Tag Archives: Emeka Okafor
Washington @ Boston, 7:30 PM
RECORD: Washington (0-2), Boston (1-2)
Why you should watch: Grudge Match
This second game has an almost college-like feel to it, as the Wizards play the Celtics for the second time in five days to finish up this home-home matchup. The first game was marred by Washington’s slow start in the first quarter, where nothing was going in and the defensive stops were similarly not happening. The starters have gotten off to a bad start in both games this season, and that has to change in order for the Wizards to win.
Luckily, Kevin Seraphin and Jordan Crawford came off the bench to help alleviate some of the listlessness of the starting five. Seraphin didn’t miss a shot until midway through the third quarter, and he finished with 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting, and chipped in 7 rebounds as well. Crawford, meanwhile, had 21 points on an efficient shooting night but rolled his ankle during the game and hasn’t really practiced all week since.
For the Wizards to win, they are going to need Crawford healthy, but more importantly they are going to need more out of their starters. That includes the young Bradley Beal, who failed to make a shot in his home opener. Without question, Beal is going to want to make up for that again and try to win the matchup against Courtney Lee tonight. Through two games Ariza has been a complete nonfactor, and Okafor simply cannot provide the offense expected of him (though defensively he hasn’t been entirely brutal). Adding Nene would help, but he is still listed as questionable.
1.) Bradley Beal’s Zeal
As I stated before, Bradley Beal was downright awful in his home opener. He got some lawn chairs, a portable TV, and coronas and just posted up at the three point line all night expecting others to do the work for him. Well, that strategy didn’t work (and it rarely does against the Celtics), so it’s back to the drawing board for Beal. His struggles can be blamed on his youth, but at the same time the #3 pick isn’t paid to be youthful; he is paid to score points and be aggressive.
Beal can get back on track, but Courtney Lee is a tough guy to go up against. His tendencies are to not leave his man and play him tough. Beal should be constantly moving without the ball to create open looks for himself and force Lee to always be on the move. Finding open lanes is going to be, really, the only time he will get to score. Let’s hope he doesn’t put up another dud, or he may find himself sopping up bench minutes (and I really, don’t think he’s a bench player).
2.) Will Jordan Crawford be healthy?
That’s a big one. Jordan Crawford was the biggest reason the Wizards were even in the game last Saturday, and if his ankle is not right it could spell doom for Washington. His spark off the bench is one that I was calling for in the offseason simply because he is, as my colleague stated, “a microwave.” He can heat up at the push of a button, or he can go cold after an amount of time. Either way, it looks great when he comes in and carries the load.
He hasn’t practiced, but I can imagine the Wizards only did that as a precautionary move so as not to further stress the injury. If Crawford can’t cut to the basket as well on drives and has to rely on his outside shooting, Washington is going to hurt.
Washington goes to the Garden and slaps a Boston team upside the head for a revenge win thanks to stronger performances by their starters. Beal finally has his breakout game and the Wizards take the W on the road.
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.
According to an Olympic blog report by Rick Maese of the Washington Post it appears as if the injury that sidelined Wizards PF/C Nene during the end of the 2011-2012 regular season has reared its ugly head again.
“Nene walked with a slight
limp after the game. The
plantar fasciitis that bothered
him at times last season has
flared up, he said.
“When the ball goes up, I
forget about that, though,”
After Brazil’s opening round win against Australia Nene made those comments. This would explain more why Nene was coming off the bench for the Brazilian national team thus far. While it is admirable that Nene is not letting the nagging injury effect his efforts to represent his country it is the last thing Wizards fans want to hear.
With the acquisitions of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza the Wizards had finally assembled a front court they were confident could compete. This particular re-occurrence shouldn’t be anything that effects Nene long term but it would be nice for him to be as close to 100% as possible come training camp.
Last night, Washington Post columnist Mike Wise released the full transcript of a 45-minute interview he had earlier this week with Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. There were many interesting tid bits of information in this piece and Ted was extremely candid in his responses to Wise’s questioning addressing coaching hires, the growth of John Wall, new types of technology the Wizards are using and, of course, the amnesty of Andray Blatche. After taking the time to read the interview I have prepared a few thoughts on some of the comments, as well as others pertaining to the Wizards, made by Leonsis.
Additions to the coaching staff:
The addition of Don Newman to the bench as an assistant coach is a major move towards the Wizards going from bottom-feeder to competitive NBA franchise in the eyes of Leonsis. As he put it “Part of the rolling the stone up the hill is changing the culture and going from losing to winning. We have to make the investments in scouting and all the little things – coaching, player development.” Leonsis followed this up by hinting that the Wizards weren’t done adding to the coaching staff noting that there should be more news coming out concerning the hiring of assistant’s to Randy Wittman as well as shooting coaches to help nurture some of our younger players games. One thing that stuck out to me while reading this transcript was how much emphasis Leonsis has placed on giving the investments he has made in our roster everything they need in order to be successful.
Importance of Nene to the team:
Leonsis was very up-front with Wise as to how pleased he has been with the acquisition of Nene. “Nene, he’s a really good player, he’s a really good person and he’s a really good leader. And he is happy to be here. We bonded. That was important.” He goes on to note how great of a job Nene has done in helping mentor the Wizards breakout performer from 2011-2012, Kevin Seraphin, up until this point. As we have all seen by now Seraphin took a major step forward in his development last season once Wittman took the helm, with the type of knowledge of the NBA game that Nene could provide to Seraphin this could be a major benefit to the French National Team member as his professional career continues to evolve.
On the Rashard Lewis trade:
Much like he was with the Gilbert Arenas trade, Leonsis was extremely impressed in Ernie Grunfeld’s ability to deal Rashard Lewis and the $23,ooo per minute played for the Wizards last year for two rotation players in Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. “We took the second-highest-paid player in the league…and replaced him with two players that will play big minutes who each averaged 10-15 points a game. We were getting 0 from Rashard.” I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more. Even though there are still some people who are not happy with the trade Grunfeld was able to secure the Wizards something for essentially the paper that Rashard Lewis’ max contract was written on. We may not all love Grunfeld’s draft record but if there is something that we can all agree on it is his ability to be a shrewd negotiator when it comes to trades with other franchises.
On the development of John Wall:
Naturally, Ted had a plethora of thoughts on the development of the Wizards franchise player, John Wall, as he heads into year three of his NBA career. Leonsis is of the opinion, which is shared by most fans, that the best has yet to come for Wall and his third season with the Wizards should be the next step in his path to becoming an All-NBA level PG. “John has a lot of upside still in his game. Compare his stats the first two years in the league against the stars guards and point guards in the league — Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Rondo — he compares favorably with them. So this is an important year for John.”
This is clearly what every Wizards fan hopes is the case. Wall needs to continue to improve upon his game in a major way going into this season in order to solidify himself as one of the leagues premier floor generals. The strong veteran presence he now has surrounding him along with a very impressive draft pick Beal should lend Wall the chance to fully realize the vast potential that is evident in his game. This is the year where all those other guards that Leonsis compared John Wall’s first two seasons to broke up and became the stars that they are today, it’s time for Wall to step up to the plate and be the leader and cornerstone of this franchise that we all believe he can be.
On whether next season is Playoffs or bust:
Leonsis has been quoted on multiple occasions as saying that he does not plan on being back in the NBA Draft Lottery next season. I would venture to say that all Wizards fans want this to be the case come the end of April in 2013. Wise used this quotation to pose the question of whether or not jobs would be on the line were the Wizards to fall short of that goal. “I won’t be happy with our plan if we’re back in the lottery . . . If we just miss making a playoff spot, no, the world is not going to end. If we’re picking third because we have the second-worst record, no, I will not be happy.”
Leonsis clearly wants to see marked improvement from his franchise as they move into the third, and according to Leonsis and Grunfeld, final year of the “rebuild”. Should the Wizards lay an egg next season and once again finish towards the bottom of the NBA I would have to imagine there will be some wholesale changes going on throughout different levels of the franchise. I am not going to be the ignorant fan whose expectations are so lofty that the team will potentially fall short of said goals. The Wizards will without a doubt be a better, more competitive team than they were last season. Will that translate into being one of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference? I am not sure, but with the addition made at the trade deadline last year and the moves Grunfeld has completed in the off-season thus far there is reason for hope that the Wizards will once again return to playing competitive, winning basketball.
On new technologies utilized in scouting and developing talent:
This was news to me, apparently the Wizards have made some large investments in the technological side of the franchise. One proponent of this is a man by the name of Joe Sill and according to Leonsis, Sill has quite the impressive resume. “Joe presents on occasion at that stats thing at MIT. Double-math PHd. He’s almost like a technical trader on Wall St. I can pick a company you should invest in. He’ll never meet the CEO, but he knows from the numbers which ones to pick.” Must be nice right? This isn’t to say that the Wizards are attempting to become the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s but as Leonsis later mentions, “there is a big, big role in informing some decisions.”
Just to throw out a couple of particulars that Leonsis used to help prove this point; The Wizards defensive rebounding totals went up “dramatically” when Nene was acquired for Javale McGee, specifically the amount of rebounds that Wizards guards were reeling in. ” If your forwards are pushing their men out, that’s not a stat. That’s something you follow. That means the guards have the opportunity to get the rebounds and initiate their own break.” Hard to argue with that point at all.
Also worth noting, the Wizards are one of the few teams in the NBA that have installed HD super heat-seeking missile cameras. Yes, that’s right, we are using heat-seeking missile cameras to track our players while on the court. According to Leonsis, “This thing creates real-time heat maps. Literally you can get down to the pixels on the floor. Where are the shots being taken, where are the shots being made, where are the picks being made. It does interesting things like, how many dribbles on a fast break does your guard hold the ball before he dishes off, and was their a good shot made versus other guards in the league.” This kind of asset will go an extremely long way when it comes to player development, especially when utilized it practice sessions.
The ability to tell a guard that by dribbling two less times before making a pass that he would be 70% more likely to convert said opportunity is a fantastic teaching tool. It shouldn’t be overly surprising that a man who made the majority of his riches with AOL would be well ahead of the curve when it comes to the use of different technologies and how they can be used as teaching mechanisms in sports. I couldn’t agree with Leonsis more when he says, “Bringing in these analytics, bringing in high IQ, good people it’s all a part of trying to change a losing culture to a winning culture,” and a winning culture is what we need to re-establish here in the district.
On retaining Randy Wittman as head coach:
Wise plugged away at Leonsis’ decision to retain GM Ernie Grunfeld as well as head coach Randy Wittman with the Wizards organization. In response, Leonsis mentioned how he handled the exit interviews with all of the Wizards players and one of the questions he asked each and every Wizards player was their thoughts on how Wittman had done as their head coach. Leonsis noted that before he could even pose the question to Nene he was met with an extremely positive endorsement of Wittman. “Before I could ask the question, Nene was, ‘I played for a lot of coaches in the league. This is a really good coach. I really like how he treated me. I really like he taught the team. I think he works really good. I like him. I trust him. He’s authentic.’”
John Wall shared similar sentiments with Leonsis when it was time for his exit interview. “Then John Wall came in and said, ‘I know you want to bring a big-name coach in. I think you have a coach who can help me. I think the coach is doing a great job. So please keep Randy.’” Yet another endorsement from one of the teams marquee players.
Finally, Leonsis noted how Kevin Seraphin reacted to the question about Wittman during his exit interview. “Hey, he believed in me. He let me play. He developed my game. He yells at me. I like when he yells at me. Because he’s right when he yells at me.”
Needless to say, Randy Wittman had left a mark on this roster during his time as the Wizards interim head coach. These types of endorsements from the teams core players surely made the decision to retain Wittman as the Wizards permanent head coach an easy one for Leonsis and Grunfeld.
On the amnesty of Andray Blatche:
The obvious elephant in the room would center around none other than the decision to use the amnesty clause on Andray Blatche. Despite Leonsis’ belief that people deserve second and third chances in life this was a business decision that quite frankly had to be made. There were worries over where Blatche fit in with the lineup as it was currently constructed as well as the fact that he was the final holdover from the Gilbert Arenas era Wizards.
Wise pressed forward by asking Leonsis how he felt now about the extension that was given to Blatche in 2010 when compared to his quotes from two years ago where he repeatedly said how he felt signing Blatche to an extension was a great idea. Leonsis, resigned to the fact that the deal was a mistake had the following reply; “Yes — we made a mistake — although the NBA has had close to $250 million of amnestied players to date — sometimes you get a chance to take a mulligan under the new rules and that is what we did.”
Leonsis, however, was quick to not place the blame squarely on Blatche’s shoulders,”We are all in it together — so we are all to blame. Buck has to stop with me though as owner.” He went on to state how appreciative he was of Blatche’s apology to the fans and wished him nothing but the best as his career goes on. He did state that the decision to cut Blatche loose with a check for $23 million wasn’t particularly hard as “It was in best interest of franchise.”
All in all this was an extremely impressive interview by Mike Wise and major props need to be given to him for securing the time with Leonsis to ask all of these questions. After reading through this transcript, and sleeping on all the information taken in, I am even more excited for this upcoming season of Wizards basketball than I was before and that in and of itself is nothing short of a miracle as I am quite the WizKids fanatic.
*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
By: The DC Dime Staff
The Wizards made waves through the NBA news wires on Wednesday by acquiring Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor from the New Orleans Hornets for Rashard Lewis and the #46 overall selection in next Thursday’s NBA Draft. Here at The DC Dime anytime there’s major Wizards news that breaks we like to react to it as a whole in a segment we like to call the Pick N Pop. Since a member of the staff, Mike Willis, is off in South Carolina enjoying some fun in the sun on vacation Jason Colenda and I offer our takes on the major shake up to the roster.
1.) Reaction to hearing the news of this trade?
Bohlin: I was at my desk in the office trying as hard as I could to flip some software and hit my quota as the end of the quarter is approaching when my cell phone went berserk. When I finally looked at it and realized we’d traded Rashard “Won’t play for paychecks” Lewis and our later second round pick for Ariza and Okafor I was beside myself. “Ernie did it again” was what I thought, he’d taken trash and turned it into something useful. I even gave a little air fist pump to celebrate the news that the 24 million dollar gimp had been shown the door.
While Ariza and Okafor aren’t the missing pieces to a Wizards title run, they are more than serviceable. If they are both not starters then they will without question be rotation players. Which is more than we could say about Rashard during his time in the Nations Capital. The health of Okafor is still a major question mark as his knee troubled him the majority of last season, but if healthy he gives us a major upgrade on the defensive end of the floor. I look at Ariza in the same light, while his jump shot still be iffy he immediately becomes our top wing defender.
The Wizards got better as a result of this trade. We also locked ourselves in salary cap wise for the next two years as we took on salary on this deal. As a realist, I don’t mind this because you’re fooling yourself if you think we could’ve waived Lewis and convinced some top free agent to come to a losing team. That’s what we are right now, and the only way to climb out of that cellar is to infuse talent into this roster. That is what Ernie and Co. did on Wedesday.
Colenda: My initial reaction when hearing of the trade: “see ya when we see ya, Shard.” Lewis has been collecting the biggest pay checks in the NBA since he joined the Wizards after the Agent Zero trade, but hasn’t done a damn thing to earn them. Getting rid of the dead weight of his contract and his place on our bench was a big move for the Wizards, especially since they added two players capable of actually still contributing to an NBA team. Now are Okafor and Ariza still overpaid for what they are? Yeah probably, but there really are few good contracts in the NBA (everyone has an agent capable of gouging the league’s plethora of crappy GMs). But both of these guys represent a serious upgrade at their respective positions. Ariza will come in and be our starting small forward. He is a talented wing defender, who excels attacking the basket and working in transition but can occasionally get hot from three. He is an NBA champion (winning with Kobe and the Lakers) and will bring another winning presence into the locker room. Okafor probably won’t be taking a starting spot from Nene or our budding Frenchman in the front court, but he is certainly a huge upgrade as a first big off the bench. He is a physical banger, and although a little undersized, is a strong rim defender and rebounder. With the trade, Ernie made the Wiz deep, younger, and more talented while getting rid of dead weight of an albatross contract, certainly not a bad haul. This trade isn’t going to change the fate of our franchise, but it is, in my opinion, another step in the right direction.
2) Are we locked into taking Beal now/Your Wizards draft board
Bohlin: Technically, no. Realistically, yes. By addressing one of our major concerns at the SF position with the addition of Ariza it all but eliminates the possibility of MKG donning a Wizards jersey anytime soon. I personally preferred Beal to MKG before the trade was made, unlike some other dimer who won’t be named, so this is more than fine by me. Bradley Beal is a fantastic SG prospect that I firmly believe could flourish alongside John Wall.
The other real option remains to be North Carolina swing man Harrison Barnes. Barnes, by all accounts, was quite impressive during his workout in DC. He also auspiciously decided to cancel a scheduled workout with the Kings shortly after wrapping up his DC audition so there’s plenty of smoke there to fuel the speculation he could wind up being the #3 selection as well.
My Wizards draft board after this trade looks as so 1) Beal 2) Barnes 3) T. Robinson 4) MKG 5) Drummond. I strongly think the pick will be Beal or Barnes with the former Florida Gator having the edge.
Colenda: After seeing the trade, my first text to fellower Dimer Mr. Bohlin was “no MKG”. I think with the move, the Wizards showed their draft day hand. Adding a physical, banging big and a slashing small forward make we think that they are no longer considering Thomas Robinson and MKG. Not that continuing to add talent and depth at those positions would be a bad thing, it certainly would not be, but now the Wizards roster has more pressing holes to fill.
That need is at shooting guard. In my opinion, the top two players at that position in the draft are Beal, and Barnes. Now you may be saying, Barnes is a “small forward”, but he has the size and game of an NBA 2, and I think that’s the position he would be playing in DC. Either player would come in and be the starter from day one alongside Wall in the backcourt (sorry, Jordan), and expectations would be high for their future. Establishing a backcourt of the future with the number three pick seems to be what the Wizards have decided to do after yesterday’s move. The trade locked the Wizards into selecting one of those two players, whoever they deem the best of the bunch (and whoever is still available after MJ picks). If I’m Ernie, my draft board would look something like this: 1) Beal 2) Barnes 3) MKG 4)T.Rob.
3) With Nene, Okafor, Seraphin, Booker, Ariza and Vesely we have a logjam in the front court, were you Ernie what would your solution be?
Bohlin: Colenda and I have different views on this topic. While it’s nice to finally have some depth on the roster there is just too much in the front court and not even close to enough in the backcourt. I envision another trade happening as we approach the draft to be honest. Immediately I began throwing out the idea of Booker + #32 pick to move back into the first round and select another guard (I promise this isn’t because he went to Clemson and I am a USC graduate either, Go Cocks!). I think anywhere between picks 22-27 is a realistic landing spot and could net us a player such as sharpshooter John Jenkins out of Vanderbilt, Will Barton, the slasher from Memphis and native of Maryland, or a favorite of mine Doron Lamb out of Kentucky. The fact of the matter is our guard rotation is atrocious outside of John Wall and we need to address it in a major way in this draft. One of these bigs will need to be moved and since no one in their right mind would trade even a ball rack for Andray Blatche, Booker may be the odd man out.
Colenda: For starters, 6 players to fill out 3 positions isn’t a terrible situation. In fact, it’s a major upgrade what we’ve been in recent years, where we’ve been playing guys out of position and finishing in the bottom of the league in rebounding margin. While we don’t have a single dominant player, there are no Dwight Howard’s in the group, we have a strong core of players that all belong in the NBA and can be real contributors. The players are relatively complimentary as well; Ariza being a capable scorer and Vesely all defense, Booker can stretch the floor (just a bit) and Seraphin is all-inside all the time, and Nene is offensive minded and Okafor defensive. If I am Ernie, I’m sitting comfortably with my front court situation and not looking to make another move. The front court allows us to play multiple different types of line-ups, big and strong (Nene, Seraphin, Booker/Vesely), smaller but athletic (Ariza, Booker, Vesely/Nene) etc. This type of versatility allows you to match up with different styles of play much more effectively. The Wizards front court has quickly turned into his real strength over the past 6 months, and is much more prepared to compete at a winning level in the NBA.
4) Fill out your starting five + bench rotation heading into next season
6) We are all Seraphans