Almost all the prognosticating and guessing is done.
The regular season tips off tomorrow night and then we’ll begin to get the answers to all the questions we’ve been asking all summer and preseason. The most important and obvious of those questions is, “how many games will the Wizards win this season?”
Well, we asked a few of the writers here at Wiz of Awes for their answers.
If I had written this in August, I would have been doing my best to make the case for the Wizards in the playoffs. I likely would have predicted the Wizards would exist in NBA purgatory, good enough to compete for a low playoff seed but not good enough to actually advance past the first round (or likely win a single game against the #1 seed). Queue up all the injuries including those to key players John Wall, Nene, and Kevin Seraphin, and it’s now looking like an awfully depressing season.
When you look around the league, it’s hard to find teams that are definitively worse than the Wizards. SportsBook.com has the Wizards with the fourth lowest wins line at 28.5. Only the Bobcats (18.5), Magic (24.5), and Hornets (26.5) have lower lines. The saddest part is that I can’t even argue with this assessment of the NBA. The Wizards improved from last season, but so did everyone else. Surely the case can be made that the fully healthy Wizards might be on par with the Warriors, Bucks, and Raptors (all around 33-36 wins), but without Wall and Nene in the opening day lineup, this team is likely to find itself scraping the bottom of the Southeastern division come December.
The national perception of the Wizards is that they will be absolutely terrible. I actually expect Martell Webster to be decent this year. I also expect AJ Price to hold his own until Wall returns from injury. This team will likely play between mediocre to bad defense without Seraphin, Wall, and Nene, and will struggle mightily to score as well, which is a recipe for disaster. Wall is expected to miss around 14 games, of which I expect the Wizards to win two or three. This will cripple the team and season as the time it will take for Wall to adjust to his new teammates upon his return will be enough to keep this team from playing well until March at the earliest.
With all these assumptions, I can’t foresee the Wizards winning more than 30 games. Last season, the Wizards enjoyed playing the Mega Millions lottery once the grand prize topped $500 million. They were simply training themselves for the future; they’ll be playing the lottery again in 2013.
This season was supposed to be one of the fun ones.
There usually isn’t a lot of fun involved in rooting for rebuilding teams. They make a bunch of boneheaded mistakes and often look totally outclassed. But during the darkest times, what keeps fans coming back is potential. During this off-season we imagined John Wall coming back with a jumper, Bradley Beal knocking down open threes, Nene in the post, and Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza providing lock-down defense. With young talent developing off the bench, thoughts of playoffs were in the air.
But injuries to two the Wizards best players, Nene and Wall, have made this season seem a lot like the others, except with a larger payroll.
Okay, so maybe I’m slightly exaggerating. On the micro level, I’m much more optimistic than most about the development of the young Wizards. But on the macro level, things look a little bleaker. That’s not a total indictment of the veterans. Okafor and Martell Webster have looked pretty good in the preseason and Nene was a world-beater down the stretch last year before he got injured. But by any fair assessment, the Wizards have some serious problems in making the playoffs. First and foremost, the uncertainty added by injures should make any Wizards prediction include a relatively pessimistic hedge. Not only will the Wizards definitely be without Wall and maybe Nene during the very rough opening stretch of their schedule, injuries are very unpredictable by nature. While Wall might only be out for the four weeks expected and Nene might return for the season opener, they certainly could be out for longer. And it’s not like the rest of the roster hasn’t ever had injury problems. Okafor only played 27 games last season because of a knee injury, Martell Webster has had back problems, Trevor Booker also had plantar fasciitis last season, and Seraphin is currently out with a calf injury. Therefore, the Wizards making it through the season with their roster intact seems like a tall order.
Also issues with this Wizards team is their lack of scoring and a lock-down perimeter defender.
Now, the Wizards are tangibly improved this off-season, and could still make the playoffs. If enough young players improve, the team doesn’t have injury trouble, the Wizards can shut teams down defensively, and Wall makes a big jump when he comes back, then it might even be probable the Wizards will get the 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. But when you start running down that many conditional statements, you have to think that it’s improbable the Wizards make the playoffs. Even though the Western Conference is clearly better than the East, there are a lot of good teams in the East that have a lot less questions than the Wizards.
Some things will probably go right this season. Others will probably go wrong. I think the Wizards will end up finishing either ninth or tenth in the conference. Wizards fans can take solace in an improving young core and winning more games than we’ve become accustomed to. And at least that’s something.
As the weeks and months have gone on, my win total prediction for the Wizards has declined. Had to you asked me after the draft, I would’ve said the Wizards would win all 82 games. However, once the joy of drafting Bradley Beal subsided and once the injuries to John Wall and Nene became issues, it’s now a different story.
This Wizards roster isn’t perfect, but with a fully healthy roster, I’d feel comfortable predicting a 41-win playoff season. A season like that is still possible, but guys like A.J. Price, Martell Webster, Emeka Okafor, and rookie Bradley Beal will need to all step up and likely play above their abilities while Wall, Nene, and Seraphin are sidelined.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that happens.