’t have to account for. Playing beside Nene, though, means that Okafor is going to have more open looks in the post because he really hasn’t had a quality big man partner ever. I think the pairing, though they both play very similarly, may ease some pressure off of Okafor and clear him up for one-on-one post ups where his size gives him an advantage.
So there you have it, a brief dissection of Nene and Okafor’s offensive potency as players. Take it as you will, but I do think that these two are going to play well off of one another offensively. Okafor is hardly an upgrade from JaVale offensively, but he can’t be considered much of a downgrade. Nene, on the other hand, if his jumper from last season become a consistent reality? He is going to tease Wizards fans much like he did during his stint with the Nuggets.
Coming tomorrow is part two: a defensive breakdown of the two players.
All statistics courtesy of 82games.com hoopdata.com and basketballreference.com
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