When John Wall was taken with the first pick of the 2009 NBA draft I was, admittedly, a hater. Not because of his actual game (I don't watch much NCAA basketball), but because of his dance. This may seem petty, but believe me it's not. After being hit with a barrage of combination dance/"rap" songs including Soulja Boy's "Crank That" and "Bird Walk" in 2008, I had heard enough for a lifetime. So once I found out that Troop 41 released "Do the John Wall", Wall was immediately number one on my hit list.
Then I saw him play and, well, never mind.
Prediction: The Wizards will get the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, and John Wall will place in the top 10 for MVP voting.
Last season, the Wizards were ravaged by injuries. Wall, Nene, Trevor Booker and Ariza, Bradley Beal, Ronnie Price, and Jordan Crawford all missed a good amount of time. Head Coach Randy Wittman and his players are hopeful heading into next season, as they look to turn the page to a brighter future.
This offseason, Washington took Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. in the draft. Porter, the third overall pick, should start next season and be an instant contributor, while Rice could be a strong sixth man, providing some valuable backup shooting guard minutes. The Wiz not only got a strong Rookie of the Year candidate with Porter, but they also got the potential steal of the draft in Rice.
Outside of the draft, the Wizards also added Eric Maynor and a
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Al Harrington. Maynor has always been a solid backup point guard, but he lost that role in OKC to Reggie Jackson. He should be a steady role player coming off the bench next season, and is definitely an upgrade over AJ Price.
With the new additions this offseason, the Wizards' rotation stacks up quite nicely -- if they can remain healthy of course. Their starting lineup will be something along the lines of Wall, Beal, Porter, Nene, and Emeka Okafor (once Okafor returns from his neck injury, that is). Throughout most of last season, the Wiz were forced to start either Garrett Temple or Price at point guard, neither of which is a particularly appealing choice. This year should be different.
As great as the bench and the rest of the starters may be, the key cog for the Wizards is of course John Wall. Last season, the Wizards were 24-25 with Wall and 5-28 without. I don't need to conduct a hypothesis test to prove to you that there is a statistically significant difference between those two win percentages. The Wizards were much better with Wall than without, and when they had Wall, Beal, and Nene all playing, they went 15-7. There's a reason that those guys play the most important roles for the team, and they have the stats to back them up.
Wall has always been a talented player, but he has come a long way since his rookie season. He still has a ways to go, in particular with his shot selection and his shooting mechanics, but he has shown a significant improvement, which was outlined in a great article by Umair Khan a few weeks ago. He writes:
The strides he made goes to show just how much Wall has fine-tuned his jump shot since his rookie season. All of the bad habits -- pulling the string, shooting on his way down, fading back rather than jumping straight up and down -- showed up less frequently as the season went on. When shot selection becomes a bigger issue than shooting form, you know there's been a breakthrough.
As an impartial bystander, I certainly appreciate what the Wizards front office did this offseason, and I like the direction this team is headed. If Coach Wittman can work to make his players as healthy as possible throughout the season, the Wizards have a chance to be deep in playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.
Other Wizard Predictions:
- Al Harrington will sell Wizard fans some crudely painted, not-so-funny plywood cutout folk art on discount.
Or is that a different Al Harrington? I can't really tell.