Martell Webster has been playing great for the Washington Wizards lately. I began to think that he should be a priority this off season and should be re-signed. However, his play, along with the improved play of the Washington Wizards, led me to ask an important question. Are the Washington Wizards talented?
This question led me to revisit this Washington Post article by Michael Lee.
This article is from last year and sites the reason the Wizards have been so bad. According to several league executives, the Washington Wizards were young, but they lacked talent. Just last year, only ONE team in the league had fewer lottery picks than the Wizards, the Indiana Pacers. But even they had 3 all stars on their team in Danny Granger (2009), Roy Hibbert (2012), and Paul George (2013). They recently added another former all star in David West (2009) to increase their overall talent level.
The main point was that the Washington Wizards were at a significant disadvantage from both a talent level and character standpoint every single night. That environment did not and could not sustain a winning environment. Nick Young, JaVale McGee, and Jordan Crawford were picked outside of the lottery. Andray Blatche was a 2nd round pick. They did not have talent nor character to be significant building blocks for this franchise.
True building blocks for NBA franchises are selected in the top 5 of the NBA draft. Support for those building blocks is typically found in the lottery. The Washington Wizards had 1 top 5 pick and 2 lottery picks last season, 2nd worst in the league. By the start of next year the Washington Wizards will have 2 top 5 picks, maybe 3. They will also have 7 lottery picks. That is what makes this end of the year winning streak different from prior years. From only 2 players to 7 is a striking increase in talent and a major reason why the Wizards seem to be performing better.
Just as the talent level has increased, the character and locker room appear to have improved as well. You can see it in players, such as Martell Webster. Finding him is potentially huge for this franchise because you cannot miss on lottery picks in the NBA. Even though I have not given up on Jan Vesely yet, I am concerned that he may not develop his talent. Martell Webster is also a young 6th round pick and can be viewed as "Jan Vesely insurance". Even if Jan Vesely does not develop, Martell Webster can fill his role as a major supporting piece to a winning team.
I think we are all seeing the benefits of this talented, high character group. The environment has led players to improve, compete, and most importantly, win match ups. John Wall and Bradley Beal have improved. There is legitimate competition between Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster. Match up disparities are not as glaring. Instead of going into a game thinking, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatch are going to be dominated by the Memphis Grizzlies, I feel that Nene and Emeka can hold their own defensively.
It will take a full, healthy season to see just how far this team can go, but I am hopeful. I am beginning to notice the talent, character, and fun in our players. This team is in a position where they can actually bring a rookie up slowly. Finally, we can see the light at the end of this long rebuild.