All signs point to NBA basketball beginning on Christmas day and even with a 66 game schedule as opposed to 82, we’ll take it. Now the question is this: How does losing 16 games affect the Wizards?
You hear a lot of analysts talk about how the shortened schedule will benefit veteran teams like the Spurs, Celtics, and Lakers. However, I wholeheartedly disagree. As Michael Lee of the Washington Post tweeted on Monday, NBA teams will have to play 66 games in roughly 120 days. The Wizards specifically will have to play 66 games in 119 days.
How is a veteran team supposed to hold up during a fast and furious regular season? I don’t think we can expect them to. Luckily, the Wizards will once again have one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, loaded with key players John Wall, Jordan Crawford, JaVale McGee, Jan Vesely, Trevor Booker, Andray Blatche, Chris Singleton, and Nick Young, who will presumably be re-signed all at the age of 26 or younger. This is important because in the NBA, young legs are fresh legs.
When we see the Wizards on the court during this fast-paced season we are going to see plenty of dunks and plenty of John Wall pushing the ball up the court. The day David Stern announced John Wall as the first pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the direction of the roster was set—the Wizards were going to be a team that gets up and down and runs the floor. Team President Ernie Grunfeld continued the process of building that kind of roster when he drafted Jan Vesely with the 6th pick in the draft this past June. Vesely has many holes in his game, such as his poor free throw shooting and his limited offensive game, however, he can run the floor and finish on the break. Another key piece to the Wizards’ transition game is center JaVale McGee. JaVale is an unorthodox center, as there aren’t many people on the Earth that have ever had such an athletic skill set. I have long been a harsh critic of JaVale McGee, but his ability to run the floor as a big as well as be available to finish an alley oop from John Wall is rare.
Prior to free agency opening up, the Wizards still do not have a primary scorer. Nick Young is a restricted free agent and will likely be back, but on a good team is coming off the bench. Jordan Crawford also can score the ball but is inefficient and is also more a bench player on a playoff caliber NBA team. Because of this the team will struggle to generate consistent points in the half court, the fast break points will be so important—much like they were a season ago.
Is a team that loves to run and get out in transition going to win a championship? Probably not. The Miami Heat last year were at their best scoring in transition and they lost in the Finals—albeit with a far more talented roster than the Wizards’. The bottom line remains that as a team you must play to your player’s strengths, and when your best player, John Wall, wants to run…you run.