The Washington Wizards are competing for more than a playoff spot this season. This year they are competing for relevancy in the NBA world. Even when Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards, they were never viewed as anything more than a minor annoyance in the playoffs. They weren't a championship contender; they haven't been since Wes Unseld was leading them.
Wizards owner, Ted Leonsis is looking to change all of that, he's realized that unlike other sports you cannot bring in high priced free agents (and Washington was only landing second rate and over paid ones) in the NBA to win championships. You need that solid, young core in which to build around.
Somehow Ernie Grunfeld (it is absolutely amazing he's still employed by a team in the NBA) has managed to build a tremendous backcourt that you can build a team around.
With the East being as weak as it is on the bottom, .500 is a possibility and playoffs are a certainty.
Head Coach: Randy Wittman was a star in the early 80's at the University of Indiana, winning a championship with Isiah Thomas in 1981. He would go on to have a so-so 10-year NBA career playing with the Hawks, Kings and Pacers.
After numerous stints as an assistant coach and small tenures as a head coach, Wittman now enters his second full season as head coach with the Wizards. He took over for the fired Flip Saunders in January of 2012.
One of the best attributes for Wittman is his ability to develop younger talent and some credit him with being able to help Kevin Garnett go from good to great.
Joining Wittman on the bench this season is Don Newman, Don Zierden, Sam Cassell, Ryan Saunders and Pat Sullivan.
Last Season's Record: 29-53
Player Losses: Usually one player leaves a team in the offseason. The Wizards did not have a single player leave. Not a one. They finished strong last year and they are rolling the dice with this young core to see what they can do.
Player Additions: They did, however, sign Eric Maynor and Al Harrington in free agency. They drafted Otto Porter with the third overall pick in the draft, then picked up Glen Rice Jr. with the 35th pick in the second round.
Best Player: When healthy (I feel I've written that phrase 80 times throughout these previews) John Wall is the best player. When Wall was recovering from an offseason injury that ran into the regular season. The Wizards were 5-28 without Wall, 24-25 with him including 14-12 against would be playoff teams.
Worst Player: Even though I loved his play with George Washington on that really fun Final Four run a few years ago, Pops Mensah-Bonsu (if he makes the final roster) probably doesn't see the floor a whole lot despite the Wizards being very thin on the front line.
That George Washington team was sure fun to watch though.
Player due to breakthrough: Another kid from Seattle that has some injury issues, not knees like Brandon Roy, but constant back issues. Martell Webster is only 26 and he's shown some flashes when healthy. I think this is the year that he finally stays relatively healthy and puts it together.
He's going to be relied on heavily to carry the scoring of the second unit, which is very light in scorers who can create their own shot.
The Starters: Wall is the point guard, the deadly Bradley Beal is at the two, rookie Otto Porter Jr. is at the small forward position, Nene Hilario at power forward and Emeka Okafor will anchor down the center position for the Wizards.
The Bench: Eric Maynor is the back up point guard, Webster, Chris Singleton and Trevor Ariza will back up the wing positions. The frontline reserves consist of Trevor Booker, Al Harrington and the enigmas Jan Vessley and Kevin Seraphin. Glen Rice Jr. and Garrett Temple could see some time here and there as well.
Random Seattle Connection: Seattle native and Seattle Prep star, Martell Webster.
Worst Case Scenario for the Season: Injuries once again plague Wall, Beal, Webster and Nene; they lose 50+ games again and are right back into drafting in the top five. But is that really a bad thing this year?
Most Likely Scenario for the Season: Health remains a prominent virtue for this team throughout the year. Only a few games here and there are missed. This year their ceiling is the competing with Cleveland for the 7th or 8th seed. The most they can hope for is a game three or four win in the first round of the playoffs. That one single playoff win is going to be like a drug to these young players though. They're going to want more and the next year they come back hungrier and better.
Atlanta Hawks: Peachtree Hoops
Charlotte Bobcats: Rufus on Fire
Miami Heat: Hot Hot Hoops | Sports Agent Blog
Orlando Magic: Orlando Pinstriped Post | Orlando Magic Daily
Washington Wizards: Bullets Forever