Tag Archives: John Wall
The Washington Wizards announced their preseason schedule for the upcoming 2012-2013 season on Thursday, with eight games set to be played before the regular season begins.
The preseason will start on October 7th, where Washington will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable arena. Bradley Beal will get the chance to beat the guy who got drafted over him in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, so that actually may be a watchable affair.
From there, the Wizards travel back to the Verizon Center, where they will take on the New York Knicks Thursday, October 11th. After that, they close out the rest of the preseason schedule on the road with games against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Brooklyn Nets (in the brand new arena built for Jay-Z and a Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov), the Toronto Raptors (in Maple Leaf country), the Milwaukee Bucks, the Miami Heat, and the San Antonio Spurs.
Obviously, it would be ideal to play more than one preseason game at home. Jet lag is a very real thing, and plane seating doesn’t accommodate these giant frames very well. On the other hand, it’s time for Bradley Beal to get used to traveling all over the place 82 times a year (at least). The sooner he gets into the groove of things, the better. Mostly I’m just selfish and would actually like to attend some of these games, strictly because I love the Wizards.
Below is the schedule:
|Sunday, Oct. 7||at Charlotte||Time Warner Cable Arena (Charlotte, NC)||1:00 p.m.|
|Thursday, Oct. 11||vs. New York||Verizon Center (Washington, DC.)||7:00 p.m.|
|Saturday, Oct. 13||at Cleveland||Quicken Loans Arena (Cleveland, OH)||7:30 p.m.|
|Monday, Oct. 15||at Brooklyn||Barclays Center (Brooklyn, NY)||7:30 p.m.|
|Wednesday, Oct. 17||at Toronto||Air Canada Centre (Toronto, Ont.)||7:00 p.m.|
|Saturday, Oct. 20||at Milwaukee||BMO Harris Bradley Center (Milwaukee, WI)||8:30 p.m.|
|Wednesday, Oct. 24||at Miami||Sprint Center (Kansas City, MO)||8:30 p.m.|
|Friday, Oct. 26||at San Antonio||AT&T Center (San Antonio, TX)||8:30 p.m.|
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.
Yesterday, there were news reports of Nene complaining about his lingering plantar fasciitis (the same one that plagued him all of last season), which gave Wizards fans a pause.
Considering the amount of money we owe this guy over the next few seasons, it is disheartening to learn that he may have to miss extended periods of time during the regular season. That kind of roster instability is never typically good for a team. Temporarily, good teams can overcome such injuries, as they typically have more depth on their rosters. But not for long. Look at Memphis last season, who lost Zach Randolph early in the year and had to play Marresse Speights. While they were fine for awhile, it began to wear on them and when Zach Randolph returned there was an adjustment period that they never fully figured out.
With the Wizards, there are two players on the roster who are prone to injury in Nene and Emeka Okafor. Luckily, the Wizards have a loaded front court; I don’t mean to say they have an incredibly talented front court, but that they have a lot of potential there. The Wizards can sub in Seraphin for Nene if he goes down any time, and if his play last year is any indication of how good he can be, the drop off will be only marginally felt. With Okafor, the Wizards would have to go small if there were an injury. If both of them go out, then we’re essentially playing with last years roster towards the end of the season. With that being the case, it’s worth looking in depth at what the Wizards most effective starting five were last season.
The only rules I’ve placed on this are that JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Andray Blatche are excluded—they’re not with the team anymore.
The Best of the Best
92.8 Minutes Played
4-0 Win-Loss Record
(I’m sure people are wondering about that Win-Loss record, and I’d be glad to explain it. Wins are defined as the number of games a unit outscored their opponent while on the court; losses are the inverse, with the number of times a unit was outscored over the course of a game while on the court.)
Back to this lineup: this was by far the Wizards most effective five man unit (without considering McGee and Young). They played the sixth most minutes of any lineup, and the results were better than anything else Washington threw out there. It’s a perfect example of the Nene effect.
With this five man unit, the Wizards outscored their opponent every time they were on the court (giving them a 4-0 record in that regard). The main reason is the Nene suddenly became the best jump shooter on the roster once he came to the Wizards. This unit displayed a 10% decrease in close range shots while they were on the floor from the most used unit (38% to 28%).
It wasn’t just Nene, however, as Booker showed off a newly found ability to hit set shots while on the floor as well. The spacing they created by knocking down fundamentally sound 15 footers changed the entire dynamic of the offense. With Wall able to drive against defenders who were on their heels wary of jump shooting big men, the paint softened a little and made his life a whole lot easier. This says nothing about Nene’s ability to pass, which makes him yet another person who can keep the ball moving to other players and force defenses to move around.
The other reason this unit excelled was because they could actually rebound (a huge fault of last years team). In fact, of the top 10 units played, their 53% rebounding mark (based on chances for rebounds) was the best the Wizards had to offer. This doesn’t surprise me much, given how often Trevor Booker was able to extend possessions on the offensive end of the court last season. He may be small, but Booker was arguably our best rebounding forward last season. He doesn’t do anything extra special; his positioning is so-so and his length is abysmal. He really just hustles and always works hard while he is on the court. Simple stuff that pays off. That is not to discredit Nene, though, who had some very solid rebounding games with the Wizards last year during his short stint. Either way, 53%, while great by our standards, still is not that impressive.
Since all of these players are hustle guys, the end result is that they held opponents to a poor 42% shooting from the field. All of these guys are individuals who try very hard on the defensive end, and that number reflects that. Nene, at the center position, provides a very strong anchor who is not going to be bullied in the paint. Combined with his help defense, this rotation made the Wizards a (dare I say it) formidable foe. Not to mention that this lineup provided enough scoring to allow Singleton to do what he does best, which is key in on wing defenders and stop the ball in man-to-man offense. He wasn’t asked to score, which he really should never be asked to do in the first place.
199 Minutes Played
10-10 W-L Record
Surprisingly enough, this combination of players is the one the Wizards trotted out the second most last season. Even more surprisingly is that they weren’t half bad as a unit either.
Knowing that, their 10-10 record is slightly impressive. That’s .500 basketball, boys! Let’s overlook the fact that with that lineup, the Wizards looked like the most one dimensional offensive team on the court at all times. No jump shooters to be found, with the best one being Jordan Crawford (who percentage wise is an awful jump shooter). Every single player on the floor is virtually incapable of scoring effectively from outside of 10 ft–and that’s being generous. So why, then, were they a formidable opponent?
It’s simple, really. They may not have been able to shoot that well, but that lineup was freaky athletic. When Seraphin mans the center position, he is almost always undersized. But what he gives up in size, he makes up for in quickness and athleticism. Vesely is similar in that he didn’t have a lot of skill last season, but he hustled a lot and his length bothers anyone he plays against. He can stay in front of opponents and contest shots.
Not to mention that all of the players know what they are good at and stick to it: close to the basket, high percentage shots. Of the top 20 lineups the Wizards trotted out last season, only 5 had a better FG% than this one had at 45.6%. Vesely dunks, Seraphin bangs down low, Wall drives, Singleton doesn’t shoot (the most effective shot for him sometimes), and Crawford provides the inconsistent jumper from everywhere else/fastbreak points. That’s it, really.
If this lineup had a better shooter *cough* Bradley Beal *cough* they might actually prove to be a formidable opponent. The shooting was this lineups problem because they were prone to droughts in scoring due to teams keying in on the paint. That’s part of the reason why they were -18 in net points scored.
The Potential Unit
33.9 Minutes Played
2-1 Win Loss Record
I know, this five man unit only played about 34 minutes, but when you hear about how successful they were on the court it is definitely an encouraging sign. The lineup consists of the majority of the young core of players the Wizards want to build around, and they performed admirably in their limited minutes.
In terms of scoring while on the court, they finished +17 overall against their opponents. Again, this goes back to the balance between skill sets that these players have. Cartier Martin provides a much better deep threat than most players on the roster, and his ability to consistently hit three point shots created a similar spacing effect to Nene. It is a noticeable trend on this team that Wall performs his best when there is at least one Wizards player able to stretch the defense on the court. No shock, there anyway. With this sort of in and out balance of basketball, the Wizards again shot 8% less from in close than their most used unit (37% to 29%). I shudder imagining what Bradley Beal could bring to this rotation if they moved Martin to the three and played Beal at the two.
What they really did well, however, is lock down opponents defensively, which lends credence to the belief that Seraphin is actually an effective defensive player. In their small amount of minutes, they actually held opponents to the lowest field goal percentage of any unit at 36%. It’s a minuscule sample size, but since we’re going off potential I love this unit. The entire unit has solid size at every position except for center, and there really aren’t that many good centers around to dominate Seraphin. The end result is that, at the very least, the Wizards weren’t undersized. It allowed them to split ~50/50 on rebounds.
If we’re judging units on potential, I feel pretty darn confident if the Wizards are forced to play with these young guys (assuming they improve in the offseason). Add in Bradley Beal to this youth group, and the Wizards are looking pretty solid next season.
The conclusion I drew from this is that Washington can overcome a Nene injury. Heck, they can probably even overcome an Okafor injury at the same time. Their young rotations show potential, and as long as there is a proper balance on the court, Washington should be okay. That being said, the Wizards need Nene in order to be a complete team, and he will become an integral part of the future as long as he is healthy.
By: Bohlin and Willis
The Washington Wizards made a move for a backup point guard today in signing free agent A.J. Price to a contract. This is a move that surely will appease the fan base as they have been voicing their opinion for an upgrade at that position. As always, The DC Dime is here to offer our opinions in a section we call the Pick and Pop.
1) Feelings on A.J. Price signing?
Bohlin: As I noted here I have been sold on signing A.J. Price to fill this backup point guard role well before the news broke this morning.
Price has an unbelievable story which helps me feel as strongly about this signing as I do. There has been an immense amount of adversity in his life and the fact he overcame said odds and has thrived says a lot about him as a person. A life-threatening bout with AVM (Arteriovenous malformation) that caused bleeding in his brain forced Price to miss his entire freshman season at UConn. Price underwent radio-surgery treatment in 2005 and spent a total of 14 months recovering before finally being cleared by his doctors.
Despite beating the disease, things got ugly for Price. In August of 2005 Price, and former UConn Huskie Marcus Williams, were arrested for attempting to sell stolen laptops. As a result of this arrest, Price was barred from attending classes during the Fall 2005 semester. Instead of falling off into oblivion Price worked to get back into school and ended up being a three-year starter for Jim Calhoun.
During 2008-2009, Price’s senior season at UConn, he was the Huskies leading scorer averaging a shade under 15 PPG. He also was an intricate part of UConn’s Final Four run, being named Most Outstanding Player in the West Regional.
A second round pick (#52) by the Indiana Pacers in 2009, Price has had trouble finding solid minutes during his professional career. In Indiana there seemed to be a revolving door of point guards that would be brought in over him (Earl Watson, Darren Collison, George Hill, Leandro Barbosa and most recently D.J. Augustin).
Despite being constantly passed over for his opportunity Price continued to work and proved to be a reliable option as a backup PG for the Pacers. The Indiana Pacers blog on the SB Nation network referred to Price as “their security blanket point guard and a locker room favorite.” For a team in desperate need of a reliable option at backup PG, this description is more than fine for me to be happy with this acquisition.
Willis: While I do love me some back story, especially when it involves one of my favorite college players of all time in Marcus Williams, I am pretty ho-hum about this signing. While Price obviously has the intangibles that would suggest he is wise beyond his years, I’m not sure he was the man for the job of backup point guard. I would have liked the Wizards to pick up someone who has been in the league longer than three years (or one year longer than John Wall). He is a veteran with playoff experience, sure, but he played scant minutes and didn’t perform admirably during the times he was on the court.
Worse still, I’m not sure he solves any of those Wizards issues on the court. His stats suggest that he is inept at stretching the floor with a long range shot, which is really something that Washington still needs. The Wizards basically just put a body in place by not being active earlier in the offseason. I’m not convinced that Price is going to provide a tangible benefit with his playing ability. I don’t even know if he can play alongside John Wall considering neither of them can shoot very well, which means that he is not going to be able to play solid minutes and add versatility to Washington.
2) Is Price an upgrade…Or lateral move?
Bohlin: Absolutely an upgrade. Despite being a great college PG at Butler University I just haven’t seen what I’d hoped out of Shelvin Mack to feel comfortable with him being the one to spell John Wall going forward. To make matters worse for Mack he was far from inspiring while a part of the Wizards Vegas Summer League team. His performance in Sin City certainly helped in the decision to bring Price to the district.
Price, to this point in his career, has more than proven he is a reliable backup PG who can come in and run the offense effectively with the second unit. When given the opportunity to get rotation
minutes, Price is a more than capable point guard for a competitive NBA team. He averaged 6 PPG and a shade under 3 APG during a 16 game stretch last season where he earned 18 minutes per game for the Pacers.
Willis: He’s an upgrade, but barely. Even of that I’m not entirely sure, but it’s hard to believe that any player can be a whole lot worse than Shelvin Mack. In Price, the Wizards get a guy who knows how to distribute the ball well despite being inept at shooting. I think his ability to get around defenders is going to be a major upgrade over the cement footed Mack, and he should be able to set up Beal or Crawford for a potentially explosive second unit. That is going to be much needed, because I think Beal, at least, needs to play alongside a guy who can create some space for him to get that slow release shot off. If we throw in a few lobs or open jumpers by a now improved Vesely, the Wizards may in fact be upgraded.
Interesting to note about Price: He has over a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio even in diluted playing time. That’s a good thing for the Wizards, because it means even though he wasn’t playing a lot, he still wasn’t trying to “get his” while he was on the court. I think, at the very least, Washington made an upgrade in the fluidity of their second unit. Hopefully this means that if Mack does get minutes, he can play at a position better suited for him as a severely undersized two. Of course, if Washington blows it on this signing, then it means there are literally no jump shooters outside of Beal on the entire team. The end result could be just as disastrous as last year, and that is not what the Wizards want.
So can this potentially work? Yes. Can this potentially be a disaster? You bet. I would have rather Washington added a much better shooter than Price (even if he isn’t a point guard) because I think Crawford or Beal could be the primary ball handler on those teams. But, whatever. You take what you can get, and this is who we got.
3) Biggest remaining need for the Wizards?
Bohlin: This may sound like a cop out answer to this question but in my opinion the biggest remaining need for the Wizards would simply be cohesion.
In one and three quarters of a season this roster has been completely flipped. Our longest tenured players are John Wall, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker…also known as the 2010 draft class. Ernie Grunfeld brought in some veterans to help John Wall continue to grow into the star many believe he can ultimately be. However, the fact remains he will have played a total of 11 games with the rest of the Wizards projected starting lineup of Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and, of course, Nene. The more comfortable Wall can become playing alongside this group the better the Wizards will be next season.
Bringing in a veteran, albeit still young at only 25, backup PG will do nothing but help the second unit that presumably will be led by Kevin Seraphin as well. Price has been patiently waiting for his opportunity to receive steady minutes and that is what he will receive in D.C. If Price can come in and be the floor general for the second unit, mostly made up of last seasons starting lineup, like I think he is capable of the Wizards will be a vastly improved team going into the 2012-2013 campaign.
Willis: Ernie, come on man, the Wizards still cannot shoot! Just because you drafted one guy who can hit shots in Beal (and I’m still not sure he can do it at an incredibly high rate) does not mean Washington is that much improved from last year. Sure, everything is revamped now and players are going to get better, but who in the world stretches the floor for us? Chris Singleton? Yeah, have fun with that. Nene is not a stretch four and neither is Seraphin. That means the Wizards now have the following players who have to score from inside the paint: Nene, Seraphin, Wall, Crawford, Okafor, Booker, Ariza (if he can score at all), Vesely, Mack, and Singleton. From the perimeter? Cartier Martin and Beal (we hope). Yeah, safe to say this team is one dimensional.
I’m not sure where we have room for it, but a stretch three or four would be the next biggest need now. Or a stretch two, or a stretch one, or a stretch five. Any able bodied individual who can hit a jump shot consistently. Anything! I’d be okay with signing the most one dimensional player ever who can only hit shots. Unfortunately I think in order to get someone like this on our team to play solid minutes, someone else has to be shipped out. I don’t think Ernie is going to want to do that, though.
So yeah, we need more shooters but we don’t have room for them. A year to grow is going to help, too. I think with this much roster turnover the Wizards also need one thing: time. Who knows how effective this unit can be and who could become a breakout player (or shooter); It’s mostly a wait and see deal. Until then, I think Washington has to stay put.
This is the second and final installment of breaking down Nene and Emeka Okafor, but be sure to check out part one here.
The Washington Wizards, in dire need of a big man to come in and become a force in the middle, traded for Emeka Okafor during the offseason in hopes that he would become that player. While offensively Okafor is going to make only a marginal difference, on defense is where his reputation in the NBA has been carved out. Nene, on the other hand, will for certain make a difference on offense, it’s still unclear what his defensive impact really is. Since we already covered their offensive abilities in part one, we’ll take a look at their defensive skills in part two.
In terms of rebounding ability:
Even though these two big men are similar in physical stature, not all bulky bodies are able to rebound equally. Okafor and Nene are miles apart in their capabilities on the offensive and defensive glass. We’ll start by discussing Okafor, because his accomplishments are worth noting. In Emeka Okafor, the Washington Wizards finally have a big man who likes to get on the boards. Gone is JaVale McGee, and in is a guy who, among active players, ranks behind only Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett in rebounds per game at 10.1. In that order. Rebounds per game obviously aren’t a catch-all stat, but if the saying “Birds of a feather, flock together” holds any weight in basketball, we can see exactly what Washington is about to get.
What makes Emeka such a good rebounder is his knack for being very active on the offensive end. Six of his eight seasons in the NBA thus far, Okafor has been in the top 10 in offensive rebounds. The two other seasons where he missed the mark, Okafor was injured the majority of them (including last year). In 2008-2009 with the New Orleans Hornets, Okafor pulled down 275 offensive rebounds, good for second in the NBA. Because he isn’t a blow-you-away athlete, Okafor is a permanent fixture in the low post and tends not to venture too far from his wheelhouse. The end result is that Okafor extends possessions using his big body to force other defenders into less than ideal rebounding areas. Wizards fans are going to be amazed at how cerebral Okafor is when it comes to rebounding. He isn’t quite Kevin Love, but he is leaps and bounds ahead of JaVale McGee in terms of playing the angles.
When it comes to defensive rebounding, Okafor is no slouch, either. His career average of 6.7 is solid (it’s about on rebound shy of Tyson Chandler’s mark) but it doesn’t mean anything without some more context. For example, Okafor also is great in a very telling statistic: Total Rebound Percentage (this calculates the total percentage of available rebounds grabbed while said player is on the court). In TRP, Okafor is right up there with All-Star centers at 18.30. He is eight for his career among active players, behind only guys like Tim Duncan, Marcus Camby, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, and Ben Wallace. In other words? The dude is Windex on the glass.
That rebounding ability is a damn good thing, because his counterpart, Nene, can’t really rebound well at all for a guy his size. Nene’s career TRP is a paltry 13.5, which doesn’t crack the top 75 and puts him in a grouping with a bunch of small forwards and poor rebounding power forwards. Not to bring up a sore subject, but he is actually very similar in TRP to another former Wizard in Andray Blatche (13.8). I bring him into this conversation because Wizards fans can understand better what I’m trying to say when I relate it to something familiar. Andray had the ability to rebound very well, but far too often he did not have that mean streak and true drive for pulling down double digit boards every night. In other words, when he put in effort on the defensive end it was easy; the other times, he was a non-factor. That’s basically Nene’s issue, as he isn’t a big proponent of unforced contact. He is much more finesse, for better or worse, and in this case you take the good with the bad. Nene simply isn’t a good rebounder.
The good news is that his 7 rebounds per game (his career average) may improve with the Wizards a little bit. For large parts of Nene’s career he has played alongside guys who are, in a sense, rebound hogs. Camby, Chris Andersen, and recently Kenneth Fareid all grab boards at an alarmingly high rate, with the last one on that list being compared favorably to Dennis Rodman. There really were not a lot of opportunities to get rebounds with those guys around, but I can promise you that will change with the Wizards! Washington, even with Okafor and great college rebounding guard Bradley Beal at the helm, is not going to top any charts in rebounding. Nene should have more opportunities to get boards, so that number may increase slightly to the point of becoming passable. I say potentially, because in the 11 game sample from last season, Nene really did not do anything different from his typical numbers (he never really does).
In terms of blocking shots:
Nene and Okafor are again different in their abilities to block shots with, you guessed it, Okafor leading the charge on that front. While Nene is not bad, Okafor is significantly better at swatting shots. While neither has the innate ability of JaVale McGee, they both play with far more control and do not actively seek to volley ball spike every shot out of the arena. The end result is that the two should actually be better than just McGee alone will be, which I think will be a good thing for Washington’s defense.
Okafor is one of the better blockers in the game, as he usually finishes in the top 15 every season. For his career, he averages almost two per contest, and that is not likely to change. He is very good at moving away from the post and blocking forwards and centers attempting jump shots from a bit further out. In 2010-2011, of his 128 blocks, 63 of them were on jump shots alone, with another 59 coming from in close. He blocked 3.5% of shots attempted on the court that year, which may not seem that high at first, but when you consider how many possessions there are in the game and how few result in blocks, his number is actually very good.
The bad part about him being so willing to swat is that he racks up fouls a lot. During that same ’10-’11 season, Okafor collected 109 shooting fouls as well, attributable to his big body. I don’t really look at this as being a bad thing, because disruption in the lane and on shooters means he is actually trying hard, but it is something to look into because a center in foul trouble is a worthless center. He is smart enough to not foul out very often, but foul trouble marginalizes his effectiveness on the court (and Okafor doesn’t play oodles of minutes as it is).
Nene, on the other hand, is an average blocker who, for his career, sends back just under one per game. This is not, however, because he isn’t trying. Nene also racks up a lot of fouls attempting to contest shots; in ’10-’11 with the Nuggets, he picked up 110 shooting fouls against 74 blocks. He gets to his man on time, but he doesn’t always succeed in sending the shot back. But Nene is definitely talented at help defense, which entails coming into a play a tad late, and that in turn means he may have to use his body to alter a shot. Hence the fouls.
Overall, Nene is not going to wow you with his numbers, but when you consider all the other things he does on the court defensively, the difference between one block and two is not a major difference. If you want an example of this (and this is slightly off topic but has to do with defensive ability so I’m going to throw it in), look no further than Nene’s domination in thievery. For his career, Nene averages 1.2 steals per game, but in ’10-’11, you can see just how effective he can be. That year, when stretched over 48 minutes, Nene averaged almost 1 1/2 steals a game. That doesn’t happen for a big man, really, ever. But Nene has quick, soft, hands which he uses to pickpocket big men who try to back him down or drive on him. So while he cannot block as well as others, he does excel in his own right.
I’m not a huge fan of plus-minus or opponent statistics, because the stats are inherently flawed. It is so dependent on the rest of the team, the caliber of opponent, and whether your team is winning or losing. Plus-minus has less to do with individual performance, and more with pegging guys as “winners.” It’s a bit like a pitcher who has a 1.97 ERA through 4 games, but because of a lack of run support, has gone 0-4 and is considered a loser. Likewise with opponent statistics. Playing against Dwight Howard is not the same as playing against DeAndre Jordan, and so the stats are completely skewed. They give no real indication of how Emeka fared (which is actually very solid). So therefore, I’m not going to get into those statistics.
The conclusions we can draw from all of this? Nene and Okafor have all the trends of great big men tandems. Where Okafor lacks offensive production, Nene is able to pick up the slack. Where Nene is incapable of rebounding, he has Okafor around to do the dirty work. The two work relatively well together, even though they are a bit one dimensional in their abilities. On paper, I think defensively Washington is going to be tough to drive against. Two legitimate, solidly-built big men are an imposing presence to attempt to score on. JaVale’s physique wasn’t scaring anyone, but Nene and Okafor just might. All good news for Washington.
All stats courtesy of 82games.com,Basketball-reference.com, and hoopdata.com
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
Well, it finally happened. Andray Blatche is gone from the Wizards forever and with his exit, according to Ted Leonsis, comes a sign that the rebuild is over. Your longest tenured Wizards are now John Wall, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker, let that sink in for a second. The “Big Three” era Wizards that we knew and sometimes loved, led by Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are a distant memory as we have turned the collective page as a franchise.
These Wizards, when compared to the Wizards or yore, are constructed quite differently. Before we were led by a volume shooting combo guard whose personality off the court sometimes outshined the things he did on the court whereas these Wizards follow the lead of a young, hungry point guard yearning for the same type of professional success that he has enjoyed at every other stop in his basketball career. John Wall seems like a much better, and more willing, leader of this franchise going forward than Arenas would’ve ever been.
Is this a fair comparison when you get down to the nitty-gritty of things? Probably not. There just seem to be less things in the peripheral distracting the team from the task at hand (winning basketball games) for Wall than there was for Arenas. Wall’s maturity level far surpasses that of his one-time, albeit shortlived, back court mate and that is something that resonates with the rest of the team on the floor as well as in the locker room.
The Wizards needed to completely clean house and hit the reset button on this franchise and that is exactly what they did. By dumping the “Three Stooges”, Nick “Swaggy P” Young, Javale “Pierre” McGee and Andray “7-Day Dray” Blatche from the roster the Wizards eliminated the “Knucklehead” element from the locker room all together. Horrible self-imposed nicknames aside, this was imperative for the rebuild and subsequent “rebirth” of this franchise to occur.
The question, however, still looms…Where do the Wizards go from here?
The Wizards are essentially locked into this roster as it is currently constructed through the 2013-2014 season. The additions of Nene, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor solidified our front court but at the same time ate up the majority of our salary cap space. It is a give and take type of scenario as the large contracts of these three hinder our flexibility with regard to free agency but they do serve as positive role models for our extremely young roster to look towards in learning the right way to be a professional.
As long as their respective bodies hold up (both Nene and Okafor have had major knee problems in their careers) they are going to be positives for this franchise on and off the court. What I hope is that their on the court productivity matches what they bring to the table in helping mold our young core of players (Wall, Beal and Seraphin) into what it takes to be a winner. The frontcourt has without a doubt gone from a question mark to a strength, at least on paper.
The most pressing need for the Wizards as we head into the 2012-2013 regular season has to be shoring up the back up PG position. We need to find someone who can competently spell John Wall when he is out of the game and I am not convinced that player is currently on this roster. Shelvin Mack simply did not look good in Las Vegas, whether he was pressing or not the results weren’t on par with what many Wizards fans wanted to see.
What options do the Wizards have to fill this role going forward? Earlier in free agency we had been linked to John Lucas III as a possible addition, however multiple outlets are now reporting that Lucas III is close to agreeing to a contract with the Toronto Raptors. This might not necessarily be a bad thing as I was not convinced that Lucas’ style of play would be the best fit for this team. Lucas had a coming out party against the Wizards last season going off for 25 points 8 rebounds and 8 assists while filling in for Derrick Rose. These numbers sound all well and good but when you note that Lucas took 28 shots to get to those 25 points it isn’t as impressive a feat. Add in that Lucas is a career 34% shooter from three-point range and you have another reason as to why I am not sold on him as the best option for the Wizards.
As the days bore on, the market for a veteran back up PG dwindles. Since it appears as if Lucas III is not in the cards for the Wizards, I would suggest looking towards a player like A.J. Price, most recently with the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers renounced Price’s rights on July 8th making him an unrestricted free agent. The Indiana Pacers blog on the SB Nation network referred to Price as “their security blanket point guard and a locker room favorite,”. Price, who starred at UConn prior to being a second round pick by the Pacers in 2009, seems like the perfect fit to run this offense when Wall is getting a breather or gets into foul trouble. While he was mainly a utility player for the Pacers during his stint in Indianapolis he has shown, when given the opportunity to get rotation minutes, that he is a more than capable point guard for an NBA team averaging 6 PPG and a shade under 3 APG during a 16 game stretch this year where he averaged 18 minutes per game.
Another point of contention as the offseason continues is how hard the Wizards choose to pursue Courtney Lee. Lee, who had his rights renounced by the Houston Rockets today, is now an unrestricted free agent. While it is possible that Lee re-signs with Houston for a lesser amount I would have to think this is a sign that he is not in the Rockets long-term plans. The Rockets did retain his Bird Rights however, meaning that a sign and trade with another team is a legitimate option for Houston. As I was mowing my way through my Twitter timeline this morning I saw that Mike Prada, of SB Nation and BulletsForever.com, had floated the idea of a sign and trade where the Wizards send Jordan Crawford to Houston for Courtney Lee. This is obviously just a hypothetical but it is one I could absolutely get behind…that is if Houston would be willing to make that kind of deal. As much as I enjoy Jordan Crawford, I believe that we have seen the best he can deliver already.
It would behoove the Wizards much more to make an attempt at landing Courtney Lee and starting him alongside John Wall that way we could ease Bradley Beal into the NBA. Beal was quoted as saying that the transition to the speed of the college game took a while for him to become acclimated to; you would have to assume he will face the same sort of transition going from the SEC to the NBA. I am fully behind going after Courtney Lee whether it is through a sign and trade or offering him a contract as a free agent for this reason. The future of this franchise is John Wall and Bradley Beal, so if we can do anything to help nurture Beal along until he is ready to be “The guy” next to Wall than it would be in our best interests to do just that.
Compared to where this franchise stood going into the 2011-2012 lockout shortened season it is safe to say that Wizards fans feel much better about this roster than they do about the one we lined up against the, then, New Jersey Nets last December. The young guys have one more year of experience, the knuckleheads with awful nicknames have been cast out of town and we have brought in proven veterans to take their place. These Wizards aren’t the same as the Arenas/Butler/Jamison days and that is a good thing. That team had its flaws and peaked where they should have, with early playoff exits. It is a new era for basketball in the district and while we may not know exactly where our Wizards will go from here, I know I am extremely excited to be along for the ride.
UPDATE: Apparently the Celtics front office and I had the same idea. According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports the Celtics have acquired Courtney Lee via trade.
Every basketball fan in the metropolitan area that follows the Washington Wizards is waiting for Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld to make a judgment on what to do with Andray Blatche. The amnesty dominos have begun to fall around the league with Elton Brand and Darko Milicic being told “Thanks, but no thanks” by their former teams before being shown the door with large checks ensuring they wont come back.
The 23 million dollar question that has been the topic of many a conversation on sports radio, newspapers, blogs and around the water cooler, is whether Ted Leonsis is going to write a fat check to rid Blatche from our minds going forward. Washington has until July 17th to make a decision on Blatche’s future with this franchise. Will he be a part of this team next season? Can we convince anyone to trade for him? Would he consider a buy out of his current contract so that we the amnesty clause does not have to be used? Over the course of the next four and a half days we’ll have our answers.
Lets break these questions down one by one and, like the title of this post, assess Andray Blatche’s future with this franchise.
Will Blatche be a part of the Wizards next season?
Is it possible? In short, absolutely. I can’t imagine Leonsis is going to have any desire to cut a check for 23 million dollars to a player who had the dubious distinction of showing up in box scores with a “DNP-Conditioning” next to his name. Blatche’s career in DC has been accompanied by many ups and downs along the way. From his early escapades with Party John Ramos, to the car jacking and subsequent shooting in Alexandria, VA, to the arrest for soliciting an undercover police officer there have been many moments where Andray has made us scratch our heads and ask “What the hell is wrong with this guy?”.
There also have been some flashes of the talented player Grunfeld thought he was resigning to a 35 million dollar extension in 2010. We all know that Blatche has the physical gifts necessary for a big man to be effective in the NBA. It is the mental side of the game where he has proven that he is severely lacking. Unfortunately, there has been little shown on his behalf to make anyone think that will change anytime soon.
If Leonsis and Grunfeld brought Andray Blatche back next season there would be an uproar of disapproval from the fan base. As a whole, Wizards fans have grown tired of his antics and are ready to cut ties completely and move forward with the new, young core group of players from which we hope to build a contender. I think Blatche’s days in DC are numbered, it is just a matter of which route he takes out the door.
Bringing us to our next question; Can we convince anyone to trade for Blatche?
According to David Aldridge, the Wizards do have some options were they to move Blatche via trade. However, when you are placing a player who has all but tarnished his reputation league-wide on the trading block you aren’t going to receive much more than other teams scraps in return.
The teams and players mentioned as possibilities by Aldridge are less than mind-blowing. The Bobcats and Pistons are the teams that have allegedly shown some interest in acquiring Blatche, but they would be offering up Tyrus Thomas and Charlie Villanueava respectively. Like I said, nothing to stand up and beat your chest about if you are a Wizards fan. Neither player would provide a boost on the court or in the locker room for the Wizards while both are strapped with equally terrible contracts.
I want the franchise to get rid of Blatche as much as anyone, but were it to be at the expense of adding either of these two players I would pass 10 times out of 10. We just rid ourselves of 2/3 of the three stooges at the trade deadline last season, exchanging the one left over for an equally boneheaded, hasn’t lived up to the hype, player with the same type of bloated salary would be a disservice to John Wall, Bradley Beal and the rest of the youth movement in our Nation’s Capital.
Moving on; Would Andray Blatche consider accepting a buy-out of his current contract so that the amnesty clause would not need to be utilized?
I highly doubt it. Andray Blatche is a lot of things, but one thing I have noticed is that while he may seem inept and aloof on the basketball court, when it comes to money he wants as much as he can get his hands on. The man has shown that he enjoys living the lavish lifestyle of a well paid NBA player time and time again. Thinking that he would agree to take anything less than the 23 million dollars and change that he is owed by the Wizards is a pipe dream for the front office.
Blatche has to know that the last big payday he will receive from playing the game of basketball came in 2010 when the Wizards threw 35 million dollars at him for proving that he could put up good numbers on an abysmal team. To get rid of Blatche, which I would argue is completely and totally necessary for this team to take the next step from laughingstock of the NBA to playoff contender, it will take Leonsis swallowing his pride and pulling out his check book.
The media has spoken, NBA pundits have spoken and, most importantly, the fans have spoken (Ok, more like vociferously booed) and the general consensus is it is time for Blatche to take the All-Day Dray show to another city as soon as possible. Anything less and we will continue to spin our tires as a franchise without making any progress forward.
Being a point guard in the NBA is a lot like being a quarterback in the NFL in that there is an immense learning curve. Point guards, as a whole, just don’t come into the NBA as competent, All-Star level players. The adjustment period from slow, slapping-the-floor-on-defense, laterally inept college guards to the supersonic speed of players like Derrick Rose at the professional level can be lengthy. The intricacies of the game such as clock management, speed changes, transition positioning, and effective pick and roll offense is very difficult to learn in 82 games. That sort of thing is difficult to learn in 164 games, even. There are always exceptions to the rule, but the general trend is that point guards take time.
Take Steve Nash, for example. A two-time MVP, 8-time All-Star, and almost a lock to make it to the Hall of Fame. Nash didn’t even average double-digit point totals until his 5th season in the NBA. Granted, he was injured part of the time and served as a backup for two seasons, but one of the best shooters of our generation shot 36% from the field in his third season. Nash is one of the top floor generals in the game now, even at 38 years old, but he never started out being an absolute monster until much later in his career.
Chauncey Billups was even worse. An NBA Champion and Finals MVP with 5 All-Star appearances took literally eight years in the league before he finally landed a consistent starting job. He bounced around in Boston, Toronto, Denver, and even Minnesota, playing pretty inconsistent basketball because he wasn’t a spectacular shooter. Then he landed in Detroit at 26 years of age, and the ended up beating Kobe, Shaq, and the rest of the Lakers in the NBA Finals. It took him 3 seasons to even shoot over 40% in the NBA, which isn’t necessarily what you want from a third pick, overall.
Jason Kidd, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul, none of those great guards even figured it out until their third season, which brings us to the new rule I’m going to establish in making my case for John Wall taking astronomical leaps next season as a player. The Year Three Rule means that any point guard worth his salt is going to take an enormous leap forward in his third season. If he doesn’t, then that player is going to end up, at best, a floor manager and not a superstar. In establishing my argument for John Wall, I’ll lean on a player who has a very similar history to Wall in Russell Westbrook.
Russ Westbrook, or recently known as the guy who “put da team on his back” and led the Thunder during Game 4 of the NBA Finals with 43 points, is incredibly close to John Wall based on projections. The similarities are almost too hard to ignore statistically speaking (not necessarily aesthetically).
Player A Year 1 (Age 20): 15.3 PPG, 5.3 AST/g, 4.9 Reb, 3.3 TO
Player BYear 1 (Age 20): 16.4 PPG, 8.3 AST/g, 4.6 Reb, 3.8 TO
Player A Year 2: 16.1 PPG, 8.0 AST/g, 4.9 Reb, 3.3 TO
Player BYear 2: 16.3 PPG, 8 AST/g, 4.5 Reb, 3.9 TO
Would you guess Player B, whom you might consider the better of the two, to be John Wall? Not using any advanced statistics at all, these two players had by and large incredibly similar box scores night in and night out during their first two years in the league. The important factor in this is age, as both Wall and Westbrook were twenty years old coming into the league, and thus hold very similar trajectory paths for potential growth. Wall led in points and assists despite having severely inferior talent set up around him. The similarities between the two are so uncanny because, I believe, they have one thing in common: their athleticism.
Both Wall and Westbrook can easily get by being slightly above average NBA players based solely on their unique athletic abilities. Westbrook happens to be a slasher without a conscience who can get to the rim at will and slam on 7 footers any time he’d like to. Wall, on the other hand, has such fast breakaway speed that on any given night he can score 10 points strictly on being faster than everyone else. Their physical attributes are what make them similar, despite being different in type and form. With these skills both players were able to pick up the reigns at a much quicker rate because at that speed, no game is played too fast. Westbrook and Wall were already at the speed the NBA plays at, so they didn’t necessarily have to make that adjustment. Add in the fact they both get to the line about 6 times a game, and you’ve got their averages. It’s not that hard to do (relatively speaking) when you’re Wall and Westbrook-type athletes.
What held these two back in their first two years was their shooting. Neither one could shoot worth a darn their first two seasons, as evidenced by their abysmally low shooting percentages from basically anywhere on the floor. Wall shot 40% and 42% from the floor in years one and two, and Westbrook wasn’t far behind shooting 39% and 40%, respectively. Their True Shooting percentages (which takes into account two pointers, three pointers, and free throws) weren’t all that great, either; Wall was at 49% and 50% in year one and two, while Westbrook struggled around 49% both seasons. For comparison’s sake, Shannon Brown and Jamal Crawford hover around the 50% level consistently, whereas Kyrie Irving was at an ungodly 56% last year. Again, their freakish athleticism allowed them to skirt by without hitting three pointers or long two’s.
The statistical evidence backs this assertion up, too, as the bulk of Wall’s shots came from either getting to the rim (5.3 attempts and 5.8 attempts per game year one and two) or settling for long two pointers from 16-23 ft. (4.2 attempts and 4.4 attempts). Unfortunately for Wall, hitting 30% of shots from 16-23 feet both seasons means your jumper hasn’t improved at all. He settled from jumpers that didn’t go in when he wasn’t slashing, and it’s likely because he knew his game was one dimensional.
Westbrook was the same story: 5.7 and 5.6 at the rim shots per game in years one and two, hitting at a high rate. From 16-23 ft, though, 3.2 and 3.7 attempts per game, hitting only 38% and 37% from that range. The numbers are mildly better, but it doesn’t mean that either player had developed a jumper at that point. Westbrook took less shots from longer range and made more of them, but Scott Brooks will tell you his jumper wasn’t anything to write home about. I’m not trying to force the comparison by any stretch, but it’s true that neither really had a good jumper.
On the brighter side of things, as a passer Wall definitely holds the advantage by a pretty substantial margin, both in per game average and in percentages. Wall’s assist percentages (the estimate percentage of field goals assisted by a player while he’s on the court) in year one and two were 36% and 36.9%, whereas Westbrook was at a very low 27.5% in year one to 38.6% in year two. Again, for a comparison Chris Paul was at 38% and 41% years one and two, but someone like Jrue Holiday was at 24% and 29%. Wall’s usage rate was slightly lower than Westbrook’s too, which means he was a bit more efficient as a passer.
So when all the statistical jargon is out of the way, where does that lead us with how John Wall might progress in year three? Well, assuming he can start hitting his midrange jumper even remotely better, it’s going to be an incredibly good year for Mr. Wall.
Westbrook turned into a supernova in year three; his game literally exploded in every way as he shot to stardom as the best young point guard not named Derrick Rose. 22 PPG, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 23.6 PER (up from 17.6; league average is 15). Westbrook started hitting three pointers at a passable 33% (up from 22% the year before), which was more than enough to open up the floor for him to slash even more. The extra shots at the rim (he upped his number from 5.6 to 6.8) gave him more free throw attempts which led to more points in total. Westbrook started converting 60.4% of his shots at the rim, too. And guess what? John Wall already does that. It’s hard to argue that Wall isn’t already the most effective player in the league at finishing.
Westbrook took the huge leap because he played to his strengths and managed to knock down shots away from the rim at a good enough rate that defenses had to play him differently. If Wall can do that exact same thing, he’s already looking at being ahead of Westbrook in terms of potential. Seeing as those two are so similar, it’s not outlandish to believe that might happen. Wall is a phenomenal talent, and while everyone wants their number one draft pick to come in right away and be a superstar, realistically with point guards that is not the case. As has happened in the past with Rondo, Kidd, Nash, Paul, and Rose, given time, the progression between good guard and great guard will take (at least) until year 3. I’m convinced with Wall that the year three leap is going to be one worth waiting for.