Tag Archives: Wizards
Perhaps it was the 31 attempted three pointers against the Charlotte Bobcats that doomed the Wizards during last night’s 92-76 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. Correction: it was the 31 attempted three pointers that doomed the Wizards during last night’s 92-76 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Wizards have now lost their first six games of the season for the second straight year, and things simply do not appear to be going their way. The starters could do no right tonight and were completely out played by the Bobcats, shooting 15-of-43 from the field. For those doing math at home, that comes out to 35%, a number which was only slightly higher than the team’s 30% shooting from the field.
It’s not hard to figure out why the Wizards lost this game when you look at how badly they were dominated in almost every way. Starting with the turnovers, of which the Wizards had 17. The Bobcats played fantastic defense all night, which may or may not have something to do with the added intensity that #2 overall draft pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist brings to the table. Jordan Crawford led the charge on the turnover front, committing five of those deadly basketball sins in his 21 minutes of play off the bench. Careless ball handling and errant passes were abound in this game, but those would be excusable if the Wizards were shooting well. Unfortunately, they weren’t.
Which would lead us to yet another problem (and largely the main one) the Wizards had last night: their shot selection was absolutely atrocious. Since when did the Wizards become the Orlando Magic when they had Dwight Howard? The only person they added in the offseason who can supposedly shoot from long range is Bradley Beal, the rookie. And yet, he and newcomer A.J. Price managed to go 2-13 from long range, and in the process took a sledge hammer to numerous Wizards possessions that could have lasted longer had they not thrown up errant three pointers. The looks weren’t even good at times; these were contested shots that should have never been taken. The Wizards have a serious personnel crisis going on when Kevin Seraphin is the best shooter on the team. The return of Nene and Wall (whenever that is) is hardly going to be a massive difference if the current players can’t hit shots.
That being said, those two weren’t the only ones to blame for this disastrous effort, because the main culprit for taking very conspicuous shots was Trevor Ariza. Ariza decided yesterday was the day he was going to be aggressive and channel his Houston Rockets shot-jacking days, and threw up 18 unquestionably questionable shots, which equaled his shot total from the first three games he played as a Wizard combined. Maybe I am being hard on Ariza; after all, he was the only Wizards scorer in double-digits with 19 points. Then again, maybe I am not being hard enough on the Wizards coaching staff for allowing Ariza to even attempt that number of shots in the first place. A guy that hasn’t shot over 42% over the past three seasons is, simply put, not the guy you want taking the most shots of anyone in the game.
At the very least, that responsibility should have fallen to Bradley Beal, who cooled off considerably from his previous three days of scoring in the double digits. Beal finished the night on 1-of-11 shooting, and just looked to be forcing things out there far too often. I am not going to harp on Beal too much because he’s an incredibly young rookie who is improving game by game, but I will say that he didn’t help at all tonight. That being said, Beal has only missed one free throw on 22 attempts this year!
….so there’s that.
Back to Trevor Ariza. At this point in his career, Ariza is what he is: a so-so defender who is a role player at best. Sometimes role players carry you to victory, sure; I am not sure Ariza will ever carry this team to anything other than 0-7, 0-8, and 0-9. Or if he does continue to be more “dominant” during games, fans should expect the losses to keep piling up. He simply is not a player who the Wizards should rely on at any point in time for offensive output. But then again, they couldn’t rely on anyone tonight for offensive output.
About the only thing the Wizards got right this game? Rebounding. They equaled the rebounding efforts of Charlotte with 50 apiece, eighteen of which were offensive rebounds. I am pleased with that, but that is more a result of poor shooting from both teams, as 50 rebounds is a whole lot to have during a game. That’s what happens when neither team can break 40% shooting from the field. The Bobcats weren’t good today; the Wizards were just worse.
Either way, this team needs to tinker with some things, because the starting lineup is terrible. They get beaten by reserves consistently, which makes sense because Price, Beal, Booker, Ariza and Okafor (aka the entire starting lineup) would probably be bench players on most other teams. Maybe injecting Seraphin in over Booker would help. We started Singleton last year and appear to be on pace for zero wins, so why not add him in and resume playing like the team that won 20 games last year.
I am honestly speechless at the Washington Wizards for this stinker. They should have played better, and they didn’t. Time to move on.
Welp, you knew it had to end eventually. The Olympic basketball semifinals/finals are not for everyone. In this case, they are definitely not for any former or current Washington Wizard/Maryland Terrapin players, as none remain in the tournament. Wednesday was just a day for closing out.
First, Russia edged former Terrapin Sarunas Jasikevicius and Lithuania in a hard fought battle 83-74. Jasikevicius, in what will likely be the swan song performance for his Olympic career, looked every bit his age by going 1-of-4 from the field over 19 minutes for three points. Not to mention his turnover problem reemerging, as he finished the game with six total against only three assists. He was clearly having problems getting around future Timberwolves guard Alexey Shved, who even on a poor shooting night still outplayed him. Furthermore, it really just seemed like Jasikevicius was getting minutes because it could have potentially been his final game. Younger guard Mantas Kalnietis probably should have received more playing time, and in fact would have put them in a better position to win (as much as it pains me to say that about Sarunas).
Next, Kevin Seraphin and France were dogged by Spain in the fourth quarter of their 66-59 loss that could have been closer were it not for so many French mental errors. Seraphin had, without a doubt, his worst game of the tournament, playing only 7 minutes while registering more fouls and turnovers (three each; six total) than points and rebounds (three). As is his propensity for picking up quick fouls, yesterday was no different as he quickly rendered himself worthless via sloppy play. They certainly could have used him against Marc and Pau Gasol, as former Wizard Ronny Turiaf looked like absolute garbage, culminating with his embarrassing hard foul which essentially cost France the game (though that torch will be passed to Nicolas Batum).
Finally, Argentina fought off a furious late-game run by Nene and Brazil to hold on and win the “Battle of South America” 82-77. Nene, presumably playing injured, was the lone bright spot for local fans as he gritted out a poor shooting performance with all around good play. He logged the most minutes during any tournament game up to that point yesterday with 27, and the result was a nice 12 rebound, 7 point performance. His facilitating play late in the game opened up the floor for Brazil and spurred their 23 point fourth quarter in which they cut a 12 point deficit down to three.
Unfortunately, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, and Juan Pedro Gutierez gave Nene, Cavs center Anderson Varejao and Spurs forward Tiago Splitter work on the defensive end all game, combining to score 40 of the 82 Argentinian points. Nene also had two careless goaltending calls late in the game, which didn’t necessarily help his team (though you can’t blame him for trying). Overall, Nene didn’t play terribly by any means, but his offensive production wasn’t there when Brazil needed it most during their 2nd and 3rd quarter droughts.
(Strike three, you’re out)
Kevin Seraphin: B-
Seraphin should have been much more effective throughout this tournament, but his positive play was marred by the fact that he constantly got into foul trouble. He finished the tournament averaging 6 points and 3.3 rebounds over 6 games, with his best performance being a 10 point, 7 rebound, and 3 block line against Argentina. At times, Seraphin seemed like one of the best players on the court, while in other instances he just looked lost against more dominating forwards. He averaged just over a block a game during the tournament, but also racked up 19 fouls in a six game stretch (something he definitely needs to work on for the NBA). Three fouls a contest in international play is a death sentence, given the five foul rule.
In the end, Seraphin could have done better, but he is still only 22 years of age which indicates room for improvement. I’m sure in 2016 Seraphin is going to play a much larger factor on France as the old guard (i.e. Ronny Turiaf) gets less and less minutes. In the meantime, he needs to work on playing more under control and can hopefully carry over this international experience into productive NBA play.
Nene proved to be a bit of a disappointment as well if we’re being honest with ourselves. I expected him to be a much more dominating scoring option for Brazil, which is something they could have used. Instead, Anderson Varejao had more points than Nene throughout the tournament (albeit in one more game, but it’s still Varejao). He just never demanded the ball on offense, and was way too passive of a forward given how talented we all know he is. Part of that, I’m sure, had to do with his lingering plantar fasciitis which caused him to sit out the game against Spain. That he’s out of the tournament is of great relief for the Wizards, as it means he is going to be able to rest up for the NBA season a bit longer.
What did he do that impressed me? Rebound. Nene was the fifth-best rebounder in the entire tournament, averaging 8 per game. I loved that he got after it on the defensive end, fighting down low for boards with opponents. He played the ball off the rim nicely, and it’s a credit to his defensive positioning ability. Speaking of defensive, Nene wasn’t too shabby on the defensive end, holding his own against a lot of talented forwards (with the exception of his game against Argentina). His defense is always going to be a plus, and he showed it this tournament.
Sarunas Jasikevicius: A+
I’m giving Sarunas an A+ because I respect the hell out of that guy. Sarunas didn’t have a bad tournament by any means, averaging 6 points and 5 assists throughout; rather than dwell on what he did this tournament, we should acknowledge all he has done throughout his international career. A bronze during the 2000 Sydney Olympics for Lithuania (their third medal in three straight Olympic games), a 2003 FIBA Eurobasket Gold medal, and another bronze medal in 2007 FIBA Eurobasket. He’s played in the NBA, he’s played in Israel, he’s played for FC Barcelona, he’s dominated the Greek Leagues and he’s represented his country incredibly well–all for the love of the game.
Sarunas could have quit on his dreams a long time ago, but he never has and as a sports fan one has to acknowledge a guy who is so internationally renowned. Yes, he’s a Terrapin, and yes I’m biased to them, but Sarunas goes beyond that. At 36, this is likely his last Olympic games, and while I’ll be sad to see him go, he has kept Lithuania in contention since his arrival and will no doubt play a part in their future. And for that, Sarunas get’s an A+.
Tags: argentina, basketball, brazil, france, Kevin Seraphin, lithuania, Luis Scola, Maryland, Maryland Terrapins, nene, nene hilario, olympics, sarunas jasikevicius, seraphin, Washington Wizards, Wizards
I’ve predicted it before, and I won’t hesitate to predict it again: Nene and his injuries are going to become a major issue for the Washington Wizard. Not just this upcoming season, where Nene’s plantar fasciitis has already reared its ugly head during the Olympics, but for the remainder of his contract with the Wizards. Big men at 30 years of age don’t just randomly get incredibly healthy; they break down at a very rapid rate and once the wheels fall off, it is over. I’m not predicting complete apocalypse for the Wizards at all, but I cannot help but be unnerved by the foot injury. It is why I have been watching France so intently, because for the Wizards to overcome a Nene injury, Nene’s backup has to emerge as a stud. Kevin Seraphin, the ball is in your court.
My thoughts on Seraphin’s Olympic play so far basically mirror how I feel about him as a whole: he projects to be a much better starter than a reserve in the NBA, but there’s still work to do. As a starter last season over 21 games and 665 minutes, Seraphin averaged 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. As a reserve during 36 outings and 511 minutes? 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. His statistics plummet when he gets fewer minutes because that’s not really his specialty. Some players just function better as starters; just ask Allen Iverson how he dealt with being a sub. Part of it is due to being over-excited, as Seraphin is like a high energy dog who needs to be run constantly in order to calm himself down. Don’t give the dog a run, and it’ll eat your Jordans, your couch, and poop on the floor. That’s Seraphin. Too much energy to be a substitute and the end result is foul trouble and ineffective play.
The other main reason he is a better starter than reserve is that Seraphin is not the type of power forward that teams can really run a certain amount of set plays for; his offensive skill set is just too limited right now. Rather, on the offensive end at least, Seraphin functions much more effectively when he is allowed to play within the flow of the game and not force the issue. That includes put back dunks, catching defenders out of position down low, and using that baby hook he loves so much. Seraphin scores because he is such a good offensive rebounder that he always puts himself into position to get plenty of second-chance points. Seven times over his last fifteen games he grabbed 3 or more offensive rebounds, including four games with five or more OREB. If he isn’t on the court for missed shots to occur, he isn’t going to get offensive boards and his scoring goes down. Simple logic, really.
It’s why his first game as a starter against Nigeria on Monday didn’t shock me in the least. He finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks (a standard Seraphin line), which is a line Seraphin has had more than once during these Olympic games. The difference is that Seraphin looked far more comfortable and fouled at a lower rate, despite playing more minutes than any game. He was a hyper-efficient 4-of-5 from the field, and that’s a good thing because it actually hides Seraphin’s other problem: he doesn’t get to the line (he went 1-of-2 on FT’s yesterday).
Seraphin almost always has to work harder than most for his points because, for one reason or another, Seraphin just doesn’t draw contact on his shots. Last season, he only took more than four free throws in a game one time (he had six), and he only attempted four free throws five times total in ’11-’12. His free throw rate is among the worst in the NBA, and over his last 15 games (in which he started all of them) he averaged 1.9 FTs per game. Couple that with the fact that Seraphin shoots about 50% from the field and you get a starter who needs 16 shots to score about 16-18 points. It’s why his ability to get to the line is what could make or break the Wizards if Nene goes down.
Seraphin’s stats look much improved in some instances (PPG shot up), but in order for him to be an effective starter, he’s going to need to cut down on his usage rate, or make more of the touches he gets. As a starter last season, Seraphin was used on 20.6% of the Washington Wizards possessions. While he wasn’t bad at all, he simply didn’t do enough to justify being used that often. As explained earlier, he doesn’t get to the line, but he also doesn’t pass particularly well, either. In fact, he pretty much doesn’t pass at all, as evidenced by his 5% AST rate (the % of baskets assisted by a player while they’re on the floor). Obviously big men aren’t notorious for dishing assists all the time, but you either make plays or create plays. When a player isn’t doing either, it’s a detriment to the team.
Luckily for Wizards fans, Kevin Seraphin’s career trajectory is taking an incredibly similar curve to that of Paul Millsap of the Utah Jazz. Millsap is his most apt comparison for a lot of reasons: they’re both undersized at 6’8, they were both bench players who shined in scant minutes at the same ages, neither got to the line very effectively, and they score in incredibly similar manners. In fact, the whole scenario of Seraphin and Nene reminds me of Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap a ton. A young forward with tons of energy who comes off the bench to spell the oft-injured All-Star with similar skill sets. Eventually, Boozer was shipped out of town and Millsap filled in just as effectively (and at a much lower price tag). If Seraphin wants to become what everyone hopes he can be, he should spend the offseason talking to Millsap about how he became a very effective starter in place of the resident star (Nene).
Millsap and Seraphin, at 22 years of age and in their second season did essentially the exact same thing as one another. 16.1 PER for Millsap, 15.8 PER for Seraphin; 7.9 PPG for Seraphin, 8.1 for Millsap; 5.6 RPG for Millsap, 4.9 for Seraphin. See what I mean? That’s just a small sample size, because they’re almost an exact carbon copy of one another. In Millsap’s third season, when he took over the reigns from Carlos Boozer halfway through the season, he started to show his true colors. His Per 36 Minutes projections were almost exactly how his actual season played out, as he doubled his free throw attempts and started passing the ball a whole lot more.
His passing ability is perhaps one of Millsap’s most underrated qualities as a big man. Millsap’s opportunities opened up even more because he increased his AST% from 7.0 as a sophomore to the 12.4 he averaged last season. It didn’t happen overnight, but Millsap is actually a very skilled passer now, probably thanks in part to working with the great Jerry Sloan so closely. Seraphin is behind Millsap’s development in that regard, but it’s not to say he can’t get better. He is going to need to if he wants to fill the role Nene plays as a ball mover and not a ball stopper.
And the biggest thing is just putting more points on the board in general through free throws. Not only does it get other big men in foul trouble, but he becomes a much more efficient player overall. Seraphin last year drew a foul on 8.4% of his shots attempted. Contrast that with Millsap’s 17.3% as a sophomore and you can see the disparity. Though their statistics are similar, it’s incredibly apparent what could end up limiting Seraphin as a starter. Instead of fouling, Seraphin just needs to get fouled. And he is definitely not soft by any stretch; Seraphin doesn’t shy away from contact in the least. I think he could deliver a bit of punishment given that his frame is so sturdy.
In short, Seraphin has some work to do in order to become an every day starter, and it’s not going to happen right away. He may be able to fill in for Nene in the short term, but Seraphin needs to take over that spot in a similar way to the Millsap/Boozer arrangement. I love where he’s at right now because it is very easy to peg exactly what he needs to work on. Assuming that he does over time, any Nene injury should be a small potato problem, because the Wizards could have an incredibly effective low post scorer on their hands. But right now, he’s a hyper backup that needs work.
As we continue to follow former Maryland Terrapins and Washington Wizards players being featured in the Olympics, I do not think it will get much worse than yesterday. Lithuania with Sarunas Jasikevicius faced off against Kevin Seraphin and France, Ekene Ibekwe and Nigeria went head-to-head with Team USA for a game no one will forget anytime soon, and Nene and Brazil had a rough go of things against Russia in a nail biter.
We’ll start with Ekene Ibekwe, who finally got to register his first minutes of play during these Olympic games after recovering from a sickness. He only played about 4 minutes, but those 4 minutes means that he played a part in the most lopsided loss in Olympic history, a 156-73 drubbing to Team USA. Ibekwe managed only 1 rebound and 2 fouls, which is nothing to write home about; but it’s what he didn’t do that is going to make these Olympics most memorable for him.
For example, he didn’t stop Carmelo Anthony, who made 10-of-12 three pointers and scored 37 points in 14 minutes. To put that into perspective, he scored 10 more points than Nigeria did during the entire second half. Ibekwe also couldn’t stop the 49 point first quarter that Team USA had, though not necessarily his fault. All in all, it’s a game he will never forget and I’m not sure the world will forget for a long, long time.
Meanwhile, Kevin Seraphin and Sarunas Jasikevicius faced off against one another yesterday, though not directly. Seraphin came out the victor in an 82-74 victory, but neither player was particularly overwhelming during the game. Seraphin played yet another game where foul trouble dictated how many minutes he could play (14 total), and he never looked comfortable out there against Lithuania’s big men. He finished the game with only 2 points on 1-of-4 shooting, with as many rebounds as fouls (three). Until Seraphin can learn to play more under control, former Wizard Ronny Turiaf will continue to get minutes over him.
Jasikevicius, in the meantime, got eaten up on the defensive end by Tony Parker and Nando de Colon. Parker had one of his best games of these Olympics with 27 points and 5 rebounds, as he proved too quick for Lithuania’s guards. Jasikevicius only scored 2 points on 1-of-5 shooting over 20 minutes of play, and while he did have 5 assists, he coupled that with 4 turnovers in the process. His age showed during this game, and even though the score was close, it was mostly due to France playing lazily most of the game.
Finally, Nene and Brazil lost on a last second three pointer to Russia, 75-74 in perhaps the most exciting game of these Olympics. Nene himself didn’t play that poorly, as he logged 8 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes of play, but he did get beaten on the defensive end numerous times. Timofey Mozgov, a not-so-skilled NBA center, numerous times got past Nene in the paint despite not being nearly as good. Nene looked a step slow throughout the game, and he could have been a lot more effective than he was. Brazil should have won that game, but all credit goes to Russia and Alexey Shved (the Minnesota Timberwolves new guard) for playing some very exciting basketball.
The Wizards and the Terrapins continued their trend of strong representation in the Olympics on Tuesday, as Lithuania, France, Brazil, and Nigeria played their second games of the tournament. Nene Hilario, Kevin Seraphin, Sarunas Jasikevicius, and (sort of) Ikene Ibekwe all represented their respective countries yet again. This time, the results were a bit more promising.
Nene played an integral part in Brazil’s 67-62 win over host country Great Britain yesterday, showing no signs of soreness in the foot that plagued him all of last season. He finished with only 4 points and 6 rebounds during his 28 minutes of play, but as is the case most of the time in International play, the stats don’t tell the whole story. Nene was a force defensively, blocking 3 shots over the course of the game which, in essence, stopped Britain from scoring crucial points. He hounded former George Washington player Pops Mensah-Bonsu all game, and was a major reason why their team won.
On the offensive end, his two big time jams got the crowd on their feet and highlighted his athleticism that he has been prone to show in spurts. His only other shot was a badly missed jumper from the left wing, but he didn’t need to shoot. Instead, Nene made great kick out passes all game long that led to wide open three pointers which, sadly, Barbosa and friends missed quite a bit. If Wizards fans wanted to see just how good of a passer Nene could be, this game was a showcase of it.
Meanwhile Kevin Seraphin had his international coming out party against powerhouse Argentina in a 71-64 nail biter. Seraphin continued to be plagued by the foul trouble that hurt him last game, but managing to remain assertive on the offensive and defensive end en route to 10 points and 7 rebounds over just14 minutes. Seraphin showed off his hook shot that the Wizards saw in flashes last season, and appeared much more aggressive in attempting to get his shot off.
Defensively, it appeared Seraphin got a little overexcited, as he picked up quick fouls on unforced contact. He seemed to be played the role of endforcer, however, and in the process swatted away three defenders shots. Seraphin is going to need to play a bit more under control if he wants to remain effective against quality big men. This actually includes the NBA, as his opponent Luis Scola also plays the same position for the Phoenix Suns and seemed to cause him trouble. Overall, though, nice showing by Seraphin and France.
Then we have the Terrapin players Ekene Ibekwe and Sarunas Jasikevicius facing off against one another for Nigeria and Lithuania, respectively. Except that with Ekene Ibekwe still sitting out with, as PMNewsNigeria.com reports, a sickness, he failed to register a single minute during the game. The Nigerian team ended up losing the game 72-53, as Lithuania pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Sarunas, playing in his 4th straight Olympics for Lithuania (the most ever by any person from his country), had a much better second game. Sarunas accounted for 9 of his team’s 19 assists, and displayed why he cannot be counted out as being considered one of the best point guards to ever play internationally. He got the ball to open players whenever he was on the court during his 20 minutes of play, and was the main reason why 9 of 12 Lithuanian players shot 50% or better from the floor. Their offense played with serious fluidity, and Lithuania looks poised to go deep in the tournament these Olympic games.
Sarunas and Co. helped hold Nigerian guard Tony Skinn to only two made shots the entire game, and frustrated him with help defense anytime he attempted to drive. The game was a nice one to watch, and Sarunas represented the Terrapins well. Here’s hoping that Ibekwe gets his chance to play, health be damned.
Tags: china, ekene ibekwe, ibekwe, jasikevicius, Kevin Seraphin, lithuania, Maryland, nene, nigeria, nigeria basketball, olympics, sarunas, Team USA, Terps, Terrapins, washington, Wizards, yi jianlian
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.
The London 2012 Olympics have been a treat to watch for DMV fans, thanks in large part to a group of stars who are either from or have played in the area being featured in prominent roles. There is of course Michael Phelps, the Baltimore native who has racked up more medals than a junk yard magnet. But there are also a lot of basketball players who are performing admirably in the Olympics, particularly from the Maryland end of things. No, they aren’t playing for Team USA, but there is no shame in representing one’s original, not adopted, home country.
While Ikene Ibekwe received the unfortunate DNP for Nigeria’s opening 60-56 win over Tunisia, at least we can claim him as a Terp! Ibekwe was out for an undisclosed reason, but the sole fact that he got to participate in Nigeria’s first ever win at the Olympics as a country is something he will never forget. It is likely to be a monumental moment in his lifetime, and moments like that is something that can be universally related to.
As an aside, his Nigerian team is actually pretty loaded up with NBA/fringe NBA level talent. Al Farouq Aminu, the one and done from Georgia Tech who was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers, Ike Diogu, Tony Skinn of George Mason, and Olumide Oyedeji all play significant roles on this team. It’s no wonder Ibekwe wasn’t playing, despite dominating in 2006 at the FIBA Championships. This team might end up surprising some people with their athleticism and fundamental play. No, they can’t really hit shots, but they play stingy defense and that can certainly help.
Another former Terrapin, Sarunas Jasikevicius, is playing fairly well for his home country Lithuania. Around international circles, Jasikevicius is known as one of the most accomplished players in the game. While he’s getting a little long in the tooth at 36 years of age, Jasikevicius can still handle the rock a bit. In his county’s opening round loss to powerhouse Argentina 102-79, Jasikevicius put up 6 points and 4 assists in 20 minutes of play. He turned the ball over four times, but Carlos Delfino (the man he was “checking” on defense) had one helluva game, so that isn’t the norm. Hopefully we can see some better play from him than a 2-6 shooting performance.
The Wizards are actually getting a lot of Olympic love with both Nene and Seraphin playing one games apiece for Brazil and France, respectively. Nene came off the bench in favor of Tiago Splitter/Anderson Varejao against Australia, logging 21 minutes in a gritty 75-71 victory. From the bit that I got to watch, Nene displayed some deft defensive skills, grabbing 7 rebounds and turning away 2 shots. On the offensive end, he was 3-of-5 from the field, finishing with 8 points total.
Meanwhile, Kevin Seraphin struggled against incumbent gold medal winners Team USA mightily. He got in early foul trouble, and didn’t provide much benefit thereafter in about 9 minutes of play. Seraphin finished the game with 3 points on 1-of-5 shooting, and has to be disappointed. The athleticism and small ball style of Team USA may have flustered him and forced him to play more cautious, but I expected much more.
The Dime will be keeping you updated on all of their progress as the Olympics continue. Nigeria, Brazil and France both play (not against one another) tomorrow, so be sure to check out a loaded basketball schedule.
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
*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.