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5 things to focus on during Wizards training camp

The Washington Wizards are slated to open training camp for the 2013-14 season on September 28th at the George Mason Patriot Center, marking the beginning of a campaign infused with new faces, higher expectations, and as usual, a bunch of unanswered questions. With playoff contention on the line for the first time in years, the Wizards have plenty at stake over the next month and a half. In this post, we’ll be addressing the five biggest areas of concern as we dive into camp season.


1) The competition at small forward: Martell Webster vs. Otto Porter vs. Trevor Ariza – Zain

Let’s breakdown the three players in question to see who is the best fit to start and who is the best fit for backing up the starter at small forward.

Trevor Ariza: After a lackluster rookie season on the Knicks, Ariza spent most of his time for the next few years on the Orlando bench. Ariza instantly improved after being traded to the Lakers, peaking in the playoffs of his second season in L.A. after his first one was cut short because of a broken foot. After being the best role player in a championship run the following season, his stock was high. The Houston Rockets then overpaid him. Close to the outset of his first Rockets season he was under 40% from the field, under 30% from downtown, and he finished the season under 65% from the charity stripe. The more minutes Ariza seems to get, the less efficient he gets. One constant in Ariza’s game (besides his consistently bad shooting), is his defense. Ariza possesses the wingspan and foot speed to stay with almost any wing player in the league. In summary, even though Ariza is arguably good enough to be the sixth man for this team, the re-signing of Martell Webster and drafting of Otto Porter makes it extremely counter-productive.

Otto Porter: He rates out at above-average in a variety of fields, not standing out at just one thing. Porter possesses that can’t be taught is his lanky 6-9 frame and monsterous 7 foot wingspan. There is a lot of room for improvement in Porters offensive game, specifically his shooting mechanics. Defensive rebounding is a strength, but it is yet to be seen how his body will handle the much more gifted athletes of the NBA. Otto Porter will only be as good as how hard Otto Porter works. Putting on some bulk in the weight room and spending extra hours getting shots up could make Porter a very valuable player a few years down the road.

Martell Webster: He’s like ice cream. I love em’, you love em’, we all love em’. The question is, how much do we love ice cream when it’s sold above market value? Why am I talking about ice cream? Why are you still reading this? Martell Webster had a career year by his standards, and was one of the lone bright spots for the Wizards last year.The Wizards in return spent the MLE on him, making an investment in what they think will be an upward progression in the second half of Websters career. 22 million is a lot for a guy who posted the numbers that he did (pretty much two million per point averaged), but if you look at the contracts handed out this summer, Webster actually received what was market value. He got more money per year than Earl Clark, but less money than O.J. Mayo. Still feel bad? They signed a guy who meshes well to the needs of the team. They signed their starter at small forward.Let’s breakdown the three players in question to see who is the best fit to start and who is the best fit for backing up the starter.


2) John Wall’s maturation and leadership in full swing now that he’s paid – Joe

Year three was supposed to be the one where John Wall made the huge jump from fringe star to top of the league. Unfortunately, his season didn’t get started until after the New Year, missing nearly the first three months of the season and assuring the Wizards another playoff-less season.

Year four has now arrived and if Wall – fresh off a max-contract signing – thought the pomp and circumstance that accompanied his arrival to the Nations Capital was a lot, well..the amount of eyes, detractors and critics is about to multiply triple fold.

Despite being a top 6 PER PG last year, and 22nd overall, the scuttlebutt for much of the summer at first was if Wall was even worth the max. One NBA reporter, Chris Sheridan, believes the Wizards had to do the deal but that Wall is less Russell Westbrook and more Ty Lawson.

After covering Wall since his rookie year, there are a few things that should be established. First of all, there is not a more fierce competitor than Wall, and to think that Wall doesn’t use all of his “haters” as motivation would mean you don’t know the young man’s story. Second, his speed and talent is undeniable. Third, his ability to make players around him is proven as one can see how the team performs with him and without him. Lastly, Wall has the drive and determination to be the best and that’s not something that can be taught.

Has he been the player that he was supposed to be when he was drafted here? Honestly, all things considered I’d say yes he has been. Wall was the best player in the 2010 draft and continues to be and while Paul George is the new flavor of the times right now I would still take Wall 10 times out of 10 if that draft is done again.

John came into a crap situation with the team he was surrounded with. Gilbert Arenas and his finger guns were still on the team, he had the knucklehead trio of McGee, Blatche and Young, with absolutely no help from any perimeter shooters, a weak defensive team and frankly, a piss poor supporting cast all the way around. Into his second and third years the Wizards finally started gathering talent to help Wall and in spurts everyone began to see the difference.

This is the first offseason since his rookie year that Wall will have a normal lead up to training camp and the regular season. Obviously in his rookie year, everything was new. Year two featured the NBA lockout, and in year three he was injured.

Not only are the Wizards going to be better this year but I stand by the guarantee that Wall emerges this year as a top-5 PG, leads the Wizards to the playoffs and shuts some mouths along the way. Wizards fans should be excited about the things to come because for the first time in a while, the entertainment at the Verizon Center will be the home team and Wall is going to be the ring leader of the show.


3) Nene’s health – Jamal

While the Wizards’ backcourt has youth and malleability to boast, its frontcourt is reaching its twilight.

Late in the 2012-2013 season, a report surfaced that Nene considered retirement due to the extreme pain he faced from his injuries.  This is especially concerning, but not a complete surprise considering his age and the fact that he played a rigorous Olympics schedule the previous summer.  All things considered, Nene managing to play 61 (the most since the 2010-2011 season) games last season was a great accomplishment.
But what does that mean now?

The Wizards opted to address needs on the wing this summer, passing on the raw, yet immensely talented Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel and local prospect Alex Len.  While Otto Porter was the safest pick available when the Wizards selected, some wondered how the team intended to address its soon-to-be problem of big man depth.  The second string behind Nene – Seraphin and Vesely, who’s learning to play a new position – doesn’t warrant much confidence.

It’s no secret that the Wizards perform best when Nene is on the floor.  His combination of post moves, passing ability, and screen-setting is something we haven’t seen in Washington for over a decade.  I think Nene’s health this season depends largely on better bench contributions and a close eye on his minutes, especially with three sets of back-to-back games in the month of November alone.

I also think the addition of Al Harrington will be valuable, too, as the Wizards’ front court bench players cannot help with floor spacing.  Al’s versatility will give Nene excellent relief.


4) Al Harrington’s impact – Abdullah

Harrington’s presence on the Wizards serves as a huge interest to me much on the notion that he is the first player in ages to actually have a desire to be here. One of the commandments in Ernie Grunfeld’s much-maligned “Plan” was to create an appealing basketball culture that will attract free agents to come play for the Wizards, and to see a serviceable, talented player WANT to be here proves the culture shift that has taken place. The rebuild is actually taking serious shape, folks and it’ll be interesting to see how the team acts and reacts with Harrington serving as a leader.

A seasoned veteran who was runner up to earn top Sixth Man honors just two years ago, it was Harrington’s instincts that landed him in D.C. He admitted to observing the Wizards for a lengthy period of time and that it was things like the maturation of Wall, the potential of Beal, and a poised front court that played excellent defense that attracted him to the District. Let’s face it, the guy WANTS to give what it takes to get this squad into the postseason and THAT’S what I’m excited to see.

On the floor, Harrington needs to be impactful right away. His size, length, and shooting range make him the stretch 4 this team had been coveting all offseason. Let’s bear in mind that Harrington was out for all but 10 games last season, so it’ll be interesting to see how quickly he can shake off the rust after nursing a knee injury and staph infection. His ability to stretch the floor will certainly relieve the Wizards of their spacing issues down low and provide Wall with another weapon on offense.


5) Seraphin, Vesley, Singleton, and Booker: Who survives past their rookie deal? – Charles

It’s getting close to decision time on these four underachieving first round picks. With team options looming, Ernie Grunfeld will have to decide who’s staying and who’s going.

Two years ago this question would have been a no-brainer. Kevin Seraphin was clearly the best of this bunch, but has slowly morphed into an offensive black hole. While Kevin has developed a pretty good post game, his penchant for taking the shot — any shot — as soon as he touches the ball has severely cut into his playing time and soured a lot of Wizards fans, not to mention Randy Witman.

Trevor Booker was supposed to be the hustle guy, an undersized PF whose job was to do the dirty work. I can’t tell you how many Wizards games I’ve watched and wished that Booker was two inches taller. Since he can’t get taller, he has to get better. Even though he hustles and does the little things, I’m a little disappointed in his lack of development. I like what Booker brings to the team but I’m a little unsure on how he fits into the long term plan especially with the addition of Al Harrington at the 4.

Chris Singleton came in as the two-time ACC defensive player of the year. He was brought in to…PLAY DEFENSE. Everyone knew he was somewhat offensively limited but we also knew we were getting a defensive stopper a la Tony Allen, but that has not been the case. Don’t get me wrong, Singleton has had some really good games in Washington but his defensive prowess has been missing in action. So that begs the question, what does he bring to the table?

If I were a betting man my money would be on Jan Vesely sticking around. I know what you’re saying: “Jan is the worst player on the team and he couldn’t hit a free throw if his life depended on it.” I would actually agree with you on that, wholeheartedly. Based strictly on court performance Vesely has been outperformed by Booker, Seraphin, and even Singleton which says a lot. However, he still has the biggest upside of the four and coming off his impressive showings in Summer League and the Euro Tournament, I believe that Ernie is still content to wait a little longer on Vesely to develop. But how long exactly do you wait on the 6th overall pick to develop?

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