Answering the Questions on the Minds of Wizards Fans
1. Is John Wall the real deal?
As a 20-year-old who has yet to participate in a regular season NBA game, John Wall already faces the expectations of carrying the Wizards this season. The number one overall pick in the 2010 Draft, Wall comes to the NBA after leading the Kentucky Wildcats with 16.6 points, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game. However, some question if his collegiate success will follow him into the NBA. Wall used the NBA Summer League to answer many of those questions and is now ready to take on the challenges of the upcoming season. At Summer League, Wall was named the Most Outstanding Player and became the first player in the league’s history to pace the league in both points per game (23.5) and assists per game (7.8). Wall’s strong play in Summer League has continued into training camp and the preseason as the 6’4 point guard has shown flashes of what Wizards fans can expect from Wall this season. Wall’s regular season debut at the Verizon Center will match him up against Evan Turner, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, in a highly anticipated game for Wall to show he is the top rookie in 2010.
2. What is Gilbert Arenas’ role?
After participating in only 47 games in the last three seasons, Arenas comes into this season with the opportunity to redefine his role within the Wizards organization. As a player who led the Wizards early in the season, averaging 22.6 points and 7.2 assists per game, Arenas proved that he can still be a dominating force on the court. With fresh faces like Wall and Kirk Hinrich in the same backcourt, much of the pressure Arenas once faced to lead the team as the star point guard will be alleviated, and he now has the opportunity to help lead a young team by showcasing the talent that allowed him to be a three-time NBA All-Star from 2005-2007.
3. John Wall aside, who will make the biggest impact among the newest Wizards?
After a multitude of trades last season, and by making even more moves over the summer, the Wizards now have many options as to who could be the breakout player of the season. One player to watch is small forward Josh Howard, as after having surgery on an ACL tear in his left knee, Howard has spent the off-season rehabilitating his knee, and looks to be a contributing factor upon his return. With his ability to play defense, run the floor and score at will, Howard hopes to continue being a leader on the court, using his natural gifts that made him an All-Star in 2007. The newly acquired Kirk Hinrich is also worth watching, as he averaged 10.9 points and 4.5 assists per game last season with the Chicago Bulls, and continued to be a great asset from three-point territory by making 104 three-pointers last season on .371 shooting from behind the arc. With John Wall’s innate ability to drive to the rim and break down a defense, Hinrich is expected to see plenty of open three-point shots. A sleeper candidate who has opened eyes with his scoring ability, rebounding and defensive prowess in the pick-and-roll game in preseason play is the 7’0” Yi Jianlian. Perhaps ready to fulfill the promise of his lofty draft selection, Yi is already a fan favorite for many at Verizon Center, located within DC’s Chinatown.
4. Will size play a factor in the Wizards’ success this season?
Last season, the Wizards frontcourt was subject to some criticism due to a perceived lack of a post presence. However, with Arenas out and the trades of forwards Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, and center Brendan Haywood, Andray Blatche stepped up and took the reins to lead the Wizards for the second half of last season. The young 6’11” Blatche became an offensive juggernaut with his superb ball-handling, improved mid-range and low post game, and great court vision. Blatche looks to continue his maturation this season, as he will be the primary option in the frontcourt. Blatche is not the only frontcourt player that the Wizards expect to continue to mature, however, as 7’0” center JaVale McGee is expected to play a bigger role in the Wizards’ scheme this year. Coming into his third season, and after a strong showing in tryouts with the USA FIBA National Team during this past summer, many feel that McGee is ready to take that next step into becoming a more dominant center. With extraordinary athletic ability as one of the fastest and best leaping big men in the NBA, McGee, who thrives on the fast break, is poised to have a big season by playing alongside Wall, a point guard who excels at running the floor and finding the open man. This duo has already shown signs of being in sync, as McGee averaged 19.5 ppg during the 2010 NBA Summer League with Wall running the show. Washington also augmented its frontcourt with additions like Yi, 6’9” rookie forward Kevin Seraphin and 6’8” rookie forward Trevor Booker, adding youth and much needed strength to the roster.
5. How will the Wizards balance their backcourt talent?
The Wizards have one of the most dynamic back courts in the league with players like Gilbert Arenas, John Wall, Kirk Hinrich and swingman Nick Young. With all of that talent comes the difficulty in finding the ideal balance with the players. Finding a balance will be easier for the Wizards because each of these players brings a different element to the table, and Head Coach Flip Saunders has shown a liking for a three-guard set at times. Arenas is known for his offensive repertoire and clutch shot-making ability. Wall is an explosive athlete who can not only score but can create plays for his teammates by driving to the rim and finding the open man. Hinrich and Young can both spread a defense by being constant threats from three-point territory. Finding the perfect backcourt player combinations could take some time, but with this group of talented guards, offensive production should not be an issue for the Wizards.
6. How will Flip Saunders handle a rebuilding team on the rise?
As a team with plenty of young potential for this year and beyond, Flip Saunders can use his years of experience as an NBA head coach to help develop the Wizards to be a future power in the league. With a career record of 613-454, Saunders last coached an experience-laden team in Detroit, but built his resume working with young players like Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury in Minnesota. With the addition of this year’s key players, like John Wall, he is ready to surpass the leagues expectations of the Wizards.