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The Wizards have to avoid their customary slow start

Washington has a long history of early-season struggles. Can they overcome the loss of Bradley Beal and start out strong this year?

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After spending the past year trying to bolster their roster with quality depth, the Wizards once again find themselves short-handed to start the season. Suspensions for Nene and Dejuan Blair as well as injuries to Bradley Beal and Martell Webster have left the Wizards roster depleted from the outset. That's before even considering that Kris Humphries and Glen Rice Jr. will be coming back from injuries that sidelined them for most of the preseason.

With expectations at an all time high, will the Wizards be able to prevent another slow start to this season?

A D.C. tradition

Is there anything more #sowizards than having poor starts? 4-8. 0-12. 1-11. 4-8. 3-9. 2-10. These are the Wizards' records through 12 games in the six years since Eddie Jordan was replaced.

Not incidentally, 12 is the same number of games that Bradley Beal is set to miss to start this season, according to the Wizards' timetable. Since winning the NBA title in 1979, the Wizards have started exactly two seasons (1984--85 and 2004-05) above .500 through their first 12 games. While this number is somewhat arbitrary, choosing a number other than 12 doesn't produce much better results. The fact is, this franchise has been characterized by a long history of early- season ineptitude.

The last two years were supposed to be different. 2012-13 saw the team acquire veterans Emeka Okafor and Trevor Arizato go alongside John Wall and new addition Nene. At that point, the Wizards hoped to challenge for a playoff spot. The team's poor play after injuries to Wall and Nene, however, dispelled the notion that this team would reach its goals.

Last year started inauspiciously as well, with a preseason injury to Okafor, which led to to a trade forMarcin Gortat to fill the center position just prior to the season opener. Gortat had a solid year, but he missed the Wizards training camp, which meant that he and the team needed some time to get acclimated to each other. This unfortunately showed in the early going as the Wizards once again got out to a slow start, winning just four of their first 12 games.

Will this year be different?

This year's Wizards team are hoping to avoid these pitfalls by being deeper and more talented than previous teams on paper. However, the injury to Beal threw a wrench in the works, leaving the Wizards lacking in an area where they had already lost much with the injury to Webster and the departure of Trevor Ariza. Without Webster, Beal or Ariza, the Wizards are missing the players responsible for 464 of their 647 three-pointers last season. Though Paul Pierce should help here, the Wizards struggled in the preseason to create and hit shots from deep, which is an essential part of an offense in the modern NBA regardless of what Byron Scott might tell you.

Nevertheless, the Wizards should be better positioned to weather the storm than they were in previous years. While their offense was stagnant through most of the preseason, their defense was solid. More importantly: the schedule augurs well. Last year's team played eight of their first 12 games on the road, including five against teams that would go on to win 48 games or more. This year's schedule is a tad easier at least based on projections at Bovada:

Team Bovada O/U
Road Miami 44
Road Orlando 26
Home Milwaukee 24.5
Road New York 40
Home Indiana 33
Road Toronto 48.5
Road Indiana 33
Home Detroit 36.5
Home Orlando 26
Home Dallas 49
Home Cleveland 58.5
Road Milwaukee 24.5

The early schedule is more balanced, with Washington playing half of their games at the Verizon Center. Additionally, the Wizards play the injury-wrecked Pacers as well as the rebuilding Bucks and Magic a total of five times in their first 12 outings. No victory can be taken for granted in the NBA, but the Wizards should -- key word "should" -- win those games easily. If the Wizards manage to come strongly out the gate, it's not crazy to think that they could have their best start in decades.

All the predictions and plans meet reality when the games start being being played. For most of its modern history, the Washington basketball team's story was told before the season really started. The Wizards' chance to write a new beginning starts on Wednesday night in Miami.