WASHINGTON WIZARDS PREVIEW 2011
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Wizards have a significant amount of young talent, but their key players lack experience and have yet to reach their potential. For years the Wizards were stuck between being contenders and being terrible, but two summers ago, the team struck gold and landed the No. 1 pick and took John Wall. Now in full-on rebuilding mode, Wall is the face of the franchise, and the team must decide which of its talented youngsters will remain alongside Wall long-term. Andray Blatche has the potential to be an All-Star, but after six years, he still has yet to show that he can be a winning player. JaVale McGee finished second in the league in blocks last year and shows immense promise. If McGee can be a smarter player, coach Flip Saunders will reward him with more playing time, and McGee could blossom into one of the best centers in the league. Nick Young and Jordan Crawford are two of the truest gunners in the entire league. Both players have the ability to drop 35 on a given night, but they can also shoot the Wizards out of games. Other than Blatche, the only veterans on the roster are Rashard Lewis, who’s past his prime, Roger Mason, strictly a three-point specialist, and Ronny Turiaf, who’s just an energy guy. The team has promising rookies in Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton, but neither will likely be key contributors this year. The Wizards have some interesting pieces, but they’ll only go as far as Wall takes them.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
McGee had a huge spike in playing time last year, up to 27.8 minutes per game from 16 mpg two years ago. That trend should continue, with McGee getting about 32 mpg this year. Turiaf should see 10 to 16 mpg and N’diaye should get around five mpg at center. Expect Blatche to get 35 mpg at the four. Trevor Booker played some center last year, but he will primarily backup Blatche this year, seeing 14 to 20 mpg. Kevin Seraphin should also see time at the four, getting around 10 mpg. Vesely should get 10 to 12 mpg playing both forward positions. Lewis should log 32 mpg at the three, occasionally moving over to the four. Singleton’s defense should earn him 16 to 20 mpg at the three. It’s still up in the air as to who will start at shooting guard for the Wizards, between Nick Young and Jordan Crawford, but both could log 30 to 34 mpg regardless of who starts. Mason will back them up at the two, getting 8 to 12 mpg. Look for Wall to play 38 to 40 mpg this year, with some of Crawford's minutes coming as his backup at point guard. Shelvin Mack may have to spend the majority of his rookie season riding the pine.
JaVale McGee: It would stand to reason, that just as McGee’s minutes increased from 16 to 28 mpg last year, they should continue to rise this year. McGee doesn’t foul at an alarming rate, so he should be able to play around 32 mpg this year. If he does, look for him to improve upon the 10.1 points, 8.o rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game he averaged last year, making McGee a solid bet to lead the league in blocks.
Ronny Turiaf: Turiaf averaged 4.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in just 18 minutes per game with the Knicks last year. His blocks numbers are intriguing, but Turiaf is strictly a backup. Unless McGee gets injured, Turiaf only provides slight value in very deep leagues.
Hamady N’diaye: A seven-footer who played in just 16 games last year, N’diaye is buried deep on the Wizards bench, especially after the team signed Turiaf. N’diaye could turn into a shot-blocking specialist, but last year he averaged 1.1 fouls in just five minutes per game. At almost 10 fouls per 48 minutes, it’s easy to see why he doesn’t play much.
Andray Blatche: His scoring, rebounding and steals numbers have improved in each of his six NBA seasons. Blatche’s maturity and leadership has always been questioned, but his relevance as a producer in fantasy shouldn’t be. Last year he averaged 16.8 points, 8.3 boards and 1.5 steals in 33.9 minutes per game. There might not be significant room for improvement there, but Blatche clearly offers value in several categories.
Rashard Lewis: Perhaps best known for the gigantic contract he signed with the Orlando Magic five years ago, Lewis’ numbers have been in steady decline ever since the ink dried. He does still offer some fantasy value though. After being traded to Washington last year, Lewis averaged 11.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 three-pointers and almost 0.9 steals in 32 minutes per game. It’s reasonable to think that Lewis might plateau and put up similar numbers this year. Saunders wants to rely on Lewis’ leadership and basketball IQ if he can, since there’s really nobody else who can play that role on this team. Lewis still knocks down the three with regularity, and he won’t hurt a fantasy team in any categories. Singleton and Vesely could eventually push Lewis for minutes, but the veteran should have at least one more year as the clear starter. He is a justifiable late-round pick this year.
Trevor Booker: Booker suffered a thigh injury during the offseason while playing in Israel, and will miss the majority of camp. He should still be a consistent part of the rotation after earning minutes last year for his physical presence. Booker averaged 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in just 16.4 minutes per game last year. He had good numbers for the amount of playing time he saw last year, but he will continue to be a role player with Blatche and McGee ahead of him. Unless one of his teammates gets injured, Booker doesn’t offer much fantasy value.
Kevin Seraphin: The 6-9 forward is still very raw, and there’s not much playing time to be had in the Wizards' frontcourt. Developing Vesely will be more of a priority, since he was a lottery pick this year. Seraphin only averaged 2.7 points and 2.6 boards last year, and it’s hard to imagine him getting the opportunity to improve those numbers much this year.
Chris Singleton: The rookie was drafted to be a defensive stopper, and he’ll get chances to do just that. If he can develop a consistent three-point shot, he’ll get even more minutes. As it stands now, he’s Lewis’ backup at the three and won’t get the minutes to be a fantasy consideration in most leagues.
Jan Vesely: Vesely is a super athletic combo forward whose main gift is his ability to throw down highlight reel dunks on people, especially in transition. This won’t translate into getting significant minutes in the NBA until he can further develop his game. Vesely could develop into a fantasy contributor, but it probably won’t be this year.
John Wall: The expectation that Wall will make a Russell Westbrook-like jump soon is not unwarranted. They were identical players last year in assists, rebounds and steals. Wall averaged 8.3 dimes, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals, while Westbrook notched 8.2, 4.6 and 1.9 per game. Where Wall needs to make a leap is with his shot. Last year he shot just 41 percent from the field, 76 percent from the line and just below 30 percent from three. Westbrook shot 44 percent from the field, 84 percent from the line and 33 percent from three. Two years ago, however, Westbrook’s shooting percentages and points per game were almost identical to what Wall did as a rookie, except Wall was a significantly better three-point shooter as a freshman than Westbrook was as a sophomore. There is one more issue Wall must conquer if he wants to make the same leap Westbrook did last year. Westbrook has never missed a game in his three-year career, while Wall missed 13 games last year. If Wall improves his durability and continues to work on his shot, he will be in the same class of elite fantasy point guards as Westbrook, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose and Deron Williams. This might be the last year Wall can be drafted outside of the first round. If he makes his leap this year, fantasy owners won’t want to miss out.
Nick Young: If Young touches the ball, rest assured it’s going up. For such a proficient jack artist, Young was fairly efficient last year, scoring 17.4 points per game on 44 percent shooting and 39 percent from three. His owners are lucky that Young puts up points at a high clip, because he offered just 2.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 0.7 steals in 32 minutes per game last year.
Jordan Crawford: Crawford lit it up last year after changing cities in a trade from the Hawks. He averaged 16.3 points, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals in 33 minutes per game with the Wizards. The problem for Crawford was his 39 percent shooting from the field. Despite the low efficiency, Crawford definitely had the green light, shooting 16.3 times per game. With a year under his belt, Crawford could steal the starting gig from Nick Young and raise his averages from a year ago. Crawford can provide value in points, assists and steals, and owners should be able to wait on him a little in their drafts.
Roger Mason: Three years ago Mason averaged two three-pointers per game. Since then his numbers and minutes have dropped sharply. Mason was brought back to the Wizards for his professionalism and experience. He won’t be anything more than a 10th man on this team and provides little fantasy value.
Shelvin Mack: A rookie out of Butler University, Mack is the third point guard on the Wizards. When Wall is out, there will usually be two shooting guards on the floor, with Crawford bringing the ball up the court. So Mack’s minutes will be limited.
Jordan Crawford: Wall should outperform his draft slot, but he’s already getting drafted pretty high. Crawford is a guy who can be had late in drafts, and if his shooting percentages improve, he will average a significant amount of points, assists and steals for a two-guard getting drafted that late.
Nick Young: If Young signs a one-year deal and doesn’t get the starting job his attitude might go south in another contract year. There’s definite potential for a scenario where he starts losing playing time. He’s a one-stat guy anyways, and there’s not much room for more production. Crawford is the more valuable shooting guard for fantasy purposes.