Mar 27, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) handles the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
As 82 difficult Washington Wizards games finally draw to a close, the writers at WizofAwes took a stab at some burning questions from this season, and it’s impact for the one ahead in 2013-14. We can only hope that the optimism built from recent strong play is finally realized next season with what’s known as a ‘winning record’.
1. Is John Wall a top-10 point guard in the league?
Ben: I think so. John Wall has been playing out of his mind as of late, and has finally received the national recognition he deserves. Averaging over 25 points and 7 assists this month, John Wall is turning into the player we all expected him to become out of Kentucky. When Wall is knocking down jump shots at a consistent rate, like he’s been doing lately, he’s virtually unstoppable. Indiana Pacers head coach, Frank Vogel, has even compared Wall’s improvement to Derrick Roses’. The NBA is filled with talented point guards, but I have to include John Wall in the top 10. If he sustains his ridiculous play, he’ll be ranked even higher for years to come.
James: If you would have posed this question in January, anyone with two eyes and a brain not washed by the geographical location of their birth or by whom they root for would submit to you that John Hildred Wall was a middling basketball player who was incapable of doing anything better than he was when he first entered the league. And then the last 15 games happened and Wall’s ceiling appears to be more limitless than made of glass. Even so, who is to decide which 15 games matter most: the last 15 of the first 15? Either way, Wall has shown he’s at least the 10th best PG in the league and maybe better. Hell, ESPN thinks he’s a top 25 player total. I was questioning whether he was even a top 15 point guard as early as December, so what do I know?
Nithin: It’s a testament to John Wall’s dedication and subsequent progression that this question is now a no-brainer. I am, admittedly, a homer of the highest proportions and tend to get a little too excited (both positively and negatively) when the wheels start to turn. But what we’ve seen from Wall over the last month and a half is clearly an anointed star making the leap that everyone has been waiting for. It’s fair to question whether his jump shot is really a product of a hot shooting streak or improved mechanics. And maybe teams are laying off as the season draws to a close, either to better position themselves for the lottery or get healthy for the post season. But Wall has been doing this long enough for me to think it’s just a supremely talented individual finally making good on all the potential. His statistics, both basic and advanced, have improved across the board from Years 1 and 2 and the team’s performance has done the same since his return on January 12th. The future is bright for this young star, and oh yeah – he’s definitely a top 10 point guard in today’s NBA.
2. If the Wizards were to re-do the 2012 draft, is Bradley Beal still the right choice at #3?
Ben: Bradley Beal is without a doubt still the right choice at #3. In hindsight, I’m sure the Charlotte Bobcats would even be reluctant to pass on Beal at #2. With John Wall, the Wizards have the best young back court in the league. Not only does Beal fit into the Wizards system, but he’s helped change their dynamic in the locker room. Beal is just 19 years old, but has shown massive improvement from when he first entered in the NBA. If he remains healthy, Beal will probably have a chance at becoming an NBA All-Star. It’s been a long time since the Wizards front office got a draft pick correct, but they certainly got this selection right.
James: Beal was the right choice and still is. I can’t think of a better mate for a non-jump-shooting PG than a knockdown shooter to help space the floor. Now if only there was a big guy who could space the floor…
Nithin: When sizing up the 2012 Rookie Class, there are a few guys who rose above the cut (including Beal) such as Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, and Dion Waiters. I debated this question for a second, considering Drummond as a high-impact low post player who could give the Wizards some sorely needed athleticism from the 4/5 spot. But ultimately, Washington’s biggest void over the last few years has been outside shooting and Beal has proved himself to be a wonderful knockdown jump shooter. So I think the Wizards made the right choice at the #3 spot, and have formed a true backcourt of the future (and present when they were both healthy).
3. Based on this season’s performance, should Grunfeld/Wittman be retained for 2013-14?
Ben: This is probably the toughest question of all. I’m a huge supporter of Randy Wittman, but he does have his flaws. His rotations still remain suspect and the Wizards are one of the worst offensive teams in league under Wittman. I applaud Wittman’s efforts because he’s been able to turn a bottom feeding team such as the Wizards, into an elite defensive team. Wittman has also been able to keep his players interested in the task at hand, which is something Flip Saunders wasn’t able to do. It’s hard to keep a 20+ win team focused, but Wittman has been able to do just that. The players enjoy playing under him. I support him and wouldn’t mind seeing him back on the sidelines next season.
Now on to Ernie Grunfeld:
By drafting Bradley Beal, trading for Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, and signing Martell Webster, Ernie Grunfeld had put together a playoff caliber team in the offseason. Grunfeld and Wittman both have one year left on their contracts, so I expect them to be in a packaged deal. If Grunfeld and Wittman fail to lead the Wizards into the post season next year, I fully expect them to get the boot. Ted Leonsis has been adamant about making the playoffs. I think they will both return next season, but we’ll have to see improvement next year for them to receive yet another extension.
James: I’m on the record that Grunfeld catches more flak than he deserves, and that it’s unfair to judge him based upon the pupu platter of Gilbert Arenas / Rashard Lewis (which I don’t blame him for), but I still gave him an awful rating for this season all because he missed on James Harden. Anyway, what’s the point of firing him now? This team has some major problems but they are less major than they were just 18 months ago. Zombie Grunfeld may still be in zombie mode, but there’s no non-zombie in the world that is going to take this team and turn it into a contender in the next year.
Nithin: If financial criteria was not part of the decision making, under no circumstances should Grunfeld or Wittman be back next season to lead the Wizards to the promised land of the 10th pick. I’ve covered my gripes with each in the past so I won’t get into specifics. But we’ve seen enough blown draft picks and stagnant offensive schemes to know that the franchise needs innovative minds in charge to make the right personnel decisions and take the reins off one of the more athletic teams in the league. No, it’s not possible to turn this thing around in one year to make the team a title contender, but why hold on to inferior employees any longer than necessary?
4. What areas does the roster most need to improve?
Ben: As noted, the Wizards are one of the worst offensive teams in the league. They will need to add players which will take some of the offensive burden off John Wall and Bradley Beal. Nene is on the tail end of his career, so I’d like to see the Wizards possibly add another decent big man. Washington doesn’t have talent to draw free agent interest, so they will need to execute in this upcoming draft or trade for another big man. Adding another backup point guard is also essential. A.J. Price has had a decent season, but adding another guard in case of injury is a must. If the Wizards fail to resign Martell Webster, they will probably need to draft/trade for yet another small forward. Washington has to improve if they want to make the post season next year. I’ll be interested to see what route they take, since they’re locked up financially.
James: Aside from an entirely new bench, this team needs a three-point shooter off the bench and a big guy who can knock down a mid-range shot. These player archetypes would space the floor for Mr. John Wall. At this point, that’s all that matters.
Nithin: This roster needs a multitude of upgrades to execute a successful overhaul. First and foremost, a semblance of a bench squad would be nice, as production falls off a cliff when the starters come out. More specifically, the Wizards need another playmaker (so Wall doesn’t have to do everything), another shooter (so Beal doesn’t have to do everything) and a stretch 4 (so we can stop watching our big men attempt 15-footers that they can’t make). And if we are to part with Ariza in any type of trade this summer, we’d need another perimeter defender who can come in and lock up an opponent’s top offensive option.
5. What players on the current roster should be considered keepers?
Ben: John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Outside of Washington’s young back court, I can’t see any “keepers” on today’s roster. Nene is aging, Okafor and Ariza will become expiring contracts, and the Wizards 2011-2012 draft selections all seem to be destined for failure. I was really hoping Jan Vesely would become a “keeper”, but I have completely lost faith in him. Sadly, the Wizards don’t have very many “keepers” on this roster. Hopefully, they will draft a decent player this year who will fit in that category.
But as for now, Wall and Beal are the only “keepers”.
James: Piggybacking off of my answer to number 4, this team needs an entirely new team to go with from John Wall and Bradley Beal. That said, no one should be untouchable. I’d still trade Beal for Harden and I would be open to offers for Wall to have options aside from the max, which he will now undoubtedly get. Only one of Nene and Okafor should be in the starting lineup after next season, and, due to the contract situations, it will likely be the declining Nene. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team have eight guys in 2015 that aren’t on the roster this year. Cartier Martin, Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, Jason Collins, Leandro Barbosa, and Garrett Temple, likely don’t have roles on winning teams in the NBA and I expect to see them go.
Nithin: Unfortunately, only Beal and Wall are keepers moving forward. Webster thrilled fans all year by outperforming our expectations, but will that look differently when he’s making $5 million a year instead of $1.7 million? Nene and Okafor are good veteran presences and both strong defensively, but they can’t play on the floor at the same time if the goal is to be effective offensively. Ariza is a nice piece but with an expiring contract of $7 million, he has more value as a trade chip. The rest of the squad is a bunch of role players, reserves, and journeymen who would never see the floor on a contending team. Time to move on.