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Washington Wizards Season Preview

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Playoffs.

That’s the goal for the Washington Wizards. Granted, it’s not like that isn’t the goal — more or less — every season, but this time around, they actually have a great shot at making some noise. The Wizards are coming into this season with the best, deepest roster they’ve had since Gilbert Arenas was firing shots that Jarvaris Crittenton wasn’t afraid of. gilbert-arenas-gun1 Too soon?

Anyway, the Wizards had a very solid offseason. They added Georgetown forward Otto Porter — probably the safest and most logical move of that crazy first round — and forward Glen Rice Jr. in the NBA Draft  The Wizards also made a point to re-sign forward Martell Webster, and re-tooled their bench by adding versatile forward Al Harrington and signing former Thunder and Blazers guard Eric Maynor. Adding two very talented rookie forwards (Porter, Rice Jr.), Webster Maynor and Harrington to a team that already has Trevor Ariza, Nene, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, Emeka Okafor, Bradley Beal and John Wall is good enough, on paper, to fight for a 4-6 seed in the East this year. hi-res-182104370-john-wall-nene-hilario-and-bradley-beal-of-the_crop_north OFFENSE: John Wall is one of the best point guards in the NBA. Wall can attack the basket with the best of them, due to his otherworldly athleticism, and he’s one of the best (young) passers we have in the NBA. Wall averaging around 8 assists per game for his career despite having, by all accounts, a terrible supporting cast for most of his entire career is a feat that just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. The most talented supporting cast Wall has had up until this point was the roster Washington had last season, but Wall didn’t get a chance to fully utilize it because of his injury last summer. With Wall back in the fold, the pick-and-roll with Wall and Nene should be very difficult to guard. Add in the fact that Bradley Beal, a great young shooter, will be roaming around the perimeter, and Trevor Ariza provides the Wizards with a solid spot-up shooter and a slasher, and you could realistically see the Wizards being pretty potent offensively. Oh, and you have Otto Porter, Martell Webster, Glen Rice Jr., and Al Harrington providing scoring off the bench, and Maynor to lead that bench unit at the point.

Nene is the primary post threat, and probably the only consistent one they have, so that could be an issue. With Emeka Okafor out indefinitely, the Wizards may struggle to rebound against bigger frontlines in the East (CHI, IND, DET), but in totality, they shouldn’t have much to worry about on the offensive end if John Wall continues to improve his patience, and guys like Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, and even Jan Vesely can prove to be solid finishers at the rim, and rebound the offensive glass well. The Wizards have the shooters in place to make John Wall a possible 17-10 guy, but Wall has to stay healthy. As solid of a backup as Eric Maynor is, the Wizards will be in some major trouble offensively if Wall gets injured and misses extended time. This offense could thrive as a drive-and-kick unit, and Wall is the perfect player to maximize the offensive talent on this roster. Can Wall do so? It’s fair to assume so. Will Wall remain healthy enough to do so? That remains to be seen. wizards-defense DEFENSE: Again, the Wizards could very well be a top 10 defensive team in the league this year, but healthy is the issue. What automatically makes defense a question mark is the indefinite loss of Emeka Okafor. Okafor is the defensive anchor of this team, and not only is Okafor the only true center on the roster, he’s the only guy with true bulk and size on the roster. Without Okafor’s presence for at least a few months, there’s nobody that should be trusted with guarding the likes of Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez, Al Horford, Andrew Bynum (whenever he decides to play), or Al Jefferson in the paint. To be fair, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker are solid low post defenders, and so is Nene. At the same time, those guys either lack size (Seraphin), bulk (Nene), or both (Booker); that’s a major problem in terms of a playoff run. The Wizards are going to have to get the young bigs to step up in Okafor’s absence, and they’ll need the perimeter defense to create more turnovers to offset the loss of Okafor. Luckily for the Wizards, they have one of the best perimeter defenses in basketball — on paper.

John Wall can get a little over-eager like Russell Westbrook, but ultimately, Wall is one heck of a defender. Bradley Beal is a little undersized at shooting guard, but he’s a solid on-ball defender as well. Trevor Ariza may very well be the most underrated perimeter defender in all of basketball. Even off the bench, Eric Maynor is a solid defensive point guard, and Martell Webster, Otto Porter, and Chris Singleton are all good perimeter defenders. If there’s a unit that can offset the lack of a true low-post defender, it’s Washington. We just have to see it happen.

BEST CASE SCENARIO: 47-35 (4th in the East), upset the Knicks 4-3 in the first round, lose in the 2nd round

If everything comes together for the Wizards — meaning Okafor doesn’t miss more than a couple of months, the bench produces, Bradley Beal has a Klay Thompson-esque season, and John Wall becomes an All-Star, the Wizards could enjoy a great season. The Wizards have the perimeter defenders to bother a team like the Carmelo Anthony-led Knicks, and the Knicks have struggled to contain athletic point guards — and wouldn’t you know it, the Wizards have one of those! Everything, and I mean everything would have to go great-to-perfect for the Wizards to get home-court advantage for the first round of this year’s playoffs, but it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

WORST CASE SCENARIO: 34-48, misses playoffs

In the worst, but probable event, the Wizards can fail to gel. Wall can have a great but injury-prone season. Okafor can possibly miss the entire year. Bradley Beal and Nene could miss quite a few games with injuries — again. Otto Porter, who has been dealing with nagging injuries this summer, could be hampered by injuries again. The bench could be very inconsistent. Randy Wittman could cement his place as the worst head coach in the NBA — unless he got fired first. The Wizards are your classic sleeper team, so by default, this team could catch you sleeping, or sleep themselves.

PREDICTION: 44-38 (6th in the East), lose in first round

Barring an excess of injury problems, the Wizards should make the playoffs this year. They almost have too much talent and depth not to, but weirder things have happened. John Wall will have his breakout season, and the rest of the supporting cast will perform well enough — and stay healthy enough — to help John Wall lead this team to their first playoff since, well, you know. Depending on who grabs the three-seed, the Wizards could potentially push a team to six or seven games, but ultimately, they aren’t ready to make a deep playoff run yet. They are, however, ready to make their first push.

Staff Writer

Follow me on Twitter — @ESPN_Nekias

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