The Wizards are no strangers to injury news crushing optimism before the season begins, but today's news that John Wall will be out for 8 weeks is especially disheartening for a team that many consider to be in the running for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. If the eight week projection holds true, he'll miss the first ten games of the regular season. Missing those ten games could very well be the difference between the playoffs and another trip to the lottery.
But now that we know Wall is out, we have to ask some key questions about how the Wizards adapt until Wall gets back. First and foremost...
Who is the Wizards' starting point guard?
Strictly on a talent level, Jordan Crawford seems like the player that makes the most sense. No, he's not the ideal player you'd like to have running your offense, but the talent gap between him and A.J. Price or Shelvin Mack can't be ignored. At this point, they have to take the risk with Crawford in order to stay competitive while Wall is out. Price, Mack and even Bradley Beal will probably take turns helping shoulder the load so Crawford can still have opportunities to play off the ball, but Crawford needs to be the one handling the ball the most.
Should the Wizards consider signing someone to help at point guard?
If so, the most likely candidate is Steven Gray. He played with the team in Summer League and is already signed to be with the team during training camp. If all goes well, they could sign him to a minimum deal and release him once Wall is healthy, hopefully before the contract becomes fully guaranteed.
Some people have thrown out the idea of trading for Jose Calderon, who is stuck behind Kyle Lowry in Toronto, but it's hard to see that happening. To match salaries in a trade, the Wizards would probably have to ship Trevor Ariza to Toronto in a deal that wouldn't make much sense for either side. Toronto would have to take on extra salary with Ariza, and the Wizards would have to give up their projected starting small forward for a point guard who hopefully only starts for a month.
How does Bradley Beal's role change?
If Jordan Crawford winds up as the team's starting point guard, presumably Beal would be in line to take the starting job at shooting guard. While this might sounds like a good thing, it remains to be seen how this will affect his development. Coming off the bench, Beal would really be able to develop his complete offensive game, the same way the Thunder have forced James Harden to develop his all-around game by making him the key cog of the second unit. Now that he's probably going to start, Randy Wittman has to figure out if he still wants to put Beal in a position when he can be a playmaker, or just utilize him as a spot-up shooter while he's in with the starting unit.
Additionally, now we're going to get a very good idea of just how much the Wizards plan on using Beal in a combo guard role. If the Wizards plan on using any of his point guard skills, now is the time to do it.
Just how injured is everyone else?
Don't forget, Nene isn't 100 percent healthy, either. Now that they know Wall won't be ready for the start of the season, the Wizards need to evalute what do with Nene. If he's not fully healthy, do the Wizards throw him out there to help keep the Wizards competitive without Wall, or do they chalk up the start of the season as a loss and make sure Nene is fully healthy before he steps on the court? If he gets held back, you're looking at a potential starting lineup on opening night of Crawford, Beal, Ariza, Seraphin and Okafor. Yikes.
Will the Wizards temper their expectations?
Randy Wittman says he's staying positive, but I doubt we'll be hearing the word "playoffs" as much now as we did right after draft lottery. Like I said at the beginning, losing your best player for at least 10 games to start the season is a crushing blow to the Wizards' chances of making playoffs this season. But if nothing else, now we get to see if the Wizards have put together a playoff-worthy supporting cast to aid Wall once he returns.