The Wizards are set to embark on Year 2 ½ of their rebuilding project with a team that is heavy on potential and light on experience. The expectations are higher this season although no one but the most optimistic fans think this is a playoff-worthy team. Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Nick Young and John Wall will be expected to take the next step in their respective developments.
Here’s a quick player-by-player look at what the Wizards have this season, and what to expect from each guy on the team.
John Wall: By far the most important piece to this team, he isn’t to the point yet where he can single-handedly carry the team, but that will come in time. One thing I think you see is that with a year under his belt he’s going to start getting more calls from the officials on drives to the hoop with contact. Referees are going to be more familiar with his game and he’s going to be smarter about what calls he can get in the NBA. Assuming he stays injury-free, I think he makes the jump from his rookie year average of 16 points and eight assists per game to at least 18 and nine, with a chance at 20 and 10 if his supporting cast shows up.
Andray Blatche: Speaking of which...the continuing enigma that is Andray Blatche. I do appreciate how Blatche tries to be the team leader, unfortunately I don’t know if his teammates view him the same way. If a guy spends his career being the class clown, people aren’t going to follow him just because he asks them to. The big questions for Blatche (as they’ve been for the last few years) are if he can get his shot selection under control and if he can give 100 percent on defense. I’m not as down on him as others because this team is still a work in progress, it isn’t like he’s the only thing standing between the Wizards and a playoff berth, he’s on a decent contract and he’s still a difficult matchup for the opposition.
Nick Young: If you want to know how valuable Nick is to the Wizards, Exhibit A was the first preseason game where the team struggled to find someone who could create their own scoring opportunities. No one else on the team can score with his consistency. Young signed his one year qualifying offer after looking around for a long term contract. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer and he’ll be looking to cash in — so if you thought he was allergic to passing before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Jordan Crawford: Speaking of shooting first and asking questions later, in his 26 games with Washington last year Crawford, was the definition of the boom (25 points or more in six games) or bust player (shooting 30 percent or less in six games). He plays energetic if sometimes overly aggressive defense. If he can improve his shooting percentage, he should be good for 16 points per game (ppg). With Nick Young back I don’t see him getting the same volume of shots as he had at the end of last year when Young was hurt, so he needs to improve his efficiency.
JaVale McGee: He is already one of the top shot blockers in the league and this year I think he makes the next step in the development process and goes from 10 ppg, 8 rpg and 2 bpg to 14/9/2.5 (not a stretch considering he was averaging 13 points per 36 minutes played last year). He’s been working on his offensive moves this summer and you’ll see development in that facet of his game. The center position is very shallow in the NBA, much less for young talented centers, and McGee is going to be in line for a big contract extension next year.
Rashard Lewis: Last year he averaged over 30 minutes per game for the Wizards, lets hope that number drops this year. The Wizards have two rookies (Singleton and Vesely) who both play the three, as well as Nick Young. I’d like to see less of Rashard Lewis and more of the younger players, especially if Lewis continues his shooting struggles (his 43.3 percent shooting for the season was the lowest of his career).
Trevor Booker: An integral part of what could be a pretty solid second unit, his rebounding, hustle and defense should guarantee him 15-20 minutes per game. As the season wears on and the back-to-backs and injuries mount, having good reserves will be vital.
Chris Singleton: I’m genuinely excited about him, possibly more than about Vesely. Singleton is already an above-average defender, he’ll be a solid rotation player and any offense he gives us is a bonus.
Shelvin Mack: This could be one of the steals of the second round and he’s going to be a solid back-up for John Wall right out of the gate. He still needs to work on his shooting, but his passing and ball handling are solid for a primary back-up.
Roger Mason Jr.: If he can rediscover his three-point shooting stroke from his last run in D.C., he’ll be able to carve out some playing time, otherwise he’ll have more time to dedicate himself to being the Joe Biden of the NBA Players Association.
This team will start off slow and struggle as the rookies are integrated, but they’ll grow stronger as the season goes on. Winning 30 games would be a good next step in the process, although I think 25 is more likely. The Wizards will have a ton of salary cap room next summer and a pick in a very deep draft that will set them up to compete for a playoff spot next year.
More from Washington Post Sports:
Sports Bog: Nick Young, Andray Blatche are the Wizards
JaVale McGee: ‘I have to set an example’
Wizards Insider: Ted Leonsis: ‘We’re here to win’