The Wizards are a team that, in the pre-season, I thought had a real chance to improve and capitalize on some young talent. I was confident to the point where I thought they’d be flirting with the 8th Eastern Conference playoff seed for the bulk of the season. After two losses (preceded by a couple of pre-season Ls), it looks like there is still quite a way to go before this improvement happens.
I’ll get straight to the point with this team – maturity is the problem. The Wizards have a lot of potential stars in John Wall, Nick Young, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatch and Jamal Crawford, but they can’t seem to get it together just yet and it may take the entire season to do so. The impressive John Wall is the only one of these players who has, so far, taken his talent seriously enough for this team to be in the playoffs. A particular play in training camp highlights this perfectly. As you can see, McGee is showing everyone that he’s not really bothered about training camp, whilst Wall is showing leadership in both telling him to run and by tracking back to get the block to make up for JaVale’s mistake.
McGee, described as having the ceiling of Dwight Howard, did little in his first two years to prove himself worthy of such high praise but last season improved drastically. He took his chance to showcase his talents at the dunk contest and established himself as one of the league’s premier shot-blockers. But JaVale, like many of the other Wizards, needs to get down to business if he’s to take it to the next level.
The NBA Today podcast provided the perfect analogy for the Washington Wizards. Ryan Russillo said they’re like the pick-up team who comes in their new sneakers, showing off their athleticism in the warm-ups, but are actually dysfunctional when it comes to game time; allowing lesser teams to take advantage of them. Just looking at their first game against the Nets you can see this. They were blowing out the Nets and I was shocked to see they actually lost the game on NBA.com the next day. I didn’t see how it ended up like that but I imagine complacency and resting on unearned laurels were key themes.
Over the course of the season it would be nice to see the Wizards steady the ship, so to speak, and bringing back veteran Roger Mason Jr. could help with this. Mason was horribly unproductive last year with the Knicks but he is a leader and a ‘stand-up guy’ and he should help out the likes of Jordan Crawford and Nick Young – the two shooting guards ahead of him in the rotation. I’m not sure how exactly Ronny Turiaf helps JaVale McGee, though.
Regardless of the rest of the team’s performances, John Wall absolutely stands out on this roster and many are predicting him to take a Derrick Rose-esque leap this season, becoming an All-Star level point guard. That wouldn’t surprise me. If there is a point guard who can get the best out of this roster, it’s John Wall. Wall has already earned the team’s captaincy and, had it not been for Blake Griffin, he’d have won last years Rookie of the Year award as well. John Wall has it all; the vision, the mindset, the athleticism, the skill… the only thing he doesn’t have is an outside shot but plenty of point guards have been successful without one – take Tony Parker and Chris Paul, for example.
The Wizards shouldn’t have too high expectations for this season but they should take the season as a learning process. If they do – and if they start to mesh properly – we could be looking at a future playoff team. In two years time, when Rashard Lewis’ monster contract comes off the books, the Wizards could already be a low-seed playoff team and with the extra cap space they could end up putting together a pretty dangerous roster. As for now, though, the only real change this season will be those nice new uniforms (and maybe a few more wins).