Acquisitions: A.J. Price, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Martell Webster, Jannero Pargo
Losses: Andray Blatche, Roger Mason, James Singleton, Rashard Lewis, Maurice Evans, Morris Almond
Summary of Last Season: After sporting only 20 wins the entire year, the Washington Wizards were an exceptionally bad team last season. The NBA Lockout certainly wasn’t helpful for a young squad, but there many other issues at play as well. And after a horrific 2-15 start to the season, head coach Flip Saunders was terminated and replaced by then interim head coach Randy Wittman. More changes were to take place as Wizards owner Ted Leonsis and team president Ernie Grunfeld, felt the need for more veteran presences to help lead the way for the then youngest team in the league. The Wizards acquired one of the NBA’s most skilled big men, Nene, from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for JaVale McGee who had become the face of all of the Wizards insecurities over the past few seasons. The Wizards also traded their starting shoot guard, Nick Young, in exchange for Brian Cook and a future second-round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers in order to complete the three team deal with the Nuggets. After such a bad year, the Wizards finished their season on a high note by winning their final six games and competing against the some leagues best teams such as the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat. With this new-found success came the conclusion of Andray Blatche’s career in Washington via the amnesty clause, and the start of Kevin Seraphin’s breakout in D.C. Needless to say, the Wizards finished their season with optimism amongst both the players and fans.
Improvement: The Wizards were surprisingly one of the NBA’s most active teams during the off-season. Their biggest deal came early into their acquisition period as the Wizards traded Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick to the New Orleans Hornets for former second overall pick, Emeka Okafor, and swingman, Trevor Ariza. Adding Ariza will hopefully provide depth and stability for the Wizards at the small forward position, as Washington’s previous starter at the position had been rookie Chris Singleton. Not only is Ariza touted as a defensive player, but his athleticism should provide help for John Wall in transition. Okafor is another player which will greatly help Washington on the defensive end of the floor. Though Okafor averages close to 13 points and 10 rebounds for his career, his 1.8 blocks per game often goes undervalued. Pairing Okafor with Nene and Kevin Seraphin in the frontcourt will create a legitimate threat for other teams to deal with. No longer does Washington have to rely on unproven, inexperienced, big men to lead their pack. It also doesn’t hurt to have a deep frontcourt waiting on the bench with Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely.
The Wizards also drastically improved their backcourt through the 2012 NBA Draft and free agency period. During draft preparation, Florida guard Bradley Beal had gained some steam due to his superior shooting stroke and versatility on and off the ball. The Cavaliers attempted several trade scenarios with the Charlotte Bobcats which — according to rumors – would’ve likely paired Kyrie Irving with Bradley Beal in Cleveland’s backcourt. As things worked out in Washington’s favor, the Cavs were unable to strike a deal with Charlotte, which eventually landed Beal in D.C. with the third overall pick in June’s draft. The Wizards were 28th in the league last season in three-point percentage, so adding Beal should help improve the team’s perimeter shooting for years to come. The Wizards also added two veteran backup point guards in A.J. Price and Jannero Pargo, as rookie Shelvin Mack had been rather underwhelming during summer league play. Although Price is only 25 years old, his veteran tenacity and leadership will help the Wizards’ young guards on and off the court. As I mentioned before, the Wizards were a terrible shooting team last season, and the front office made it a point to add players who can create for themselves and score beyond the arc. Ernie Grunfeld has re-signed Cartier Martin on a veterans minimum deal, and also acquired Martell Webster via free agency. By adding both Martin and Webster, the Wizards may have completed their search for shooters.
Looking Ahead: The Wizards have done a great job in addressing many of their needs for this season on both the defensive and offensive end of the floor. Prior to this off-season the Wizards surrounded their starting cast with veterans who were unable to contribute much, if anything, on the floor. Adding veterans Okafor and Ariza will prove dividends as the Wizards will have one of the most talented lineups in the southeast division. Surrounding their franchise face, John Wall, around with legitimate NBA players will not only help the team succeed but will help Wall further develop as a top NBA player once he returns from his patella stress injury. Drafting Bradley Beal, acquiring shooters, and a backup point guard will set the Wizards up for even more future success. Beal, in my opinion, has the potential to become one of the leagues top shooting guards at such as weak position, and not only can he stretch the floor, but Beal is also able to create for others. The Wizards have done basically everything they have sought out to due during this off-season. Small, yet significant, moves such as amnestying Andray Blatche who had become such a enigma in D.C will set the Wizards up for success. If John Wall gets back healthy and improves like we also expect, the Wizards will be without a doubt, be considered a NBA playoff team this upcoming season. How long has it been since we could sincerely predict the Wizards to make the playoffs? As our very own Kevin Hine wrote “there is legitimate excitement about this upcoming season.”
Offseason Grade: B
Predicitons: Southeast Divison- 2nd; Eastern Conference- 8th