Big Bad John Wall wants to know. Beckley Mason, Rashad Mobley, John Converse Townsend and Kyle Weidie ask and answer hot topic questions about the Washington Wizards.
MOBLEY: Do we hold Ernie Grunfeld, Flip Saunders and the Wizards to any expectations during this abbreviated season, or do we just assume no significant strides will be made until next year?
MASON: My expectations for this team aren’t altered a bit. The summer is a time when, from a basketball standpoint, players need to be spending their own dime to work out with the best trainers possible. The lockout shouldn’t have affected that reality. Flip probably wishes he had more time with his newest players, but an extra week of training camp wasn’t going to solve the problems with McGee and Blatche, or help the Wizards to land a major free agent.
MOBLEY: John Wall has raised expectations for the Wizards with his play this summer, so it is entirely fair to hold Grunfeld and Flip to the same standard. But given that Grunfeld hinted that he plans on using the amnesty clause next year, he may have bought both he and Flip an extra year. However, if the Wizards win 25 games or less, a new coach/GM combo should reap the amnesty benefits.
TOWNSEND: Wizards boss hog Ted Leonsis promised to bring our fine city respectable hoops in three years or less. That is the plan, and I’m holding Leonsis to it. Stay financially flexible, develop the young players, light a fire under the seasoned vets, and, above all, find a way to win games as a team (and on the road, dammit!).
WEIDIE: Expectations will be relatively low, but that doesn’t mean Flip and Ernie aren’t being evaluated. The key for both this season are development and discipline. Sure, wins is the ultimate measurable, but there is also a myriad of statistics which will help determine whether players are improving or not. It would take something pretty drastic for Saunders to be fired at any point this season. Grunfeld at least gets the summer of 2012 and the season beyond to make his imprint on the team. He’s done good by Leonsis and will get a chance to add a free-agent crop on top of the rebuilding project.
WEIDIE: The Wizards are in the hunt for a backup point for John Wall. How important is this position for the team? Bullets Forever’s Sean Fagan ran down several options last week — Who from that list or otherwise would be your ideal candidate? (This includes arguing for Shelvin Mack/Jordan Crawford to serve as Wall’s backups, if that’s the case you’d like to make.)
MASON: My favorite player out there, and one I think is going to be extremely underpaid is Delonte West. West can guard and play both back court positions, is a smart player and has a nice inside out game. He’s somewhat redundant with the current options, but picking him up would make dealing Young for a greater need, ie-an athletic power forward.
MOBLEY: Jordan Crawford has a lot of Jamal Crawford in him, so he’s not a backup point guard. Shelvin Mack struggled in his senior year, and he’ll struggle as a rookie. Wall’s backup should be Earl Watson. Watson was mentored by Nate McMillan and Gary Payton, he’s backed up Deron Williams, Jason Williams and Andre Miller. During his 10-year career, he’s averaged 23 minutes, 7 points, and 4.5 assists. Wall could take a 10 minute rest, and Watson could more than hold his own.
TOWNSEND: The Wizards must find a competent backup point guard; someone needs to handle the reigns with John Wall on the bench — preferably in uniform and not street clothes. The team’s best option is to find out what type of impact rookie combo guard Shelvin Mack can have on the court. Mack is capable of running the pick and roll, creating for teammates off dribble penetration and picking up the scoring load. If Mack sticks, he’ll be an inexpensive but valuable role player. If he flames out, the Wizards can cut the dead weight and continue the rebuild.
WEIDIE: Grunfeld’s not just trying to develop, he also wants to win. You know what that means, a veteran to push and teach Wall. While Sean’s ideas of Chris Quinn and Pooh Jeter have their appeal, I can more easily envision the 32-year old Earl Watson coming to Washington for a season. For one, he shares an agent, Mark Bartelstein, with Nick Young and Jordan Crawford (Bartelstein is one of the top agents in the league, has a ton of clients). Watson is a bad three-point shooter and turnover-prone, but he can distribute and more importantly, play defense.
MASON: Who should start games: Nick Young or Jordan Crawford. Who should finish them?
MASON: Young is the better starting option, though I’m not sold either of these guys should be longterm starters for the Wizards. Crawford is such a nice option of the bench because he can handle the ball a bit, but he’ll need to learn some restraint to enter the Jason Terry echelon of 6th men. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Flip occasionally go with a three guard lineup and Singleton at the four and McGee at center. That would be a frighteningly fast team, and it’s hard to imagine it surrendering too much more on defense than the Blatche-McGee front lone.
MOBLEY: Crawford should start, Young should finish. Crawford is scorer who needs the ball often to find his rhythm. Young is streaky shooter, and he needs a set role on any given night, without worrying about a quick hook. Crawford can play 30 minutes distributed throughout four quarters, and score 30 points. Young can play 10 minutes in the second quarter, 10 minutes in fourth, score 30 points in that span, and hit the game winning shot.
TOWNSEND: Nick Young should start and finish games. Jordan Crawford is an intriguing piece, but I’m not as high on the undersized second-year guard out of Xavier as is, say, Ted Leonsis. Remember, Crawford ranked sixth in usage rate among shooting guards last year, but dead last in true shooting percentage. When it counts most, I’ll take Young (and his horseblinders). Rookie Chris Singleton could also be an option, depending on the circumstances.
WEIDIE: I fear for the psyche of Nick Young if he doesn’t start, even though he can be as effective, if not more, in the role of sixth man. Ultimately it might not come down to who’s playing better as an individual, but who works best with John Wall. Or maybe it comes down to whomever is playing better defense. Or which guard is more apt at creating for teammates off the dribble. Having both at his disposal is a nice problem for Flip Saunders to have, assuming Young re-signs. My feeling is that Young will start, but don’t be surprised to see Crawford finish a decent bit.
TOWNSEND: With Marc Gasol essentially off the market — Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley is “committed” to keeping Gasol in Memphis — what free agent plays would you like to see the Wizards make?
MASON: Nene would be an unbelievable get for the Wizards, though he might not be a perfect fit alongside McGee.
MOBLEY: I’m not convinced Gasol is off the market, But if he is, the Wizards should go after Nene. On a Denver Nuggets squad where he was arguably the fourth option behind Carmelo, Chauncey Billups, and J.R. Smith, he still averaged 14 points, seven rebounds, a block and a steal in 30 minutes of play. He’s not an athletic freak like JaVale McGee, but he’s a solid, consistent veteran–all traits this young Wizards team needs.
TOWNSEND: Now is the time to build talent, instead of buying it. Rumor season is in full swing, and while making a splash in free agency has an undeniable allure, the Wizards should focus on resigning a few of their own free agents not named Josh Howard. That said, I wouldn’t mind adding a strong, low-usage player to the roster — someone like restricted free agent Arron Afflalo — as long as the price is right.
WEIDIE: There’s absolutely no reason in the world this team should rush to spend money on a premium free agent in any manner. I wouldn’t put it past Ernie Grunfeld to have a trick up his sleeve, especially if he feels he can take advantage of a frenzied market (perhaps with a trade?)… But don’t count on it. If anything, try to keep Mo Evans around and get another tough big man for depth. I could get on the Chuck Hayes bandwagon.