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Washington Wizards 2011-12 Season Preview (You Know, In Case It Happens)

The NBA season could happen. It might not happen. At any rate, the NBA Blogger Previews are happening and this is the Wizards season preview. Let's talk a lot about John Wall and other stuff, OK?

Since I’m new(-ish) around here, an introduction: My name is Michael Katz (follow me!), and – among other things -- I write about the Wizards on SB Nation D.C. (bookmark our coverage, will you?). I’m not a Washington fan, but I did watch 60-some Wizards games last season, which is probably more than many fans could put up with. I’ve learned your language and your customs so please accept me as one of your own.

Now, where were we? Oh, the preview …

Team Name: Washington Wizards
Last Year’s Record: 23-59
Key Free Agents: Josh Howard, Nick Young (RFA), Yi Jianlian
Team Needs: Time, Talent Surrounding John Wall, 3PT Shooting, Positive Reinforcement

1. What are your team's biggest needs this offseason?

Let’s ignore for a second that, to be a serious contender, what the Wizards need most is more talent. Washington is not going to pull John Wall’s No. 2 out of a hat between now and the start of this (theoretical) season. So let’s just look at areas where improvement is needed.

I'll offer this thought: The Wizards need to grow up. I’m reminded of a conversation I had in February with Tyson Chandler, after the Mavericks center went for a then-season-high 23 points and 13 rebounds opposite JaVale McGee. He said he was able to take advantage of McGee because he knew the Washington’s young center was eager to block every shot. One fake and Chandler went around him. I asked how you get passed that urge, and Chandler said it’s just something that comes with age, experience. I have a feeling it won’t be hard to tell if the Wizards are choosing to grow up this season.

As for the actual basketball, there’s a few areas that stand out. Last season, Washington had the second lowest defensive rebounding rate in the league. This is an effort stat, and it can be fixed by committing to the glass. Up front are McGee, Andray Blatche, Trevor Booker and rookie Chris Singleton. These guys are capable rebounders. The Wizards also shot poorly from three last season – their 33.2 percent mark was 28th in the league. Rashard Lewis could help here if he can bounce back from the 35.7 percent he shot last season, the worst he has shot since ‘02-03.

Pray to whatever God you claim that John Wall’s jump shot continues to improve.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths & weaknesses? (so far)

Strength: Washington’s biggest strength is John Wall. The Wizards have the most coveted asset for a rebuilding team: a franchise cornerstone. The Wizards also ditched the old uniforms in favor of retro-inspired embrace-the-past duds. "Look good, play good." - Deion Sanders, Football Player.

Weakness: The road. Last season the Wizards could not win on the road. I mean this almost literally. Washington won three games on the road, but not before losing their first 25 games away from the Verizon Center, threatening the NBA Record set by the ‘92-93 Mavericks, who started 0-29. Re-read the section on the Wizards’ biggest needs. Time to grow up.

3. If there is no season in 2011-12, how is your team set up for 2012?

Well, that’s one season the Wizards don’t have to pay 20+ million to Rashard Lewis, so there’s that. But really, a missed season would not be a great result for Washington.

This is a young team, a team that needs time to build. Not just time to coalesce on the court, but time to be with their coaching staff, time to learn. They need productive time, time that is structured. Answer this question for yourself: Where would you hope to see JaVale McGee for the next 12 months – in the company of Flip Saunders or running up and down the court for the Drew League’s pro-am team?

This should be the year Wall makes voters and coaches feel bad about deciding to keep him off the East All-Star squad. Wall needs to take the leap for the franchise to take the leap. The Wizards should be targeting 2012-13 as realistic opportunity to push for a spot in the East’s top eight. Without 2011-12, is that still so realistic?

4. If you could make one change the NBA's new CBA, what would it be?

I’ve been following Nate Jones on Twitter long enough to reflexively answer, "Revenue sharing!" But I’m not expert. Instead of wasting my words and your time, let me recommend Tom Ziller, SB Nation’s lead NBA writer, for CBA enthusiasts.

5. Which Wizard is most knowledgeable about hotel room service dining?

I’m glad I asked. Of course, it’s Andray Blatche. If you’re so inclined, please enjoy "Andray Blatche Presents: A Gentleman’s Guide to Room Service." Lots of helpful tips in there, you guys.