Today’s snapshot brings us at 3 Shades of Blue to the far edge of the Assessing the Enemy series. I would like to take this opportunity to extend a sincere thanks to everyone who has followed the series along the way. If you missed your (other) favorite team(s) assessment, you can always find them through this search. With that, we bring you the Washington Wizards…
Enemy: Washington Wizards
Coach: Randy Wittman
Potential Starting 5: John Wall*, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Nene
Other Key Players: Jordan Crawford, Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, AJ Price
Threats: Perimeter scoring, Muscle in the paint, Balance
Grizzlies 2011-12 Record vs.: 1-0
The events of last night provided us a telling look into what the future holds in Washington. Oh, you thought I was talking about the Vice Presidential Debate? Nope, this is a basketball blog, baby! The Washington Wizards played the Knicks last night in their preseason home opener, giving the crowd its first look at prize first round pick, Bradley Beal. I went to a Wizards game last season, and I’d be nothing short of facetious if I played it off as if they seemed anything better than downright awful. They have a cute little gimmick at the Verizon Center where the whole arena stands until the Wizards score their first point. Exacerbated by the fact that it was on the tail end of a day of sightseeing in DC, I was met with true fear that I’d end up with some very serious swelling in my feet by the time I was able to sit down. Scathing remarks aside, the Wizards are trending upwards after this offseason, and are sure to be in position to allow their fans to take a seat a bit quicker into the game next season. All this considered, things in Washington look as bleak as ever (again, I’m not making a political commentary), in the short term with the recent reports that John Wall will be out of action for the first month of the year rehabbing a stress-related knee injury.
So I have alluded to some emerging optimism around the Wizards organization, and I wasn’t teasing. At the very beginning of the offseason, the Wizards were shrewdly able to flip the albatross-salaried, amnesty candidate-to-be, Rashard Lewis for a gain of also-overpaid, but still productive forwards, Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. Both of the aforementioned players figure to provide veteran defensive backbone to the starting lineup. Though it appears as if he has been in the league forever, Ariza is still only 27 years of age, and has the athleticism and motor to take the top perimeter assignments on the defensive end night in and night out. Similarly, having played on weak, underachieving teams for essentially the entirety of his career, Okafor has become a forgotten man, but possesses the smarts, instincts, and abilities to assume the lead defensive matchup in the post against just about any team. In addition to Ariza and Okafor, Nene is still a fresh face on the court, as injuries forced him to play a mere fraction of games with his new team after he was acquired at the trade deadline. When healthy, Nene is a talented physical force in the paint, with a decent grind gene and a solid offensive game. The qualifier of that statement is the most important, however, as his inability to stay on the court factored greatly into the Nuggets decision to ship him out shortly after signing him to a new long-term contract. If he can’t remain active, if their development remains steady, the shot swatting Kevin Seraphin and broke man’s Zbo, Trevor Booker, should back up with some depth. Staying on the topic of injuries, Wall’s surely steals the thunder of the offseason’s successes. When he does return, however, he is going to be entering a crucial year for his development. He has shown that he can be electric at times, and has shown that he can be a turnover machine others. Last season was not quite the jump for him that it was expected to be, but this is hardly grounds to write off his potential just yet. Of the thunder that is swiped from the excitement with the early loss of Wall, some is struck back with the anticipation of the arrival of rookie, Bradley Beal. Beal is a ruthless offensive weapon who can affect the game in a number of ways on that end of the floor. His presence in the lineup also figures relieve the pressure on Wall tremendously, who will not have to shoulder all offensive responsibilities anymore. Behind Beal will be talented scorer Jordan Crawford, who has displayed a lack of conscience on the offensive end, for better or for worse, but is nonetheless effective in stretches. Lastly, I did not forget about last year’s lottery pick, Jan Vesely. Vesely is definitely an unknown for the Wizards looking forward, but if he can tap his talent and find a comfort zone in the league, he could find himself factoring into the equation of the Wizards’ long term solution as a jack-of-all-trades forward.
As I’ve stated time and time again in these preseason snapshots, our Grizzlies’ prime strength lies within our post game. The girth and brute force of our inside talents, of course combined with their skills, is what makes Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol just so difficult for the rest of the league to handle, and thus so advantageous for our Grizz. There are some teams of course that can contend with this, but the Wizards are in a select class that can wash it out. Okafor and Nene are big, strong, and talented guys in their own right, and can surely take and dish back out whatever beating they will face from Zbo and Gasol. In this sense, a matchup with the Wizards should prove to be a sweet old school bruiser in the trenches, sparing no expense on bumps and elbows. In addition to the post, our guards and wings figure to match well against one another, too. Wall and Mike Conley can both run circles around one another, where Ariza and Rudy Gay are similarly versatile and lengthy wings. It’s too bad we don’t still have OJ Mayo to pin up against Beal, too… Okay, I’ll do my best politician impression and double back on that one. In all seriousness, there’s a new party that’s just beginning in Washington DC, and I’m still not talking Democrats and Republicans (I seriously need to stop with these terrible and horribly placed political inferences). The Wizards are a recent compilation that will surely endure their growing pains as they learn to play together, so I’m going to give us the one up, but they will not be the pushover, bush-league opponent that we’ve known them to be since the Hibachi’s fall from grace.