The All-Star break is over. The 15-36 Wizards return to practice Monday night, return to game action Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors. Over the final 31 games, these are the short and long term story lines we will be following...
*The Wizards, when fully intact, may not be a 5-28 team, but are they a 10-8 squad as they have been with John Wall in the lineup? That pace over a full season translates into 45 wins, which right now would have Washington as the Eastern Conference's seventh seed. So, is this a playoff-worthy roster or one that would be lottery bound regardless. With the NBA trading deadline this Thursday at 3 p.m., that does not leave much time for management to gauge the answer if they have not done so already.
*How dynamic of a duo can John Wall and Bradley Beal become. Depending on their combined scoring potential, Washington could make adding another point-producer this off-season its highest priority.
*Even if the conclusion is this roster needs significant overhauling, that is not the same as having to participate in any wheeling and dealing by Thursday. Practical odds are against Washington making a significant trade this week, though they are rumored to be in the Josh Smith sweepstakes. For cap purposes, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza would be obvious trade bait. Considering his contract expires after this season, perhaps Martell Webster's name comes as contending teams seek another perimeter threat.
*Then there is stat-tweeting Jordan Crawford, who in a few weeks has gone from the team's leading scorer to not playing to being "eminently available" for trade. If the recent benching is a short-term matter as it was for Chris Singleton, then we move on. If however the sitting is because Wizards coach Randy Wittman cannot stand the ball-stopping scorer messing with the offensive flow, then it could make sense to move the 24-year-old Crawford before he becomes a potential restricted free agent this summer - along with Wall and Trevor Booker.
*If, if there truly is a playoff push to be had, the next 16 games will let us know. This portion of the schedule is noticeably less challenging than the final stretch of the season and it begins with six of seven games at the Verizon Center where the Wizards have won eight of nine.
*If, as the odds would suggest, any talk of postseason play is simply runaway optimism, then the question is does the team continue playing for this year or at some point is the rotation tweaked with a nod toward the future. That change could come in several ways, including letting Nene's battered body rest to letting the younger players receive extended minutes with Wall or in general. If Wittman feels these final games are an audition for his own job, the only thing getting benched are such forward-thinking thoughts.
*The Wizards organization has longed talked about their accumulation of young assets, specifically first-round picks. Three players under that asset umbrella - Singleton, Booker and Jan Vesely - are essentially competing for the same minutes. Even if Webster departs before next season, that might not change as the trio of combo forwards essentially offer a similar energy/defense with minimal offense skill set. Recently Singleton's been receiving the minutes while the other two sit, though not so long it was Singleton doing the watching. As for Vesely, the No. 6 pick in the 2011 draft, the recent winning stretch has removed the spotlight from his ineffective sophomore campaign. It will not stay away for long.
*And of course, there is Wall's development. If we're talking about him as dynamic and blinding presence with the ball, there is no argument. When the topic turns to whether the point guard has the required game for franchise player status, opinions vary. Ultimately the only one's that will matter are those management types who must decide this summer whether to discuss a long-term extension with the upcoming restricted free agent and for how much.