The NBA season is upon us… or at least it would be if this lockout were not going on. Nobody is quite certian when the NBA season will start. But if the collective bargaining agreement gets figured out soon, we will see a flurry of moves to make up for our lost offseason. So, with that in mind, it is time to begin opening the book on the 2011-12 season and to take a look at what the season might have in store — especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year’s NBA Blog Preview (don’t worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks).
Last Year: 23-59
Last Year vs. Magic: L 112-83 on Oct. 28; L 100-99 on Nov. 27; L 110-92 on Feb. 4; L 101-76 on Feb. 16.
This Year vs. Magic: Jan. 4 in Orlando; Feb. 1 in Orlando; Feb. 29 in Washington, D.C.; April 10 in Washington, D.C.
Magic Connection: Maurice Evans (Player, 2007-08); Rashard Lewis (Player, 2007-10); Assistant Coach Randy Wittman (Assistant Coach, 2005-06)
The Previews: Bullet Nation in Exile/Bullets Forever
John Wall is the future. There is no doubt of that. As his jump shot improves and as he gets more experience, he is going to be an All Star point guard. He has that much talent, as he has shown in several exhibitions this summer. The No. 1 pick from the 2010 Draft is quickly showing that he was the best rookie from last season, not named Blake Griffin (who really was not a rookie at all).
Wall is a special talent, there is no doubt. Even with just one year of college under his belt, Wall averaged 16.4 points per game and 8.3 assists per game. He posted a 36.0 percent assist rate. Simply astounding for a player so young.
The problem is the Wizards do not have a lot much more to offer. Getting rid of Gilbert Arenas to end that era of Wizards basketball and begin the next was an absolute must. Now Washington has a young core with some solid veterans that, if things come together the right way, could be a sleeper team.
Think about. Aside from Wall, you have the shot-happy Nick Young (with his 24.4 percent usage rate and surprisingly high 49.7 percent effective field goal percentage), the shot happy Andray Blatch and the dunk-happy JaVale McGee. All three of those players undoubtedly have some talent, but maybe not the right mental makeup to push the team over the top or get them to the next level.
In reality, these players are the kind of players Wall makes better but do not provide the support a could-be superstar really needs to find success.
But this is a young, rebuilding team. There is a bright future it seems for the new-look Wizards. And it will come in the veterans they choose to keep in the nation’s capital.
Rashard Lewis and Josh Howard were hurt for much of the 2010-11 season, but it will be their contributions that could determine where exactly the Wizards end up in 2011-12 and a short time in the future. Maurice Evans, if he stays, is another guy providing a veteran presence for a very young team.
And, no bones about it, Washington is still a long way away from having any significance in the ultra-competitive Southeast Division. Jan Vesely is a promising rookie. Yi Jianlian, entering his fifth year, seemed to finally find his footing in the NBA last year with the Wizards. Throw in intriguing guard Jordan Crawford and the previous mentioned Young, McGee and Blatche, and there is something resembling a young core.
The trick though is getting them all to fit together. As long as Wall continues to improve, he should help with that. But this is not Washington’s final supporting cast. This is not the team or the core that will take Washington back to the postseason.
There is too much youth — with all its foibles — for this team to be the success it one day might become. Young, Blatche and McGee all have to mature to realize their potential. Hopefully some of the veteran presence on the team will speed up that process.
How the Wizards will beat the Magic: … … … Wall explodes for a bunch of points.
The Wizards just are not a very good team right now and even the depleted Magic should be able to take this game relatively easily. Sorry to say it Washington fans.
Now Washington has the weapons that if they are all clicking will cause any team a lot of problems. If Wall can get out on the break and get his team going on the fast break with Rashard Lewis and Yi Jianlian spacing the floor on the wings, then there is a very real possibility that Washington could steal a game. But that is also dependent on the team’s defense which no player on the Wizards is really known for. Really none. Washington finished 24th in the league in defensive efficiency. Until that changes, the Wizards are going to be a bottom feeder.
How the Magic will beat the Wizards: Dwight Howard has a lot to do with it. But the big thing is to play some strong defense, stay disciplined offensively and execute. Orlando is a much better team than Washington. There might be one in the four games where Washington keeps it close because of a strange back-to-back or some injury. That happened during the regular season last year when Orlando needed a Dwight Howard tip in to win the game.
Again, the simple fact is, the Magic have more talent than the Wizards. Their defense is much better. These things matter in the long run in a series like this. The Magic should be able to control the pace and win the defensive battle in this series.
Photos via DayLife.com.