When the final obituary of the 2011-12 Washington Wizards season is written, the opening night collapse vs the New Jersey Nets must be highlighted for its symbolic importance. On the surface, it seems silly that first contest of a 66 game schedule would have such significance, but after the Wizards blew a 21 point lead to the Nets that evening, the self-proclaimed “Captain,” Andray Blatche, complained about his role in the offense. The blowout losses immediately piled up, the head coach was soon fired, two starters were shipped away, another (Blatche himself) was shut down for being out of shape, and now here we sit in early April and the Wizards have only 12 wins with 11 games remaining. Washington handled the Nets 108-89 easily in Nene’s debut, and Deron Williams was tossed for arguing with the refs. I doubt tonight’s match up will produce any of those interesting storylines from the previous two match ups, but it will be Washington’s last game in New Jersey ever with the Nets moving to Brooklyn next season. For tonight’s Wizards-Nets 3-on-3, we have Justin DeFeo (@justindefeo) and Chris Hooker (@chrishooker9) from the ESPN TrueHoop blog, Nets Are Scorching and Truth About It’s Adam McGinnis (@adammcginnis). Three questions, three answers starts now…
#1) Washington and New Jersey have cap room to make free agent splashes along with a potential high pick in a loaded NBA draft. What team would you rather be and why?
DEFEO: I’d rather be the Wizards for the sole reason that their “cornerstone” franchise pieces are not going to be unrestricted free agents, as that’s the situation the Nets are facing. The Wiz also don’t have the pressure of moving to a brand new major media market, like the Nets have which I fear is making the Nets front office look for grand slams at every turn, instead of singles.
HOOKER: As bleak as the future is for my team, I’d still rather be the Nets. We may have struck out on some big name superstars, proven we don’t have capable Plan B’s and been a headache to watch over the years, but there is still some hope. Brooklyn is coming for real this time, we have a top-tier point guard and, whether or not they fall flat on their face, ownership is definitely committed to winning. The possibilities are endless, regardless how likely I think they are.
MCGINNIS: New Jersey is in a state of flux with franchise player Deron Williams determined to test free agency and strong rumors persisting that he will bolt to his hometown Dallas Mavericks. The newly acquired Gerald Wallace could opt-out of the final year of his contract, which would be a disaster since the Nets traded their first 2012 round pick (top 3 protected) to Portland for him. New Jersey might have quicker ascension if personal agendas align together, but Washington’s situation is more more advantageous and structurally sound. John Wall, Trevor Booker, Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin are promising young parts to build from along with an impending top 5 draft pick. Add Nene’s value and a couple free agent signings and this team has a shot to put itself in playoff contention sooner than normally imagined for a 12 win club.
#2) Both the Nets and Wizards made major deadline trades. How would you evaluate those moves? Which team came out on top and put them in a better position to be competitive quicker?
DEFEO: You really can’t fully evaluate the Nets trade until the results of the draft lottery happen. If the Nets luck into a top 3 pick and retain Gerald Wallace, that trade was a monster. If the Nets miss out on both, it’s an awful move. So on that stipulation, it’s impossible to really determine.
HOOKER: The Wizards deadline move was definitely a stronger trade than the Nets. They managed to dump the center with the lowest basketball IQ in recent memory, JaVale McGee, and get a legitimate piece in return. I like Nene, and I like Crash Wallace, but the Nets giving up a pick in the four-to-eight slot for a thirty-year-old forward didn’t exactly make the future any brighter. Pairing Wall and Nene is going to be fun to watch.
McGINNIS: New Jersey’s risky move to acquire a complacent Gerald Wallace appeared more out of panic to pacify Williams than sound logic. It is highly unlikely that Wallace will get the $9.5 million he is due on the open market for the 2012-13 season, but if Williams leaves, Wallace could be enticed to opt-out and head to a contender. If the New Jersey lottery selection ends up out of top 3, the Wallace trade will be a tremendous set back for their franchise. Meanwhile, the Wizards traded away players in Nick Young and JaVale McGee that were not in their future plans for a stalwart veteran big. A healthy and contractually locked up Nene leaves the Wizards in a better position to compete sooner than the gambling personnel decisions made by New Jersey.
#3) The Nets and Wizards have split their season series so far with each team winning on the other’s home court. Washington is playing their fifth game in six days and New Jersey is coming back home after a long road trip. Will the extra rest help the Nets prevail? Or do the Wizards pull another one out in New Jersey (although they will be without Nene and Booker again)?
DEFEO: I think the Nets are playing better basketball and with the front-court of the Wizards banged up, I like New Jersey’s chances to come out in this game.
HOOKER: I’m picking the Nets in this one because Deron is better than Wall, Humphries matches up well with Nene (if he plays) and Shelden Williams — who proved how underrated he is in his absence — is coming back. The Nets have also lost two close games and are due for a break. It’s going to be closer than it should be, but I predict the Nets come out on top.
MCGINNIS: When the NBA lockout ended, a popular, conventional wisdom talking point was how young legs would help this season in a condensed schedule. There are no real data points to prove that any of this came to fruition, but this game will be a mini-testament to this prediction as the youthful Wizards are running on fumes and unfortunately, out of healthy bodies. It was a surprise that Washington competed as well as they did in Detroit last night with such a depleted roster. The Nets should be looking for revenge after the Wizards took it to them in Nene’s first game with the team. I do not expect this game to be close, with the likely result being a comfortable win for the Nets. I am more concerned with Jay Z tampering Wall again and planting seeds of Brooklyn dreams in his head.