As the Washington Wizards' season-long journey to find their way back to the playoffs begins on the first day of training camp, fans are anxiously awaiting the first game of the year on Oct. 30 to see how far this team can really go.
It's been 161 days since the Wizards last played a regular-season game, and their first of the 2013-14 season against the Detroit Pistons will mark the beginning of a new era. This era belonging to John Wall, with a max contract under his belt, and second-year shooting guard Bradley Beal.
As Washington starts training camp, its coaches will wait and see if this mixture of young and old will lead to a postseason berth.
Before the training camp discussion begins, it's important to look back at the 2012-13 season.
- 29-53 record
- Third place in the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division
- Twelfth place in Eastern Conference
Key Statistics: The Good and Bad
The Wizards and head coach Randy Wittman focused on their defense all season, only allowing 95.8 points per game to opponents. That average placed Washington eighth in the NBA in scoring defense and was their best scoring defense since the 2002-03 season when they only gave up 92.5 points per game, according to ESPN.
But defense is only half the battle, and Washington's offense couldn't get going. Washington only shot 43.5 percent from the floor, which was tied for the third-worst team shooting percentage in the NBA. Washington often struggled with shot selection, and more missed shots obviously lead to lower point totals.
Biggest Storylines Entering Training Camp
When Washington starts off training camp in hopes of improving their offense while still primarily relying on defense, fans and coaches will mainly be focusing on how the team plays with a healthy John Wall.
Wall almost led the team to a .500 record when he was in the lineup last season, and the whole team's performance and statistics improved when he was in the lineup.
Wizards fans are anxious to see how many wins this team can produce with a full year of Wall, Bradley Beal and Martell Webster.
As the season goes on, the spotlight will certainly be on Wall, who signed a max contract this offseason. If Wall fails to have a good season, fans and analysts will quickly jump on him and start questioning if the Wizards should have given him the five-year extension.
Fans are also anxiously awaiting to see if the No. 3 overall pick Otto Porter Jr. pans out and ends up playing as well as Washington expected him to when they drafted him.
Key Additions and Losses
Outside of the NBA draft, the Wizards were relatively quiet this offseason.
But they did manage to add veteran power forward Al Harrington to stretch the floor and backup point guard Eric Maynor. Washington also drafted small forward Otto Porter Jr. out of Georgetown and shooting guard Glen Rice Jr., who spent last season in the Developmental League.
Washington managed to avoid any major losses this season and will only be entering training camp without backup point guard A.J. Price, who started in some spots last year with Wall out, and three-point specialist Cartier Martin. Both Price and Martin are unsigned, and Martin is considering playing this season in China, according to Comcast SportsNet Washington, while the Minnesota Timberwolves are considering bringing Price into training camp, according to ESPN reporter Darren Wolfson.
Biggest addition: Al Harrington
The Wizards knew they wanted to bring in a stretch four in the offseason and found their man in Harrington.
The journeyman is known for shooting from behind the arc and has shot 35.2 percent from three in his career.
Having Harrington as the sixth man will give them a change-of-pace power forward on an otherwise defensive-heavy position for Washington and should give more room for Wall and Beal to shoot from mid-range.
Biggest loss: A.J. Price
Although Price wasn't incredibly effective as a starter, he did average seven points and just under three assists coming off the bench, according to ESPN.
Price was Washington's starting point guard during the first month or so of the season when Wall was out and still managed to play some solid minutes even after he came back.
He only shot 39 percent from the floor but did finish fifth on the team in three-point percentage and tacked on two rebounds per game.
However, the Wizards brought in Maynor to back up Wall, and Maynor has a much better skill set than Price and came on strong toward the end of last season with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Depth Chart Breakdown
*Depth chart includes training camp invites
Training Camp Battle to Watch: Martell Webster vs. Otto Porter Jr.
With most of the starting spots locked down, the battle between Martell Webster and Otto Porter at small forward is the only position under contest.
According to CSN Washington, Wittman isn't anxious to give Porter the starting job and wants him to slowly adapt to the NBA.
But that doesn't mean he can't claim the job. Although Porter had a very disappointing summer league, shooting 30 percent in three games before sitting out with an injury, he could still show the talent he had at Georgetown and earn a starting spot.
Martell Webster came on strong in the second half when Wall came back, but there's no guarantee that Webster will capitalize on his career year. Webster did average 11.4 points last season but only averages 8.9 on his career and averaged less than four rebounds last season.
Porter is the less likely candidate for the job, but watching Porter battle for minutes in this offense will certainly be exciting to watch in training camp and in preseason games. At only 19, Porter has a tremendous amount of upside and could end up being the future of the franchise along with Wall and Beal.
Battling for a Roster Spot: Mensah-Bonsu vs. Silas vs. Fisher vs. Childress
Washington has 14 spots already locked up, but if they choose to go with the maximum 15, four players are battling for that final spot.
According to the Washington Post, the Wizards have brought on Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Xavier Silas, D'or Fisher and Josh Childress.
Childress hasn't done much since the 2007-08 season when he played with the Atlanta Hawks but did average 11.8 points on 57.1 percent shooting. With the loss of Cartier Martin in the offseason, Childress could fill that role of a low-minutes player that can bring some energy to the team off the bench but would likely have to compete for time with small forward Trevor Ariza.
Mensah-Bonsu probably has the worst chance of making the team, considering he hasn't played an NBA game since the 2010-11 season with the New Orleans Hornets.
The Wizards are also already stacked in the front court, between the presence of Nenê, Al Harrington, Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely and the hurt Emeka Okafor.
Silas went undrafted, and has spent some time in the D-League, but only averaged 12.1 points with the Maine Red Claws.
Finally, Fisher has never played an NBA game, but did win the Most Valuable Player Award of the Belgian League in 2008, according to the Post.
Although Childress hasn't been impressive as of late, he stands out far more than any of the other candidates Washington brought in, and would bring some versatility to the bench. It's also worth noting that Childress is a former teammate of Al Harrington in Atlanta.
Simply because of his upside and his NBA experience over the other players, Childress should get the 15th spot.
Biggest X-Factor: Al Harrington
If Al Harrington can do exactly what he was brought in to do, shoot threes, then he will be the biggest difference-maker for Washington.
Opponents already know what they are getting in Wall and Beal, but a healthy Harrington could mean bringing Washington's historically bad offense to at least the top 15 in the NBA.
At his best, Harrington is a great three-point shooter who can draw defenders away from under the hoop. Doing so would allow Wall to get into mid-range and would give more space for Nenê, Okafor or whoever else is playing center to set up under the basket.
During the 2011-12 season, Harrington came off the bench for the Denver Nuggets and averaged over 14 points while shooting 33.3 percent from three.
Thankfully Harrington was signed to a low-risk deal for Washington, considering he is almost always hurt.
But if he can stay healthy and put up similar numbers to his two years in Denver, Harrington will be the X-factor for the Wizards.
Projected statistics (per game): 13 points, 5.5 rebounds, one assist, 43 percent shooting, 35 percent three-point shooting
Wizards Best-Case Scenario in 2013-14
If all goes right for the Wizards, they will be a playoff team in the East. After seeing the general weakness of the conference last season, just finishing above .500 would give Washington a No. 8 or No. 7 seed.
In a division with the Miami Heat, winning a division title is out of the question. But because the Atlanta Hawks lost Josh Smith and some other important pieces in the offseason, second place isn't all that out of reach.
Wall will finish the year as an All-Star point guard and will lead Washington to the playoffs.
Wizards Worst-Case Scenario
Washington will make the playoffs, of course, assuming it can stay healthy.
Emeka Okafor is already out indefinitely, and Harrington and Nenê have a serious history of missing time.
If Washington can't get its frontcourt healthy, the strong defense they relied on may not be there, and not having Harrington will considerably slow down its offense.
Nenê has had even worse issues with injuries. He almost retired at the end of the 2012-13 season because of how long he had been out, and it always seems like something is preventing him from playing at 100 percent.
While injuries are a concern, having a healthy Wall all season will prevail in this case, and Washington's young team will only get better as they log some games under their belt.
There's no way the Wizards get off to as bad of a start as they did last year, and they will break .500 this season.
Wall should average 19, maybe even 20 points per game, and both Beal and Webster's numbers should return to what they were for the second half of last season when the offense finally clicked.
Prediction: 42-40, No. 8 seed in the East, lose in first round.
This is one of the most exciting times to be a Wizards fan since the end of the Gilbert Arenas era, and the Wizards could easily see their first playoff appearance since 2008.
As the seasons go on with Wall at the helm, he is only going to get better and will only make the players around him better.
Adding Porter and Rice in the draft gives the Wizards some depth, and signing Harrington adds a whole new dimension to the offense that wasn't there last season, especially when Beal was injured.
This is a serious playoff contender, and Wall will prove himself as an elite point guard by the time the 2013-14 season concludes.
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