Injuries have unfortunately become a common occurrence for the Wizards during the offseason, and it started yesterday with both Chris Singleton and Emeka Okafor. Although Singleton’s injury does affect the Wizards in terms of roster depth, Emeka Okafor’s absence could potentially alter Washington’s progress and playoff hopes.
Okafor, who is widely credited for propelling the Wizards into elite defensive status, has become the anchor the Wizards have been missing for years. Although he’s not much of a threat offensively, Okafor does provide the stability defensively by holding down the paint. Washington wasn’t necessarily a great rebounding team last season, but Okafor was still the teams best rebounding big, and without him in the lineup, the Wizards’ coaching staff has to find a way to fill the void. Needless to say, neither Nene nor Kevin Seraphin could play Okafor’s role.
Both Nene and Seraphin are more offensively oriented, so in theory, the Wizards’ offense (which was the worst in the league last season) should improve with either of them in the lineup. Washington has to find a way to utilize the players on their roster in order to get what they’ll inevitably miss without Okafor. Besides Okafor, the Wizards don’t have a legitimate center on their roster. Nene and Seraphin are both better suited to play the power forward position, and they’ll likely become an even worse rebounding team with them on the floor.
So, what could the Wizards do to compensate for Okafor’s absence?
Unlike the majority of NBA teams nowadays, the Wizards played two traditional big men for the vast amount of time in their frontcourt, and with Okafor out indefinitely, they’ll have to start experimenting more with smaller lineups. Thankfully, the Wizards have some depth on their bench in terms of available forwards. Many people believe that Seraphin will simply slide into the starting lineup to replace Okafor, but I tend to think differently. If the Wizards want to improve offensively without Okafor, they’ll probably have to look at a different route. Although Seraphin does possess the post skill and face up game required, he’s still one of the most inefficient players on the roster, and the Wizards have other available options.
Of course, newly acquired vet Al Harrington could end up starting at the four spot and Nene could potentially start at center. Nene and Harrington are obviously familiar with each other from their days in Denver,giving the Wizards an opportunity to capitalize on the transition offense they’d like to instill this season. Harrington seems to have bounced back from the various injuries he’s suffered throughout the years, and he’ll give the Wizards another shooting option to work with. Harrington won’t help the Wizards defensively whatsoever, but he does give John Wall another offensive weapon. If you’ve watched any Wizards games from this past season, I think it’s pretty easy to tell that they need all the offensive help they could get.
With all that said, it’s obvious that the Wizards won’t be able to get what they’re missing with anyone on the current roster. No one on the roster has the tools to fill Okafor’s role, so the Wizards need to figure something out before it’s too late. Despite the loss, I still believe that Washington has a legitimate shot at making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Although Okafor’s presence has been underrated, he’s still somewhat replaceable. Since the Wizards have 15 players under contract (the maximum allowed), they won’t be able to sign any free agent without waiving a player. Trades are likely to occur, but Washington’s chances of getting a player of Okafor’s caliber back in a deal is highly unlikely.
What’s the solution? Basically, there isn’t one. The Wizards have to do their best with what they currently have, and that’s unfortunate. Injuries are an inevitability in sports, even if they occur to significant players, and the Wizards have to find a way to stay competitive. Washington’s coaching staff will likely continue to tinker with their lineups until they find a acceptable combination of both offense and defense. The Wizards brass has done a good job acquiring versatile player, so I’m definitely excited to see what lineups they’ll produce once the season begins.
Who do you want to step in for Okafor? Would you like to see the Wizards make a trade to fill the void? Give me your thoughts in the comment section.