STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The third year of the rebuilding effort for the Washington Wizards has taken a hit before the first jump ball in the regular season and even the preseason.
The player that the Wizards have been building around, John Wall, will miss the first dozen or so games of the NBA's regular season because of a stress injury in his right knee. In addition, the Wizards will be without their second best player, Nene, who reinjured his left foot during the Olympics and will miss the preseason and the start of the regular season.
Both Nene and Emeka Okafor, their top acquisition in the offseason, were coming into the 2012-13 season after missing time last season because of injuries. Both are the heart and soul of the interior for the Wizards and are interchangeable between center and power forward. After Washington acquired Nene late last season, the Wizards went on a nice run as they won 10 of their last 21 games.
The biggest import this season might be rookie Bradley Beal, the third pick in the 2012 NBA draft. One of the weakest areas on the Wizards was shooting, and they think they might have found it with Beal. The hope is that Beal will take the shooting feeling away from Wall, who has shot poorly from the outside, including a miniscule 7.1 percent from three-point range last season. The team, though, worked with Wall on his shooting in the offseason.
The youngest team in the NBA actually got a little older in the offseason in acquiring Okafor and Trevor Ariza from New Orleans for forward Rashard Lewis and the 46th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Okafor just turned 30 and is the second oldest player on the team behind Nene, who is also 30 years old.
In 2012-13, the Wizards can only improve as they recorded the second-worst record last season, with only fellow Southeast division member, Charlotte, running up a worse mark.
Along with their record, Washington ranked near the bottom in both offense and defense. The Wizards averaged 93.6 points during the 2011-12 season, which ranked 22nd, tied with the Sixers, while the defense allowed 98.4 points per game. The acquisitions in the offseason were also used to pump up the Wizardsí defense.
As one of the youngest teams in the NBA, the Wizards could have one of their players emerge as an up-and-comer, likely Kevin Seraphin or Jan Vesely.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
As the face of the Wizards, Wall will be eased into action when he returns from injury, likely around the first of December, and over the course of the season he should average 35 minutes at the point. A.J. Price will facilitate the offense in his place, earning 25 to 30 minutes per game before Wall returns to action and the majority of the reserve minutes when he's back in the fold. Meanwhile, Shelvin Mack and Jannero Pargo will receive marginal minutes with Wall out and next to nothing once Wall is dominating the point guard slot.
At shooting guard, Beal, the rookie, is the expected starter, taking on up to 30 minutes per game. His primary backup, Jordan Crawford, should see 20 to 25 minutes as the main reserve two-guard, mixing in a few minutes at the point and in smaller lineups next to two fellow guards. Finally, Cartier Martin will receive minimal playing time, even with Wall out of the lineup for much of November.
Small forward is the murky spot in Washington, with Ariza taking on the primary role at the three, racking up 20 to 25 minutes per contest. Martell Webster may start a few games on occasion, posting 15 to 20 minutes per tilt, with Chris Singleton gathering much of the remaining playing time. Jan Vesely and Martin can also slot in at the three, but their roles will be negligible.
With the veteran Nene out to the start the year, Trevor Booker is the likely starter at power forward, improving upon his 25.2 minutes per game from a season ago. The promising European import, Vesely, should tally most of the remaining playing time, but when Nene returns, Vesely will likely be marginalized in the rotation.
The center position for Washington definitely includes the fewest question marks, with Okafor earning his typical 30 minutes per game when Kevin Seraphin is healthy. When not, Okafor will likely take on an even larger burden, but Seraphin should notch up to 20 minutes per contest. Finally, once Nene makes his return, he is a viable backup in the middle and will help ease the minutes burden on the 30-year-old Okafor.
Emeka Okafor: The Wizards were in the lower half of the league in rebounding, so the acquisition of Okafor is a plus. He missed most of last season due to injury so the Wizards are hoping that he stays injury-free and averages a double-double as he has in five of his eight seasons. Okafor also brings defense to Washington that the Wizards sorely lacked last season. The combination of Nene and Okafor on the floor will definitely help the Wizards on the glass.
Kevin Seraphin: Seraphin improved last season in his sophomore year in the NBA. Depending on the health of Nene and Okafor, he could see more time on the floor than the Wizards expect. The team is looking for improvement on the defensive side and more rebounding. His minutes doubled last season, resulting in modest bumps in points (from 2.7 to 7.9) and rebounds (from 2.6 to 4.9) in 20.6 minutes per game. He also swatted 1.3 shots per tilt last year.
Nene: The veteran of a still relatively young group will be playing his first full season with the Wizards after being acquired from Denver. The club is hoping that his injury-plagued 2011-12 will not be the case this season. Despite the injury, Nene had played injury-free the previous three seasons. He saw his scoring increase with the move to Washington, averaging 14.5 points compared to 13.4. With Wall missing the first few weeks of the season, the Wizards will be looking for Nene to provide a scoring punch. He previously signed a five-year, $67 million contract with the Nuggets last December.
Trevor Ariza: It will be the sixth team for Ariza as the Wizards hope that he can fulfill the prospects that some saw while he was with the Lakers as a role player. No matter, a middling shooting stroke may not be able to hold off Trevor Booker from eventually taking over the starting small forward job. A career 43-percent shooter, he shot 41.7 percent last season, which actually was up from 2010-11, when he only shot 39.8 percent from the field.
Trevor Booker: In his second season, Booker's minutes increased from 16.4 to 25.2 and his production grew in kind, averaging 8.4 points (versus 5.3 last year) and 6.5 rebounds (from 3.9). As expected, his field goal percent dropped slightly from 54.9 to 53.1 percent.
Martell Webster: Webster was signed just before the start of training camp and is slotted to back up Ariza at small forward. He brings some offense and some veteran experience.
Cartier Martin: Martin will be fighting for minutes. He came back after playing in China and the D-League last year and actually gave the Wizards valuable minutes in the last month of the season. He posted 9.3 points (on 44.0 percent shooting), 3.4 rebounds, and 1.7 treys in 23.0 minutes per game, which will be difficult to match since he's buried on the depth chart.
Jan Vesely: Vesely saw more minutes when Randy Wittman took over the coaching chores, but overall it was a disappointing rookie season for the sixth overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Vesely averaged just 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game last year. However, in 15 April tilts he scored in double figures seven times, while ripping down double-digit boards on four occasions. The Wizards will hope that he posts similar production this season.
Chris Singleton: The possible odd man out when the final cuts are made for the start of the 2012-13 season, especially with the signing of Webster.
John Wall: The announcement that Wall would miss the first few weeks of the NBA schedule with a knee injury was a blow to the Wizards and their plans for 2012. When he gets back, he should be helped by the offseason additions of Emeka Okafor and Bradley Beal so Wall can concentrate on directing the offense and not chucking shots.
Bradley Beal: Beal is another big piece of the puzzle for the Wizards. His development took a blow, though, with the loss of Wall to start the season. Beal was brought in to shoot the ball and needs the help of a distributor like Wall. If you go by his draft selection, Beal will get plenty of opportunities to make his pick worth it.
A.J. Price: Price might be the heir apparent in terms of playing time with Wall out due to injury. Signed as an unrestricted free agent in the summer, he is looking to revive his career after his role diminished with the Pacers the last two seasons. Price will get his shot, but the team's addition of Jannero Pargo just before the start of training camp will give Price competition for minutes.
Shelvin Mack: Mack could be one of the beneficiaries of Wall's injury to start the season. He did not help his stock, though, after struggling during Summer League play. Drafted as a backup to Wall, he will be battling Price and Pargo for minutes. It will be an important period for Mack to show his talents to either stay with the Wizards or be showcased for another team. To start the season, he could see an increase in his output from the 2012-13 season, when he posted 3.6 points and 2.0 assists in 12.2 minutes per game.
Jordan Crawford: Crawford saw one competitor for minutes leave and another arrive. Last season, Nick Young was traded away, but the Wizards drafted Beal with the third pick in the 2012 draft. Crawford has been talking a good game about the Wizards' drafting of Beal, but his playing time should be dented with his arrival. Without Wall to begin the season and Beal getting his legs wet, Crawford might still receive similar minutes to last year's 27.4, but that could change as the season goes on.
Jannero Pargo: With the injury to Wall, Pargo opted to sign with the Wizards instead of going back to the Bulls because of a better opportunity in Washington. He's simply a roster filler at this point in his career.
Jordan Crawford: Many believe that the drafting of Beal ensures that Crawford will remain on the bench, but Crawford will likely benefit from both Wall's injury and the youth of Beal. He played especially well after the Wizards traded away Young last season, when he averaged 17.4 points, 3.0 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 1.3 treys, and 1.2 steals in 31.4 minutes over 23 contests.
Trevor Ariza: Ariza was brought in to be the starting small forward, and some believe that a new environment could improve his offensive numbers. The Wizards' roster, however, includes fellow forwards Martell Webster and Jan Vesely, who could eat into his minutes if Ariza continues his poor shooting from the previous three seasons.