The NBA: Can the Wizards Make the Playoffs?

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the backcourt of the future for the Wizards.
Can they lead Washington into the playoffs for 2013-14? 

The Washington Wizards finished last season at 29-53 and were 9 games out of a playoff spot in the East. Their best players missed a ton of games due to injury. John Wall only played 49 games while Bradley Beal  and Trevor Ariza appeared in 56, Nene in 61 and AJ Price in 57 games.

There is no question that John Wall is their best player and the Wizards have determined that he is potentially their franchise player after giving Wall a 5-year, $80 million extension this past summer. Wall will be entering his 4th year and will be 23 years old by the start of the season. He wont be going anywhere.

In the 49 games that Wall played last season, the Wizards went 24-25. Consequently, the Wiz were 5-28 without him. Yikes. John Wall is not injury-prone (yet) but it's hard to say that he is durable after playing only 184 out of 230 games in his first 3 years in the NBA. Playing only 80% of their games was not good enough for a Wizards team that relied so much on John Wall to initiate and create offense for them. If he was healthy last season and played all 82 games, the Wizards could have won around 38-40 games which would have placed them at the 7th or 8th spot in the East.

Wall has gradually improved offensively each season and last year was his most efficient. He ended up playing only 32.7 minutes per game (down from 36 and 37 the past 2 seasons) but his scoring and shooting percentages were career-highs. His Player Efficiency Rating was at 20.91 (career-high) which placed him at 22nd in the league and ahead of Deron Williams, Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge and Dirk Nowitzki.

John Wall also improved his shot selection and his mid-range jumper was more dependable. He made 38% of his jumpers from 10-15 feet (up from 34% previous year) while his long twos from 16-23 feet went in at 37% which was up from 32% from the 2011-12 season. Sadly, his three-point shooting has been abysmal and non-existent. Wall made only 12 of 45 threes last season which was already an improvement from previous years.

Wall has a nasty crossover that can easily free him from a defender and he has one of the quickest first steps to the hoop. Wall can finish very well at the rim where he made 59% of his shots at close range while his floaters in the paint went in at a good rate of 43% . He likes to attack the paint to attract help defense which could free up his teammates for an open shot. Wall actually had a down year in assists at 7.6 but his turnovers improved. Getting more minutes and playing constantly with Bradley Beal and Martell Webster (42% three-point shooter) should give Wall a career year in assists next season.

Now, John Wall by himself cannot carry the Wizards to the playoffs. Bradley Beal needs to be healthy and ready to contribute once the opening tip begins. Beal had a solid rookie season and was rewarded with an All-Rookie 1st Team award despite only playing 56 games. Beal was arguably their 2nd best perimeter shooter (after Webster) who made 91 threes and connected on 210 jumpers at a success rate of 37 percent. Beal is also big and strong enough to guard the likes of Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Dion Waiters and Gerald Henderson. He still needs to improve his footwork and positioning.

The Wizards drafted Otto Porter Jr. in the lottery from Georgetown. Porter has shooting range and was a decent three-point shooter in college. If he can stretch his shooting to the NBA's range, Porter will be a big boost to the Wiz. He also needs to bulk up and increase his strength because he is listed at 198 pounds which is too slim for a SF in the NBA.

Washington will still need their veterans to be healthy (Okafor, Nene, Ariza, Webster) while their new players (Al Harrington, Eric Maynor, Leandro Barbosa) are all expected to contribute. Their bench is littered with young guys (Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphim, Chris Singleton) who can become solid role players when given the minutes.

Overall, the future of the Wizards relies on John Wall and his backcourt mate Bradley Beal. Wall needs to better his jumper and ideally include a three-point shot just to make defenders guard him from the perimeter. Beal needs to be more efficient with his shot selections and learn to move without the ball in his hands. They will make the playoffs if they remain healthy and continue to improve.
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