The last time there was this many significant veteran talents on the roster in DC, fans were waiting to find out if Flip Saunders could tease a contending core out of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. In two short years, the Wizards have transformed from the Princeton-offense, defense-optional brawlers who always had a puncher's chance into what may be an offensively-challenged, yet brewing defensive power, with a 'give me half a chance and we will end you' attitude hard-wired into the game plan. Instead of Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young? It's John Wall, Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton, Jordan Crawford, Jan Vesely and Bradley Beal. It's not a case for terminal optimism, but I'm not inclined to turn up my nose.
I'm reminded of playing Texas hold 'em, but it isn't like any game I've ever seen. The values of the face cards fluctuate and you can never quite be sure how an opposing team is going to see their value and behave. The Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor acquisition combined with the rash of 2010 draftees coming off their rookie deals by the 2014/15 season has turned eyes to the 2014 All-Star break. The evolution of the skillsets of DC's six first round draft picks over the next two years will hopefully have taken definitive shape when it comes time to decide who to re-up, who to trade and who to give their walking papers. There is still massive uncertainty in DC, and while it's natural to try and project the team's long-term fortune at this time of year, one may as well consult a crystal ball.
The Wizards franchise has not been relevant in my lifetime. Electrifying plays are fun, but I get really excited watching the right traps and rotations on defense, opposing teams hoisting contested jumpshots at the end of the shotclock. That's what makes the 2012/13 squad more exciting for me than the teams of the Gil era. However imposing the mid-2000 rosters looked, they never felt to me like the kind of team that could take one on the chin in the playoffs and put their opponent on the ropes. If the shots weren't falling at a torrid pace, game over.
Watching a frantic defense that can run the opposing team off the floor has been a breath of fresh air. Excellent defense and star-caliber talent are the alpha and omega of a contender, and so much remains uncertain on that score. Will the 2010 and '11 draft classes reach their full potential? Does that mean retained or traded or outbid in restricted free agency? The first wave of massive change may be completed with the amnesty of Andray Blatche, but it only serves to reinforce that, two years into the rebuild, it's still impossible to predict where the Wizards are going to end up and who they're going to be when they get there. Like everyone else, I'm waiting for the flop.