There's no question that the Washington Wizards have an abundance of youth on their roster. So far though, that youth hasn't translated into wins for a franchise dying to get back to the postseason.
Barring a great second half run, this season would mark the fifth in a row that the Wizards would miss out on the postseason festivities. It's not like they've been close in recent years either. Since the departure of former head coach Eddie Jordan, the team has put together some miserable seasons.
But perhaps all is not lost.
With recent first-round draft pick Bradley Beal playing well and star point guard John Wall returning from injury, there is certainly promise for the future.
Are the aforementioned Beal and Wall—in addition to Nene, Emeka Okafor and Jordan Crawford—guys whom the Wizards can build around though? Or is it in their best interest to make a move prior to today's 3 p.m. EST trade deadline?
Let's take a look.
Wall is without a doubt the most talented player the Wizards have. He possesses all of the skills necessary to evolve into one of the league's best point guards.
After missing 33 games to start the season, Wall returned to action on Jan. 12, much to the delight of Washington fans. Since coming back, he's wasted little time in returning to form.
Currently, Wall is averaging 14.4 points, 7.3 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. On the surface, these numbers are below his career averages. However, since returning from injury, he's only averaging 28.9 minutes an outing.
As he gets healthier and sees more minutes, his numbers should improve.
In fact, when adjusted per 36 minutes a game, Wall's numbers look much better (17.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 9.0 APG).
And perhaps nothing is more important to the Wizards than the assists Wall brings to the floor with him.
Right now, Wall has an Assist Percentage (AST%) of 41.8. This number means that he's responsible for an assist on 41.8 percent of the team's made field goals during his time on the court.
To put that into perspective the only players ahead of him—that have played 10 or more games—are Rajon Rondo, Greivis Vasquez, Chris Paul and Jose Calderon. That's pretty impressive company and shows how important Wall is to Washington's offense.
His mid-range jumper could use work, and he could cut down on turnovers, but these are things that will come with time and more experience. Let's not forget, this is only his third season in the league.
Wall is a franchise player and one who the Wizards should—and let's be honest—will build around for years to come.
The video below is a good example of Wall's incredible quickness and overall ability to make plays.
By now, it's clear that the rookie out of Florida has a future in the NBA and at 13.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, Beal is just scratching the surface.
At 6'3" you would think that a player known for his shooting would be a bit undersized to play the 2-guard spot. However, Beal isn't just a shooter. With great athleticism and good quickness, he can create his own shot and finish at the rim on a regular basis.
Did I mention that he's a great shooter?
After a rough start to his career in terms of shooting the ball, Beal absolutely torched the nets in January and hasn't let up so far this month either. Hitting just 18.4 percent of his threes in December, Beal found his stroke and hit a remarkable 50.8 percent of them in January. So far this month, he's sitting at 50 percent.
While he probably won't be able to sustain those numbers, given his athleticism and ability to get to the hoop, it is reasonable to expect maintain as an overall field goal percentage what he has shot over the past 19 games (45.5 percent).
Not to mention, just halfway into the first season of his career, Beal is already developing a flair for the dramatic.
In a game against the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 4, he hit a buzzer-beating three to send the game into double overtime. Following that performance, three days later, he hit a jumper with 0.3 seconds left to beat the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.
With a duo like Wall and Beal, the Wizards have their backcourt set for the foreseeable future.
The video below demonstrates Beal's excellent offensive prowess.
It's hard to believe that Nene has been in the NBA since the 2002-03 season. However, over the past decade, he's turned into one of the better power forwards in the league.
At 12.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, Nene is having a down year in comparison to his most recent seasons. For a team that has a great backcourt, it's crucial that he continues to improve upon these numbers.
And in the month of February, he's been doing just that.
So far this month he's averaging 13.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists a game while seeing a season high 32.6 minutes. He's scoring, he's rebounding and he's making the extra pass when he doesn't have a good look—all crucial aspects to the proper functioning of an offense.
However, an area in which Nene needs to improve this season is his field-goal percentage. At 48.9 percent, that's the second-lowest mark of his career. For a guy who scores 55.2 percent of his points in the paint, that number is a bit too low.
Confidence in Nene improving on his season totals and improving his field-goal percentage should be relatively high, though. One has to believe that he's still getting used to playing with Wall. Once the two have spent a little more time on the court together and the chemistry solidifies, expectations for Nene should continue to rise.
For that reason—and considering he's still just 30 years old—he should be in the franchise's future plans.
Even though he looks a lot older, Emeka Okafor is only 30. You'd better believe that's a good thing though.
At 30 years old—and despite declining stats over the past six seasons—Okafor is one of the best-built players in the league and has plenty left in the tank.
Averaging just 25.2 minutes per game this year, Okafor's regular stats aren't overly impressive. However, they translate very well when you look at them per 36 minutes (13.0 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.6 BPG).
Penning Okafor in for 36 minutes a night isn't realistic, but if he can creep back up into the low 30s, it will allow the Wizards to get the most out of their big man.
With his stats seeing a steady increase over the course of the season, look for Okafor to continue improving his numbers in the second half by providing Washington with solid interior defense and scoring off of easy dump-downs from Wall.
The one thing that might stand in the way of Okafor remaining with the team is his contract. He's making $13.48 million this season and is on the books for $14.48 million next season with an early termination option.
If he's willing to restructure or can manage to boost his numbers back up towards his career totals, he is definitely the type of guy who would be worth keeping around for the long haul.
After a tremendous month of December which saw him average 19.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game, Jordan Crawford has all but disappeared of late.
Since the return of Wall, Crawford's struggled to find his place on the roster and hasn't played in any of Washington's previous four games. The reasoning behind Crawford not playing hasn't been made public by anyone associated with the team, but it's not hard to figure out.
Head coach Randy Wittman has tried to instill a tenacious defensive attitude in his team this season, and for a team that isn't having a ton of success, the defense is the one thing that has worked. The Wizards sport the sixth-best defense in the NBA in terms of points allowed.
Crawford is a volume shooter and puts all of his energy into things at the offensive end. He's reluctant to play defense, and this is especially true when he gets tired.
It's also not a surprise that Crawford's numbers started taking a hit right around the time Wall returned. Crawford has never been a great player off the ball. He was one of the primary ball-handlers during his time at Xavier and excelled in December of this season when the ball was in his hands a lot.
Now, with Wall back—and with the presence of Beal—Crawford has to play without the ball more often, and it's something that he's not great at doing.
With speculation that Crawford wants out of D.C. floating around (via USA Today), it's clear he's not part of the franchise's future plans.
The simple answer to the question posed at the beginning of this article is "yes".
Washington can certainly build around Wall, Beal, Nene and Okafor. However, they'd best be served by getting rid of Crawford and finding a more suitable replacement.
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