This is an article I wrote a few weeks ago for my website http://www.beltwaysportsblog.com/ but I feel like it still applys (even more so now probably) to the Wizards
. Other than the lack of John Wall's
progression I am basically explaining why I think that the 2nd half of the Wizards season has actually gone well despite the horrid record. (I also can't figure out how to put space in between the paragraphs on the actual post even though it shows up when I am typing it right now. This is my first post on SB Nation so any help would be appreciated) Enjoy:
At first glance the title of this statement looks ridiculous. How good any part of an 11-39 season being going well? Well I am here to explain that to you. I will start right before the trade deadline because that is basically the day where the Wizards franchise changed dramatically with the Nene trade. At the time we were sitting at 9-32 (nothing to write home about) and had the 3rd worst record in the NBA was is actually one of the most significant parts of this year. We were a team that had an infinite number of players that had no basketball IQ, played sub par defense, and overall just took a selfish approach to the game. The culture around the Wizards was terrible as all of their top players (sans Wall) not only didn’t know how to win basketball games but just created a losing atmosphere around the other players. The main culprits in this culture was McGee, Young, and Blatche; all of whom had been in the league year for years yet they had all always been perennial losers (specifically as starters) and not one of them seemed willing to change their game or attitude on the court for the better of the team. It was pretty clear that Young would be gone after this year because he is an unrestricted free agent and Blatche was also probably gone due to the existing amnesty clause that the Wizards are sure to use on him; but with no deal looming it seemed as if we would have to watch these guys play out the year and soil our young impressionable players even more. Then you have McGee who we would have had to make a huge decision on this summer as to whether to pay this big time highlight and potential guy that hadn’t yet figured out how to play and win in the NBA the big bucks or let him walk for free. It is basically the type of decision that gets NBA GM’s fired every year.
Things looked mighty bleak for the Wizards until that fateful day came when they somehow receive Nene (and Brian Cook
…) for Nick Young
and JaVale McGee
basically. Now we have a top 6 or 7 center (in my opinion) for most likely 2 guys that wouldn’t have been on the team next year anyways (or even worse we would have re-signed McGee for the same amount that we are paying Nene). Are there downsides to Nene? Of course. He is 29 and while he still should have some productive years left he will most likely decline a bit over his contract length with the Wizards and is on the opposite path of the rest of the rising Wiz kids. He also has a big contract (13 million a year for the next 4 years, not including the current one), but if he is certainly capable of playing up to that contract and I think he has so far. What the Wizards received in Nene is much greater than what they have up however. In Nene they got a guy who is team first, a veteran on the court and in the locker room, and is just a downright good player. Not only will bring better production at the center spot, but unlike McGee he actually makes the players better around him by passing out of double teams in the post, sliding over for strong defensive help, getting guys in the right spots and making the type of hustle plays that gets his team extra possessions, etc… (Notice how all of these things don’t show up in a stat line. Also notice how these are all things that McGee never did. But he had good stats!)
Just watching the Wizards after this trade has been not only so much more enjoyable as a fan but it is just much better basketball. In place of huge blocks and dunks we are now seeing tough post defense and not allowing every center in the league to back us down at will. Instead of the shot first mentality we had, we now have a move the ball around and pass it out of double teams until we get a better shot (except for Jordan Crawford
but thats another story). It is amazing that even though Nene has been there for a couple of weeks and Young and McGee only gone for a couple of weeks, that we have transformed so much into a team that actually plays for one another and cares more about the little things than the stat sheets.
This is when I am supposed to say that since the Nene trade the Wizards have won every game and are close to being playoff bound! Obviously that has not happened but really the 2nd best thing has happened and that is that since the arrival of Nene we have lost a lot of very close games. This may sound like me just trying to skew things to make my argument but anybody who knows me or has read my stuff knows that at this point I believe a loss is better than a win (for draft positioning) and a close loss is the best outcome. Since Nene has gotten here we are 1-5, with only one of those losses being by more than 4 points (tonight’s loss to the Pacers
was the 4 point outcome). If you ask me that is best case scenario, we have this young team that is growing and now we are competing in every game we are playing in but in the end the better veteran teams barely get us. It is great to see because not only are we competing with these solid NBA teams but our draft position is strengthening at the same time and our ability to finish games will come along as we age and progress as a team.
Not only is all this going on for the Wizards but it looks as if Rashard Lewis
and Andray Blatche
are basically being shut down for the season. Neither of them have played much this season and that is really best case scenario. Even though they started out as our starting small and power forward, neither of them are going to be a part of the Wizards future and really all they are going to do at this point is probably help us get a win that we don’t need and take away from our young developing players. Instead they have been sitting for a while and most likely will sit for the rest of the season while we continue to rack up the losses (strengthening our draft position) and continuing to get our young players more time so they can develop more rapidly. (And for those who think I am wrong for wanting the Wizards to lose so bad just to strengthen their draft position: check out how much the Redskins had to give up just to move up 4 spots in their draft. Each slot is worth a lot)
After looking at the mess we had on our hands pre trade deadline, things are starting to look a lot more clear and better for the future of the Wiz. I am not trying to say that things are great or anything (after all half of this post is about how I am happy the Wizards are losing) because we still have a long way to go. But a couple of weeks ago we had a losing culture here that was led by a few knuckleheads that seemed to care more about themselves then winning and we were going to be faced with an impossible decision this off-season. Now we have one of the better veteran centers in this league to help our young team, we don’t (most likely) ever have to see Blatche or Lewis play for this team again allowing our young guys to develop, and we now have the 2nd best odds to land that #1 overall pick. Maybe I am just a delusional Wiz fan that is trying to find a silver lining in things, but I like the way things are going.
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