Can the Wizards Shift the Paradigm in the Southeast Division?

The Washington Wizards were stuck and have been stuck in basketball purgatory for much of the franchise’s life. Since the Washington Wizards moniker was implemented in 1998, they’ve never had a win total that eclipsed 45. They had a potential MVP candidate in Gilbert Arenas and three legitimate all-star players in Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, and Arenas.

However, things never clicked perfectly for the Wizards. They had a plethora of injuries that they had to work through with Caron Butler at one point. Gilbert Arenas’ knee was blown out, and LeBron James stood in the way of any playoff success that Wizards fans thought that they were going to have. It seemed like everything that would keep them from getting over the hump just did.

Before you know it, Gilbert Arenas was caught pointing guns at teammates. Then, before his pending suspension, he used a gun taunt while in game. After barely playing for two straight seasons, Arenas was suspended for 50 games during the 09-10 season. With a troublesome knee and an unpredictable personality that ended up being more of a reality than a facade, the Wizards traded Arenas to the Orlando Magic for Rashard Lewis.

They acquired John Wall in the draft during that season as well and the rest is history. Now the Wizards have completely turned over their roster from all of the players that previously gave them headaches. With the amnestying of Andray Blatche and the shipment of Javale McGee and Nick Young, the Wizards have gotten rid of every player that was apart of the Gilbert Arenas era of the Washington Wizards.

They’ve officially moved on with John Wall who is now the longest tenured Wizard with three years experience. It is now Wall’s team and everyone within the organization, including himself, is well aware of it.

The question is, how good can this Washington Wizard team be?

They’ve turned over the roster at every position except for the point guard position. Their starting line-up at the start of last season was John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatche, and Javale McGee. Next year, three, and a possible four, of those players will not be starting, or playing even, for the Washington Wizards.

They’ve developed depth as well. Their new aquisitions listed by position are as follows. Excluded are players who may not make the team. Every player listed below will have a spot on the roster.

Point Guard: AJ Price
Shooting Guard: Bradley Beal
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza
Power Forward: none
Center: Emeka Okafor

They have made a move to develop depth at almost every position with the exception of the power forward spot–which already had a lot of depth going into the season. A person who was not on that list was their trade deadline acquisition of NeNe who was the most decorated free agent last off-season. He was acquired toward the end of last season, and his veteran presence did wonders for the young players on the Wizards, but his full effect on the floor has not been felt as of yet.

The only concern with him is the issue of his health. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a difference maker for the Washington Wizards. I think that some of the health issues have come from NeNe playing out of his position in Denver and Washington throughout his career. Though he is big enough to play center, he’s really a power forward in the NBA. The acquisition of Emeka Okafor should benefit him greatly and give Washington room to move him to his natural spot of power forward.

Their starting line-up will be Wall, Crawford or Beal as opposed to Young or Crawford, Ariza or Singleton, NeNe, and Okafor. The bench will be bolstered by up-start power forward Kevin Seraphin and super-athlete Trevor Booker. AJ Price or Shelvin Mack will back up John Wall and Beal or Crawford will provide a scoring touch from off of the bench. This Wizards team is young, but deep and poised to make a run.

I don’t think that its inconceivable that this team wins 30-40 games next season and fights for the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. If they are able to reach their full potential, they could fight for the second spot in the Southeast division behind the Miami Heat.

The Orlando Magic are on the downside with Dwight Howard and him wanting out of Orlando. Other than Howard, that team is very small and lacks a lot of talent. Defensively, most of them are suspect as well. The Atlanta Hawks are working towards a rebuild. Though, they still have two potential All-Stars in Josh Smith and Al Horford in their front court. Their guard play will be most important for them, though. If Teague can’t step up to the plate then it could be a significant drop off for them.

The Wizards have a lot of room to work here and can start by making a splash within the division. Don’t be surprised if they knock a few teams out of the playoff picture, at the very least.

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One Thought to “Can the Wizards Shift the Paradigm in the Southeast Division?”

  1. It should be interesting to see what style offense they play, what Ariza and Okafor bring defensively and also how Wall develops in year three. The Wizards front office made good moves this off-season and they are set up for potential success.

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