It's that time of year, folks. Time for everyone to make a record prediction for your Washington Wizards. Here's the space to do it.
Below the jump, Bullets Forever's five site editors weigh in.
Mike Prada - 21-45 (26-56): I'm more bearish on this team than my fellow site editors. A few reasons why:
- Most people assume that John Wall is going to break out this season. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. But I think there's a lot of reason to believe that he won't, at least this season. He's more explosive, which means he'll be better, but he's still not great as a half-court point guard and he still needs to work on his defense. It'll all come eventually, but I suspect it'll come slower than everyone else assumes. Everything we witnessed in the preseason seems to support that. He'll be better of course, but I don't think he's going to figure out how to be a great half-court player until late in the season, if not next year.
- The Wizards still don't have reliable outside shooting past Nick Young and Rashard Lewis. Frankly, I'd be pleasantly surprised if Lewis was pain-free the whole year. As for Young, he can't play 48 minutes. At some point, Jordan Crawford and Chris Singleton need to be able to knock down a perimeter shot to open up lanes for Wall. I don't think it'll happen this year.
- I'm optimistic about Jan Vesely going forward, but with a short training camp, the prospect of reconstructing his jump shot and lots of other guys at his position, I don't expect him to make much of an impact right away.
- The whole Young/Crawford dynamic concerns me a bit. Young's focus won't be all there this year because he's looking for his next contract. Crawford, meanwhile, still has yet to show he can fit into a team setting. Those are your two guys being counted on heavily to score in the halfcourt. They'll be needed until Wall improves his jump shot.
- The fact that there still seems to be some confusion with the offensive pecking order means we'll see some uneven play early until it's all figured out.
- A frontcourt of Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee is still a defensive liability.
They'll be a bit better, because Wall will improve, McGee should improve and Blatche really can't be much worse. But I'm not expecting major jumps until the roster gets sorted out a bit more clearly. The Wizards need to figure out who does what on this team and channel players to those roles. Until that happens, I'm not seeing a ton of growth in the win column.
Sean Fagan - 24-42 (30-52): It pains at times to such a stark "realist" about the Wizards. The truth of the matter is this still isn't a very good basketball team and it will likely take at least another season for the ingredients to simmer and resemble a decent meal. More concerning is the fact that leaders like John wall are vocally confused as to their roles. Whether this is a lack of offseason prep by the coaching staff or a failure to properly communicate, we may be looking at the last stand for coach Flip Saunders or GM Ernie Grunfeld. I feel like anything less than 30 wins, and heads are going to roll. At my predicted 24 wins, it going to be the French Revolution at the phonebooth.
Bullet Nation In Exile - 28-38 (35-47): We're not supposed to read into preseason games, but it's impossible to ignore when the head coach has a meltdown in the press over the opener. We were all aware the severely abbreviated training camp would make it difficult for the team to get on the same page ... though we can't be sure if the team was simply run ragged in practice, considering a stronger showing in the finale. The compressed season should afford a number of opportunities to steal games from older teams, and I'm also optimistic the relentless grind will finally remind John Wall there are gears other than sixth. I predict a floor of 21 wins:
- Add in two more if Nick's shooting returns to 2010/11 pre-injury levels
- Add in three more if John's jumper prevents teams from sagging off on defense
- Add in five more if Javale makes a big leap on offense and defense
- Add in four more if the team avoids hero ball and runs their sets
Prediction: Wizards finish 28-38 +/-7
Jake Whitacre - 23-43 (28-54): In a normal season, I'd predict the Wizards would end up with a little better record, because they'd have more time to take advantage of their development at the end of the season, much like they did last year. Since there will less time for this team to jell together, I'll go with a more conservative prediction. The team will win a slightly higher percentage of games this year, thanks to the improvement of John Wall and JaVale McGee, but there's still too many holes on the squad to expect a run at a playoff spot at this point.
Rook6980 - 30-36 (37-45): The Wizards will be one of fastest teams in the league and will be near the top in fast break points, but their half court offense will struggle at times. Especially early in the season, we may see the half court offense often break down into Andray Blatche going one-on-one, Rashard Lewis from the corner and Jordan Crawford jacking as many shots as he can get his hands on. They will struggle to break 90 points on some nights.
The only way these young Wizards could be relevenat in a playoff discussion is if JaVale McGee becomes a defensive force, Nick Young suddenly learns to pass, and Blatche and Crawford increase their efficiency. Even as I wrote that, I was chuckling. They won't be in the playoff hunt.
But like last year, I believe they will start to put it together in the last 25 games or so. I look for McGee to continue taking incremental steps towards being a solid defensive center with a focus on defensive rebounding. Wall will put up better numbers than last year and become a much more consistent force. Young will do his normal Nick Young stuff and look to leave at the season's conclusion for the Lakers or Clippers. Flip Saunders will find some way to get through to Crawford (like he did with Young) and we'll finally start to see some restraint -- and he may actually break a 50 percent true shooting percentage. Vesely and Singleton will fight each other for minutes all season long, with both of them having their moments.
All in all, I'm predicting another good developmental year for the Wizards youngsters, while still holding on to a lottery pick for the 2012 draft.