The 2013-2014 NBA season is right around the corner, and fans of their respective teams are undoubtedly wondering how well their teams will play, which players will develop, and who will ultimately finish a top the league. Since the Washington Wizards have a tendency to produce unpredictable seasons, I reached out to play by play announcer Dave Johnson for answers to questions surrounding the team for this upcoming season. Dave Johnson has been a part of the Washington Wizards organization for quite some time, and if anyone has answers to the questions comprised by myself and the staff, it’s certainly him.
Wiz of Awes: Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game, and the Wizards’ woes continued this offseason with the losses of both Chris Singleton and Emeka Okafor. Since Okafor was widely responsible for helping Washington turn their defense around, how will the Wizards respond without him in the lineup? Who do you expect to step up in his absence?
Dave Johnson: Okafor will be missed, but fortunately the Wizards improvement on defense was as a collective unit. In Okafor’s absence I still expect the Wizards to be strong on defense. What sometimes gets lost in last season is how good the Wizards were on defense. Even when they were 4-28, they were still ranked in the top half of the league. They just couldn’t score. Without Okafor it obviously is an opportunity for Kevin Seraphin to be more assertive. Al Harrington being in the front court mix will help. I think the Wizards are deeper.
Wiz of Awes: John Wall recently signed an $80 million dollar contract extension with the Wizards, so I think it’s safe to assume that he’ll remain in the nation’s capital for quite some time. Since his contract situation is out of the way, what do you expect from Wall this season? Should the term “potential” finally be forgotten from his name, now that he’s entering his fourth season in the NBA?
Dave Johnson: John Wall is ready to accept more responsibility for the Wizards, The connection with Wall’s play and the Wizards success has been well documented. Listening to him on post game shows with my partner Glenn Consor, it’s hard not to appreciate his commitment to the Wizards and to getting better. It’s about the shot. As Wall becomes a better mid-range jump shooter, he will be even more effective. I think he has already improved in playing at different speeds and being the floor general.
Wiz of Awes: We didn’t get to see much from Washington’s rookie Otto Porter Jr. during the summer league since he essentially only played in one game, but what should we expect from him this season? He has the tools to become a very good player at the next level, but could we anticipate Porter’s rookie season becoming similar to that of Bradley Beal’s?
Dave Johnson: Bradley Beal’s rookie season in my opinion is a hard act to follow. Because of injuries and other circumstances Beal was forced to grow up in a hurry. From January, maybe even December, if he had stayed healthy he would have been a serious rookie of the year candidate. I don’t think the pressure (and this is me talking) is on Porter to develop as fast. The Wizards have depth and I think it is a good thing that he can grow into the NBA. I think of someone like Tayshaun Prince, he was allowed to develop and look what happened.
Wiz of Awes: What were some key areas that the Wizards needed to improve on this season? Do you think that they did a sufficient job in addressing some of those areas/needs?
Dave Johnson: In short I think specifically Eric Maynor and Al Harrington were huge additions. I think Maynor will give the Wizards a nice change of pace coming off the bench. Harrington is a veteran who will mentor younger players and is so versatile. In the NBA it seems everyone gets a little better. The Wizards were essentially a playoff team once they got healthy, they have the talent and character to be in the conversation for post season.
Wiz of Awes: For the first time in over half a decade, the Wizards may actually have a legitimate shot at making the post season. How do you feel like they stack up against the other up-and-coming teams (Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, etc.)?
Dave Johnson: That’s a tough question. I have been doing this long enough to know seasons are unpredictable. As I said before the Wizards are not the only team that believes they have improved. For me it gets back to defense. When Randy Wittman took over, he made a defense a priority. The Wizards are a good defensive team—defined as being in the top half of the league. That gives them a chance.
Wiz of Awes: And finally, please give us your final thoughts on Washington’s offseason and expectations heading into this upcoming season.
Dave Johnson: I think Porter is a nice fit for the long term. I think Rice has the potential of being one of the surprises of the draft. He is not a true rookie. I love being around this team. Remember this is a team that started 4-28 and found a way to 29 wins. That is worth noting. Most teams with that kind of start, check out. The Wizards attitude never changed and the last few months of last season was a lot of fun. Season are long. You need character. The Wizards have that.
We’d like to thank Dave Johnson for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer some of our questions regarding the Washington Wizards’ upcoming season. Please follow Dave Johnson on Twitter: @DJohnsonWTOP and check out his contributions on Monumental Network’s, Daily Wizdom.