Following the Gilbert Arenas era of three straight first round defeats to the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers, the Wizards’ poor drafting and overall bad management resulted in a collection of selfish players and a team lacking cohesion. General Manager Ernie Grunfield decided to gut the team of the many knuckleheads and poor shot-selection players on the roster. He traded JaVale McGee for the perennially injured but talented Nene and Nick Young for Brian Cook and a second-round pick. Andray Blatche was painfully amnestied with almost $24 million and 3 years left.
Before the 2012 NBA draft, Rashard Lewis and his enormous one year contract and a draft pick were sent to New Orleans for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. Okafor and Ariza are due around $43 million over the next two years, making their salaries not completely egregious like Lewis’s was but it extends the cap burden for an extra year in order to improve the team slightly. During the draft, they selected sharp shooter and offensive weapon Bradley Beal from Florida in an effort to become more efficient offensively. However, 2010 #1 overall pick John Wall, coming off of a sophomore slump, went down to a left knee injury and is out indefinitely. This left the rookie Beal to try to become the focal point of the Washington offense. The result this season is a pathetic 3-18 record.
Despite the wholesale change in identity, the Wizards are now last in offensive efficiency, after being second to last and third to last in the last two years respectively. This partly due to being in the bottom 5 in getting to the free throw line for easy points while simultaneously in the top 5 for the most shots from 16-23 feet per game, the most inefficient shot in basketball.
Bradley Beal, though a promising rookie, has been thrust into being the main offense option on the team but has only produced a paltry .480 TS% and .418 eFG% line. He is second on the team in field goal attempts, just behind former Hawk and noted gunner Jordan Crawford, who is having another inefficient season shooting the rock, posting .483 TS% and .440 eFG%. For comparison, league average marks so far in 2012 are .531 TS% and .490 eFG%.
Recent Hawks point guard Jannero Pargo played in the first seven games with the Wizards before being waved for Shaun Livingston.
In the absence of Wall, they have relied on AJ Price as their floor general, but currently has a 12 PER and Beal-like shooting percentages. 2011 #5 overall pick Jan Vesely has disappointed in his short time in the association, looking completely lost on both sides of the ball most of the time. Price has since gotten injured and the Wizards have inserted point guard Shaun Livingston in his place.
With Nene questionable, AJ Price, Trevor Ariza and Booker injured, look for heavy minutes for Okafor at center, with Kevin Seraphin possibly backing him up and Chris Singleton and Vesely to see minutes at the power forward spot, despite all being natural small forwards. Jordan Crawford will also most likely start at point guard.
The Hawks should have no problems putting away this depleted and dysfunctional Wizards team. The home team has beaten the Wizards 17 out of the last 18 games, including 2 earlier this year. They own an advantage at all spots: starting players, bench and even coaching. Anything closer than a 15 point victory is a disappointment.