This week I posted results from 15 questions about the Wizards upcoming campaign yours truly and other media members answered. While I wouldn't task those doing me a solid for detailed responses, I thought I'd share my work as it were on each response and what the questions and answers suggest about the just started campaign. My answers are in parenthesis following each question and you can find all media responses here.
1) How many games will Nene play? (60)
2) How many games will John Wall play? (64)
These questions ask the obvious. When will Washington's top two players return? And the subtle, which is: do the Wizards have a chance at thinking about the postseason?
Even if fully healthy, even if all the new pieces blend as hoped with the returning players, even if Wall becomes an All-Star and Bradley Beal Rookie of the Year, the playoffs are no lock. The Eastern Conference is not top heavy but has a rather bloated middle with teams thought to be poised for extra games (New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Derrick Rose-less Chicago) and those poised for a standings rise (Milwaukee, Toronto, Detroit, Cleveland). Washington is in the latter pack right now - assuming Wall and Nene are back ASAP - but not necessarily in the back of it. If Wall and Nene are available for at least 70 games each, my position is the Wizards are in the mix for the eighth seed. If the number of games played for one (especially Wall) or both drops into the 60's (or, gulp, worse), then it will be all about the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery, again.
3) How many points + assists will John Wall average? (16.6 + 8.5 = 25.1)
Seriously, can someone explain to me how on a team loaded with chuckers, knuckleheads and those with low basketball IQ among its primary rotation Wall doled out eight assists per game last season? With legitimate shooters now on the wings, a full-ish season with a quality low and high post threat like Nene and a smarter overall roster, Wall should easily surpass last season's average.
As for the scoring, I projected Wall scoring slightly better than last season 16.0. If his 3-point percentage climbs from last campaign's unfathomable 7.1 percent to the 29.6 percent he shot as a rookie, Wall could score closer to 20 a night. Whether that's a good thing is another story. As long as the point guard doesn't compromise his assisting, have at it.
4) How many points + rebounds will Emeka Okafor average? (10.0. + 8.5 = 18.5)
Okafor is a career double-double performer so there is justification for projecting such an output, not that I did. Considering he hasn't reached that level in four seasons - not even close the past two - there was indeed reason to go under. Want another? From a personnel standpoint, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Wizards season opening loss Tuesday night came in the middle.
Despite no report of an Okafor injury, Wizards coach Randy Wittman used journeyman Earl Barron in the middle for the entire fourth quarter. There were in-the-moment reasons for the call to be sure; Barron's part in the fourth quarter rally, Okafor's part in not being able to keep Anderson Varejao off the boards. Still, the former overall No. 1 pick is by far the most accomplished center available and the highest paid player on the team. If Wittman was willing to go down this route in the opener, what happens to Okafor's minutes when Nene and Kevin Seraphin return from injuries?
5) What percentage will Trevor Ariza shoot from the field? (39.9)
Mention the name of the former Lakers starter and casual NBA fans recall the player who knocked down perimeter shots during Los Angeles' 2008-09 championship run. Truth is, that player doesn't exist, never really has outside of those playoffs when Ariza sank 48 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Before that stretch, the slick 6-foot-8 wing largely scored in transition, a facet of the game is agility is ideally suited, especially playing with led foot point like John Wall.
Even though he launched 3's with regularity during that championship season, Ariza took an extra 1.5 per game in the postseason. In fairness to Ariza, he was making them. Since then, not so much; Ariza is a 33 percent shooter from deep over the last three seasons plus one game and his overall accuracy has suffered. Should his 2012-13 field goal percentage live south of 41, you can guess too many 3's and not enough drives were to blame. Ariza's defense will keep him on the court and his opening night effort exceeded much of his brutal preseason work. However, the Wizards have other small forward options should the misfiring become intolerable.
Part 2 (questions 6-10) on Thursday, Part 3 (11-15) on Friday.