Throughout September and October, we’ll be examining all 30 teams in the NBA and previewing the 2013-14 season through the lens of each particular organization. I’ll be going through each team’s roster and expected outcome for the upcoming campaign in reverse order of predicted finish, starting with the worst team in the NBA. At the bottom of each preview there will be a table with each division that will link to already-completed previews.
Just when we all thought the Wizards were ready to take a legitimate step towards securing a playoff berth in the top-heavy Eastern Conference, it was announced that starting center Emeka Okafor would be out indefinitely with a herniated disk in his neck. Based on roster talent, this squad should be a few spots higher, and very may end up in the playoffs. But as of today, it’s hard to see an Okafor-less lineup being all too successful at the start of the season.
Fresh off a 29-53 campaign that saw John Wall only play in 49 contests, the Wizards had reasonably high hopes for 2013-14, with a healthy and improving Wall sharing the back court with promising second-year guard and 2012 first round draft pick Bradley Beal. Down low, an imposing frontline comprised of Okafor and Nene would be a tough match-up for nearly every team in the league.
Add in this year’s third overall pick in Otto Porter, Jr. on the wing next to a resurgent Martell Webster and solid Trevor Ariza, and the Wizards’ top seven or eight players look pretty good. This, of course, was before word of Okafor’s injury. Front court depth has been an issue for Washington for some time now, as youngsters Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin have been largely disappointing in their first few years in the league.
Barring a late acquisition, the Wizards will enter the season with the slender Vesely starting at center, and the shaky Seraphin backing him up down low. Veteran Al Harrington will see time off the bench, as well as third-year man Chris Singleton, but there’s no doubt that the lack of depth down low could prove to be a significant issue for the Wizards — especially without Okafor in uniform.
Assuming progression from Beal and continued progress out of Wall, the Wizards should be able to sufficiently tread water prior to Okafor’s return. The playoffs could be a slight stretch, but Washington will almost certainly be in the mix in the 8-10 range by the end of the year, with a chance to squeak into the postseason with some unexpected production out of young players like Beal or Porter.
Best Case Scenario
This could be a decent team that finds itself as high as the 7-seed in the East. Depending on the success (or lack thereof) of re-made teams such as Detroit and Cleveland, it looks like squeaking into the playoffs is a realistic possibility. Again, this largely hinges on Okafor making a swift and full recovery, but 40-43 wins is not out of the question.
Worst Case Scenario
If Wall doesn’t take an expected step forward and youngsters like Beal and Porter scuffle significantly, things could get fairly ugly. Beyond the top seven or eight on this roster, the talent drops off quickly. If players like Singleton, Booker, or Eric Maynor are relied on too heavily, this team won’t have a chance to pick itself up off the mat. Still, 31-34 wins feels like a safe floor for this roster, with a healthy Nene and a young, hungry back court. And again…Easter Conference.
Most Likely Outcome
It’s very tough to predict where this team will end up, and that’s almost entirely because of the uncertainty of Okafor’s injury. The defense will rely heavily on Nene in the early going, and with how vital he is to their offensive success as well, the Wiz better hope that Beal, Porter, and Webster can hit their outside shots in support of Wall.
Look for the Wizards to sign another big (possibly Jason Collins, who was with the team last year) to help shore up their defense in the paint and their depth down low. If they can hold their own while Okafor remains sidelined, I see this team making it to 39-42 wins and having a shot at the eight seed, although likely finishing ninth or tenth in the East.
|Toronto Raptors (22)||Washington Wizards (19)|
|Boston Celtics (24)||Charlotte Bobcats (26)|
|Milwaukee Bucks (20)||Orlando Magic (27)|
|Los Angeles Lakers (23)|
|Sacramento Kings (25)|
|Dallas Mavericks (21)|