The Washington Wizards: From Blunder to Thunder?
The Wizards have struggled this year, no question about it. The team has won just 13 games and is still hopelessly searching for its first road win. Their next opportunity for that elusive victory away from home comes on Sunday, February 13 versus the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers — a team nursing a 24-game losing streak.
Back on October 20, 2010, the crew at Truth About It.net gave their “crystal ball visions” of the Wizards’ regular season record for 2010-11. Here is what they looked like:
- Kyle Weidie – 34 wins
- Rashad Mobley – 30 wins
- Adam McGinnis – 40 wins
- John Townsend – 40 wins
- Arish Narayen – 41 wins
- Beckley Mason – 36 wins
I might choose to pass on the Buffalo wings and beer for the Super Bowl, instead opting to find a spot on my couch with an extra helping of Washington Wizards crow. This team is headed nowhere fast this season … but regular season performance in one year isn’t necessarily predictive of success and achievement in the next.
On the lighter side, here are the ten biggest single-season turnarounds in NBA history:
[Chart adapted from data gathered by Berry Tramel, NewsOK]
Two additional notes concerning single-season turnarounds … the 2002 New Jersey Nets won 52 games, an improvement of 26 wins, with NBA veteran Jason Kidd running the show.
Kevin Durant and Jeff Green were members of the team since the ’07-’08 season, before joining forces with Russell Westbrook in the following year. I don’t consider the Thunder beneficiaries of a “Big Three” as much as they are the product of a dynamic duo. The true catalyst for change was the combination of length, speed, and skill present in Durant and Westbrook. Last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder increased their win total by 27 with virtually the same roster that produced a 23-59 in 2009. The biggest offseason moves for that 50-win Thunder team were drafting James Harden, and signing Etan Thomas and Kevin Ollie — Thomas and Ollie played less than 600 combined minutes.
Are the new-look Wizards the next Oklahoma City Thunder? No, not necessarily. But the fans, media, and coaches might need to give this squad a little time to grow. (Everyone’s patience is running thin, but we have to look at this year as the new beginning. It is the start of the rebuild. Year one.) Only Rashard Lewis started on an NBA team last season. We have never seen a Washington Wizards team that has looked like this … but the players have never seen the minutes, opportunities, and situations that they are living each and every day this year, either.
In the chart above, six of the most impressive franchise turnarounds came at the hands of one superstar player (Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Steve Nash, and David Robinson). The Wizards already have that once-in-a-lifetime player in John Wall, so it would appear that they are on the fast-track to relevance. But just one superstar doesn’t win a championship.
With a little luck in this year’s lottery and the continued development of its young (or not-so-young) players, the Wizards might find themselves in the middle of a super, storied improvement. If the team can gel and find an identity as this season comes to a close, and continue to develop in the offseason, maybe we’ll finally see some magic next year.
Sure, it’s early, but here’s to the team’s roundball revival in 2012.
Speaking of development, I caught up with Etan Thomas who was in D.C. from the 2001-02 season through the 2008-09 season. He has had the opportunity to watch Andray Blatche, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee grow during their years in the Association. Kyle Weidie said Thomas’ answers were “diplomatically optimistic.” For better or for worse, the old poet has me hoop dreaming.
[Top image courtesy of Adam McGinnis, video via John Townsend.]