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2014-15 NBA Preview: Washington Wizards

20 years from now it's gonna be so annoying when some kid asks, incredulously, "Wait, the Wizards actually existed and were competitive before Kevin Durant signed there?"

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Wizards: Prediction: 5th in the Eastern Conference

2014 Record: 44-38

Coach: Randy Wittman

Significant Additions: F Paul Pierce (free agent), F DeJuan Blair (trade), F Kris Humphries (trade), F Rasual Butler (free agent)

Significant Subtractions: F Trevor Ariza (trade), F Trevor Booker (free agent)

Projected Starters: C Marcin Gortat, F Nene Hilario, F Paul Pierce, G Bradley Beal, G John Wall (8.5/10): You know you've got a good starting five when your weakest link is the newcomer Pierce, a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer. Gortat is the guy who made everyone else fall into place. He saved Nene from having to do the dirty work on the glass and helped keep them above water when the Brazilian missed his usual 30 games. Gortat's specialty is the pick-and-roll but he can do a little bit of everything and has improved defensively to where he's average now. Nene is more rugged, can score with his back to the basket and just about unstoppable when he's got it going (ask Joakim Noah). The problem is, he seldom shows out like that and he floats more often than not. Pierce is another guy who, at 37, will take more off the table than he brings. He'll take some pressure off Wall and create looks with his "old man game," and he'll help in crunch time in the playoffs, but they're going to miss Ariza's rangy defense and dead-eye spot-up shooting. Wall keeps taking incremental steps and shot league-average from downtown for the first time last year and played all 82 games, when his previous high was 69. Wall faded badly in the playoffs though and the dip in his free throw rate has to be a little alarming. Beal looked poised for his biggest year yet, but he suffered a broken bone in his left (non-shooting) wrist during a preaseason game and will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks. It's kind of crazy that Beal's come so far and he's just barely 21, but he's rapidly running out of weaknesses in his game. The more Wall defers to him once he returns to health, the better off the Wizards will be. Martell Webster is recovering from off-season back injury so he may not be ready to go either. Glen Rice Jr. was pretty awful as a rookie, but it's a bit too soon to give up on him.

Projected Reserves (4.5/10): This is a disjointed motley crew, filled with bigs who can score but can't defend and smalls who are the opposite. Wiz lost their best backup big in Trevor Booker, but replaced him dealing for Kris Humphries, a terrific rebounder and decent enough scorer from 15 feet and in. Humphries doesn't provide much resistance though and has issues staying healthy. He had surgery on his pinkie and will miss the beginning of the year too. Veteran Drew Gooden has played for everyone and is a Diet Coke version of Humphries, a bit worse at everything. They signed DeJuan Blair to a three-year deal and he's a ferocious offensive rebounder whose bounce comes and goes depending on his weight and how his knees feel. He's got more of an offensive arsenal than his critics give him credit for, including a fairly reliable floater. To keep the theme going though, he's an awful defender. Kevin Seraphin has the best combination of size and girth to defend on the low block, but his focus comes and goes. That seems like a lot of guys, but they'll all get to play given Nene's fragility.

Otto Porter Jr. looked like one of the all-time busts, hardly getting to play at all last season despite being the third pick of the draft, but they must be confident of his off-season development because they already picked up his third-season option for 4.66 million. He's had a few solid performances in preseason and the very least should be a solid perimeter defender with his size and length. Webster is serviceable too and provides reliable outside shooting but he's got chronic back issues and is already talking about seeing the end of the road at 27, which is worrisome. Behind Webster there is the aforementioned Rice Jr., like Porter trying to get a credible career started, 35-year-old Rasual Butler and journeyman Garrett Temple. Oof. Andre Miller, 38, is by far the best backup guard on the roster, which... yeah.

Coach/Front Office (4.5): It's kind of amazing that GM Ernie Grunfeld has managed to hold on to his job considering he was hired in 2003 and the Wizards have spent so recklessly and fruitlessly in that time (Gilbert Arenas, anyone?), but Grunfeld's moves of late have been pretty solid. The draft picks of Wall and Beal both look to be panning out as planned, but there are also the clunkers of Jan Vesely and Porter (potentially) in there. He dealt JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Ronny Turiaf for Nene, which looks like a win and last year's big move, a first-round pick for Gortat, was a steal. That trade got them into the playoffs. Grunfeld gave pricey new deals to both Gortat and Wittman in the off-season though, and both of those moves were met with some criticism. His fate will more or less be tied to how those deals look with the benefit of hindsight. Wittman is not well-regarded as a tactician though like most coaches he looked a heckuva lot better once he actually got to coach some talent.

Team Rating: 65 (2.5x Starters Rating + 1.5x Reserves Rating + Coach Rating) x 2 = 65

Did You Know: Teammates have already given Humphries some good-natured ribbing for his well-known previous relationship with that attention-seeker who's obscenely wealthy despite not having few discernible talents and so shameless that even being a "reality TV star" seemed a worthwhile goal.

Of course I'm referring to Mark Cuban.