Like we are currently seeing in the NFL, the 2011 NBA off-season is up in the air with a lockout looming. Free agency could be delayed and completely restructured depending on the new agreement reached by the owners and players. Still, The Sports Bank will break down all thirty NBA teams over the next six weeks to see what areas they need to address in the off-season.
After blowing up their roster at the end of the 2009-2010 season, the Washington Wizards have put together a solid blueprint for their re-building process. The Wiz enter the off-season looking to add to a core of young talent led by John Wall.
By: David Kay
2010-2011 Season Summary:
Despite not winning a road game until the middle of February, there is reason to be optimistic in our nation’s capital and not just because the Wizards showed off their new, old-look jerseys. The most important part of a re-building project is finding a star player to add pieces around. That is exactly what Washington landed with last year’s first overall pick, John Wall.
Wall put together an impressive rookie season averaging 16.4 points, 8.3 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game, and appears to be the next young, great point guard in the NBA. He has not even scratched the surface as to how good he will become and should be the foundation of everything the Wizards do for the next several years.
Part of Wall’s spectacular rookie season was due to the Wiz opening up minutes for him at the point. Washington began the season with a crowd but general manager Ernie Grunfeld found someone to take on Gilbert Arenas’ terrible contract (even though they were forced to acquire Rashard Lewis and his equally awful, cap-killing contract in return.) The Wizards also dealt Hinrich to the Hawks and landed a young shooting guard in Jordan Crawford who made the most of his opportunity in the District and an additional 2011 first round pick.
Outside of Wall, the Wizards also saw young players JaVale McGee and Nick Young take major steps in their game. McGee turned into a force on the defensive end with his shot blocking and doubled his rebound average after taking over the full-time duties as starting center. Nick Young took over as the everyday starting shooting guard and emerged into a dangerous scorer, more than doubling his point total in his fourth year in the league.
Andray Blatche continues to develop at the power forward position, posting the best numbers of his career. His effort and commitment to winning is still a question mark but combined with McGee, it is a young frontcourt duo that has the potential to grow into a formidable combination. Not to mention, 2010 first round picks Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker add even more depth and young talent up-front.
Outside of that young core, the Wiz roster was made up of a hodge podge of players who likely should have been playing in the D-League. Still, the franchise has made the correct moves thus far in their re-building process and as this young team matures together over time, should soon be back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:
C: JaVale McGee/Trevor Booker/Hamady Ndiaye
PF: Andray Blatche/*Yi Jianlian/Kevin Seraphin
SF: Rashard Lewis
SG: ^Nick Young/Jordan Crawford
PG: John Wall
SG-^Nick Young (RFA)
PF-*Yi Jianlian (RFA)
SF-Mo Evans (UFA)
SF-Josh Howard (UFA)
PG-Mustafa Shakur (UFA)
SF-Larry Owens (UFA)
SG-Othyus Jeffers (UFA)
’11-’12 Team Salary: approximately $40.7 million
1. Small Forward
There are young pieces to build around in the backcourt and frontcourt, but the Wizards have a huge hole at small forward. Washington ran a number of players through that position this past season (Al Thornton, Josh Howard, Maurice Evans, Rashard Lewis, Cartier Martin, Alonzo Gee, Larry Owens, and even Yi Jianlian.) Lewis is the only of that group under contract for next season and has played more power forward than small forward the past couple of seasons. Plus, he has seen a major dip in his production. If the Wizards can find a small forward of the future, it will only accelerate their re-building phase.
2. Forever Young?
Nick Young is entering the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him almost $3.7 million next season. He is a restricted free agent so Washington faces the question of whether they should sign him to a long-term extension, possibly have to match another team’s offer sheet for his services, or risk letting him become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012. While Young knows how to score the basketball, he does not offer much else in terms of his defense, creating for teammates, rebounding, and often displays a quick trigger in terms of his shot selection. With another young shooting guard in the fold in Crawford, how much would the Wiz be willing to spend to keep Young?
3. Back-up Point Guard
I gushed about Wall’s rookie season earlier, but Washington still needs to add some depth at the point. Wall averaged nearly 38 minutes a game in his first season which is a lot for someone in their rookie season. Finding an affordable veteran who can help Wall hone his game but also contribute valuable minutes when he needs a blow should be an off-season goal despite the weak class of free agent point guards.
4. Three-point shooting
Young shot a respectable 38.7% from distance last season but Wall and Crawford did not top the 30% mark. Lewis has been a reliable outside shooter during his career but shot his lowest percentage from three in eight years. If the Wizards can add a true three-point threat who can take advantage of Wall’s ability to drive and dish, it will certainly add to their offensive productivity.
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David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.
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