Ben Mehic: Although the Washington Wizards are completing their best season in years, I still expected them to compete for a playoff spot during this past offseason. Instead, we’ve grown to love a basketball team who have won just 28 games thus far, and have played very inconsistent basketball throughout the season. Prior to John Wall returning to the lineup, the brand of basketball the Wizards were playing was virtually unwatchable. Bradley Beal struggled to adjust to the NBA and we were stuck watching A.J. Price play for 40 minutes a game. Now that John Wall is back and playing at a ridiculously high level, the Wizards have started to look like a respectable NBA team.
Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld did improve the team, from a roster standpoint. Grunfeld cleaned up his mess, trading JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Jordan Crawford and amnestying Andray Blatche. He brought in respectable veteran players such as Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster. Grunfeld unexpectedly struck gold by signing Martell Webster, since Webster has been one of the league’s top shooters from three this season. Emeka Okafor has been one of the most consistent guys on the roster this year, and has helped transform the Wizards defense. Prior to this season, Washington was a pretty bad defensive team and Grunfeld acquired pieces which drastically improved their defense. Most importantly, the guys Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld brought onto the team changed the Wizards off the court. Martell Webster and Emeka Okafor have become fan favorites and have even expressed interest in returning to the team with the same core group.
Now on to the bad stuff.
Grunfeld decided to trade for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza last season, which locked the Wizards up on the financial side of things. He also signed Martell Webster to just a one year deal last offseason, which will make Webster very hard to resign. Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton have seen minimal playing time this season. If Grunfeld had drafted more competent players in 2011, the Wizards future would look even brighter. Ernie Grunfeld also drafted Tomas Satoransky in last years draft, thinking the Wizards were going to be a deep enough team to be able to ‘draft and stash’ a second round pick. Well, Grunfeld completely dropped the ball on that one.
Washington has played + .500 basketball with John Wall on the floor, but injuries can’t become a viable excuse in the NBA. The Chicago Bulls have dealt with plenty of serious injuries this season, but have managed to still make the playoffs and play respectable basketball. Had Ernie Grunfeld and Ted Leonsis built a semi deep team, the Wizards would still be in the playoff hunt.
I’m very reluctant to give the front office a passing grade, but we’ve witnessed a very incomplete 2012-2013 NBA season.