'Tis the season for early NBA team previews, many of which often take the form of a report card. Last month SI.com's red pen labeled the Wizards' offseason as a "B-minus" looking squad. When evaluating the team overall, an NBA.com analyst came up with the same overall mark.
"The time is now for this Wizards team to exit its perpetual lottery status and move into the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference," John Schuhmann writes. "So much of what they do will be predicated on Wall playing the same way all season that he did in the final 49 games last season. He was a the difference maker the Wizards thought he would be when they drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2010. Wall is young, 22, for a team leader. But there is no doubt that this is his team. There is no veteran presence on the roster that trumps him. He has to assume the leadership role for this crew on and off the court. They go as he goes next season."
Outside of Wall is now 23 (which only happened last week), hard to find fault with anything said there. Schuhmann went a step further and graded various aspects of the team, from the frontcourt (C+) and backcourt (B) to defense (B) and the bench (C).
"Another team with an assortment of bodies but no real chemistry to speak of, yet," Schuhmann writes of Washington's reserves. "A quality bench has to have specific parts, specialists even, that work in concert as a unit. The Wizards are still trying to develop that sort of harmony."
Considering newcomers Eric Maynor, Al Harrington and Otto Porter could be three of the first player off the bench (along with Kevin Seraphin and the non-starter between Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza), not sure how chemistry could have already been established, but again, fair enough. It remains uncertain how all the pieces fit together, especially when going deeper into the Jan Vesely-Trevor Booker-Chris Singleton aspect. On paper - especially if Harrington is healthy, Maynor proves steady and Porter contributes - this unit screams upgrade over last year's mix.
Perhaps Schuhmann's most interesting grade involves the coaching. The mark handed out, a "D."
"As they say in the world of analytics, numbers never lie. Randy Wittman's career record is rough (147-291 in his career and 47-84 in Washington). But he found something with the Wizards in the second half of the last season."
If indeed Wittman's entire head coaching career record is part of the grading equation, then the mark in understandable (though it's worth mentioning Wittman was never handed an established winning team in Cleveland, Minnesota or Washington). Also, no matter how strongly the Wizards finished last season, they started 4-28, won only 29 games total and missed the playoffs.
However, if the grade is based on last season alone, then a "D" is overly dismissive. If defense is about desire, then props to Wittman for getting his squad to rank among the top-10 teams in defense. That goes double considering the brutal start. Unlike previous coaches, Wittman had no issue sitting knucklehead types like Jordan Crawford when they acted out regardless of his other personnel options. The popular stat showing Washington's 15-7 record with Wall, Nene and Bradley Beal playing together also provides a look at what Wittman could do with all his horses available.
We'll have a better sense of how the franchise's primary decision-makers grade Wittman, who enters the final year of his current deal, once his contract situation is resolved.