Here are some words to describe the 2011-12 Washington Wizards, as they’re current state suggests: young, raw, inexperienced, talented, athletic, irregular. Where they stand right now is both frustrating and hopeful, with their best days ahead and some difficult times in the immediate future. Only one of those is a near guarantee, however; unfortunately, it’s the latter. Even though things look up with their franchise superstar in place and a growing assortment of suitable compliments around him, nothing is assured in the world of professional sports. But the Wizards have something most other teams in their position don’t, and that’s a tried and true blueprint for success. Mirroring it won’t be easy, but with the most difficult to find piece already in place, it’s certainly a possibility.
The team Washington should study and study hard happens to be a fine model. The Chicago Bulls.
Both have a franchise player who’ll have the ball in his hands for most of the game, and is able and willing to be a crunch time scorer (despite the various similarities, comparing Derrick Rose to John Wall is dangerous territory, so I’ll stop right there); both teams have a spry, freakishly athletic center who can gracefully defend the hoop. While Noah is better than McGee, and Rose is better than Wall, both players draw a resemblance to one another. What they next need to do is identify themselves with a defense first mentality. This requires dedication from the coaching staff, and the addition of smart, sensible players who take value in each defensive possession. It requires extreme hard work and a roster full of players who not only compliment one another, but are familiar with each other’s tendencies; who trust each other for help and communicate as second nature.
There’s one major difference that makes this comparison a difficult one, and that’s the simple fact that when Derrick Rose was drafted by Chicago, they were already a quality basketball team. In the four years before Rose was drafted, the Bulls made the playoffs three times (averaging just under 46 wins a season). They then missed the playoffs, but still won 33 games. The following offseason, the ping pong balls fell Chicago’s way, and they received the number one overall pick, to which they selected Rose, immediately allowing them to re-enter the playoff picture. After winning 41 games in each of his first two seasons in the league, Rose’s Bulls took an unexpected quantum leap to 62 victories last year, good for best in the entire league.
Two years before the Wizards were awarded Wall, they won 19 games. The next year, that number spiked all the way to 26, keeping them firmly entrenched in the Atlantic Division’s basement. Last season, in Wall’s first, the team regressed down to 23. When sizing this group up to the one Chicago had in place for Rose, these Wizards have less talent, no leadership, and a random ensemble of players who, for the most part, lack any big game experience whatsoever.
Right now, the Wizards seem to be setting themselves down the exciting yet unsuccessful path of watching Wall fly up and down the court with comparable athletes at his side. This strategy would be entertaining, and should familiarize Washington with the postseason, but winning championships? They have the point guard, now all they need is the right framework.