Forgive D.C. sports fans for seeming gloomy – for feeling like there’s a dark cloud hanging over their heads.
Ok, maybe that’s just Hurricane Sandy. But after a sunny September that featured Robert Griffin III’s debut and some incredibly exciting baseball, October’s been much more depressing for local fans; a stomach-punch Nationals loss, the Capitals locked out, and several big injuries to the area’s best young players.
Will the Wizards give us a reason to smile? When the NBA season wrapped up about six months ago, TAI did its first Wizards Optimism Index – a survey of where the team stood, having just ended the 2011-2012 season on a six-game winning streak.
We weighed in using five factors, weighted to reflect their relative importance to the state of the franchise.
- Current Players (out of 40);
- Future Players via draft picks and free agents/cap space (out of 25);
- Coaching/Player Development (out of 20);
- Ownership/Team Management (out of 10); and
- Arena/Atmosphere/Fan Support/Etc. (a catch-all area rated out of 5).
At the time, we averaged out to a 65 percent optimism score – pretty positive, if you ask me.
But after a busy summer and preseason, we’ve got a different feeling about this year’s team.
Here’s what six TAI contributors — me aka Dan Diamond (@ddiamond), Sean Fagan (@McCarrick), Adam McGinnis (@adammcginnis), Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20), John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend), and Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) – and a few special guests have to say about the state of the Wizards, with the season about to tip.
Take a look and give us your own rating by voting in the polls below.
DAN DIAMOND: Between the injuries and trades, the roster’s essentially in the same place it was at the end of last season. That place: The lottery. Score: 16 out of 40.
SEAN FAGAN: Does anyone really have an idea of the identity of this team? Who is shooting besides Bradley Beal? How do all these low-post players help John Wall? Score: 16 out of 40.
ADAM MCGINNIS: The nucleus is much improved, but current injury issues and the dismal track record of management give me pause. Score: 16 out of 40.
RASHAD MOBLEY: This would have been a “40″ in mid-September, and then the old Wizards woes reared their predictable and ugly head. Wall, Nene and now Beal have potential lingering injuries, and it will be early January before the full roster is able to gel the way teams should–and that’s assuming no more injuries arise. Score: 24 out of 40.
JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND: Washington’s roster this season features its best basketball-playing talent since the dawn of the John Wall era. Even so, the Wizards are by no means championship contenders, and, given the injury bug that has infected the roster this preseason, they may have lost their first shot at the playoffs since 2007-08. Youth, veteran leadership and the promise of progress are encouraging, but this team is a work in progress, so keep your hardhat on. Score: 24 out of 40.
KYLE WEIDIE: In the wake of who isn’t around, we should be weary of over-valuing who’s left from the addition-by-subtraction affair. But, if you consider that the Wizards have at least three young players who could be very, very special — Wall, Beal and Kevin Seraphin (with Trevor Booker perhaps an approaching fourth) — the team is in a good place. It just might take a lot longer than people think. Score: 32 out of 40.
>> AVERAGE TAI RATING: 21.3 out of 40 – 53.2% optimism
SPECIAL GUEST STAR BEN STANDIG (@BenStandig): My semi-upbeat vibe stems as much from who’s no longer here as those currently playing at the Verizon Center. There is little doubt the 12-13 edition is more competitive, professional. If Wall and Nene can each play 70 games combined with a greater overall effort from the roster, well, maybe there could be some postseason here…maybe.
>> GUEST STAR RATING: 24 out of 40 – 60% optimism
FUTURE PLAYERS: CAP SPACE & DRAFT PICKS
DAN DIAMOND: The team should end up with another high draft pick in 2013—and maybe for several years after that—and despite the absurd Rashard Lewis trade, will likely have considerable cap space by 2014. But I’m pessimistic that the Wizards will actually be able to do anything with those advantages, other than bring in mediocre veterans. Score: 10 out of 25.
SEAN FAGAN: Oof. Froze this year. Froze next. And expiring contracts have zero value. Score: 5 out of 25.
ADAM MCGINNIS: Beal, Wall, Booker and Seraphin give me serious hope for the future. All four of those players possess promise at a discount price. Score: 15 out of 25.
RASHAD MOBLEY: Ask the Houston Rockets and, to a lesser extent, the Brooklyn Nets, how unimportant cap space is if potential free agents don’t want to play in your town. I fear the Wizards may be in the same boat. Score: 10 out of 25.
JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND: Only four players—Nene, Beal, Jan Vesely, and Chris Singleton—have contracts that extend past the 2014-15 season. While the Wiz certainly have cap flexibility, the quality of the product on the floor is still in question. Kinda, sorta, almost feels like like the team is going nowhere fast—like a kid on a carousel. Score: 10 out of 25.
KYLE WEIDIE: For there to be a future, the Wizards must accelerate the development of their present. Whether the Wizards are barely in the playoffs or barely out, their next draft pick won’t be a pillar. Free agents? D.C. becoming a destination is still in the far distance. Cap space-wise, the team is OK. But, the mid-market Wizards will have to be creative and operate akin to a smaller market team, because the NBA is still mostly about the few haves and the many have-nots. Score: 15 out of 25.
>> AVERAGE TAI RATING: 10.8 out of 25 – 44% optimism
SPECIAL GUEST STAR MICHAEL KATZ (@KatzM) : The Wizards hope is that Bradley Beal is their last high draft pick, and if they start to win, then Wall + Beal + _______ looks OK, right? When’s Nene’s contract up again? Oh.
>> GUEST STAR RATING: 15 out of 25 – 60% optimism
DAN DIAMOND: Wall’s development is stalled and Vesely was a rookie disappointment. Until proven otherwise, it’s the same old story: This team shouldn’t be trusted with lottery picks, because they don’t know what to do with them. Score: 4 out of 20.
SEAN FAGAN: Kevin. Seraphin. Score: 16 out of 20.
ADAM MCGINNIS: While Randy Wittman deserves a fair shot to see what he can do, player development has been a sore spot for the franchise even back into the Eddie Jordan days. The valuable additions of new assistant coaches Don Newman and Jerry Sichting to the staff should help. Score: 12 out of 20.
RASHAD MOBLEY: Wittman got the most out of the Wizards towards the end of last season, and there’s no reason to believe he and his staff won’t do the same this year. Score: 16 out of 20.
JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND: The brass trust the revamped coaching and player development staff. So do the players, young and older. That’s good enough for me right now. Score: 16 out of 20.
KYLE WEIDIE: Wittman seems to have captured the will of his players, for now. But even they expect results out of their coach, and his staff and resources is as equipped as any other in the league. If the franchise is looking to instill a new culture, the coach seems to have a personality that fits the plan. Score: 16 out of 20.
>> AVERAGE TAI RATING: 13.3 out of 20 – 67.5% optimism
SPECIAL GUEST STAR BEN STANDIG: Have spoken to a few folks around the league who tout Randy Wittman’s coaching ability. The leap Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker have made over two seasons speaks for itself. And yet the stench over what transpired with “the Captain” and JaVale lingers. Turn Wall into a legitimate All-Star and have Jan Vesely’s shot become a force for good and not masonry, then I’m all in.
>> GUEST STAR RATING: 12 out of 20 – 60% optimism
DAN DIAMOND: The front office has shown a talent for turning low draft picks and scrap players into real, inexpensive talent like Jordan Crawford, Seraphin, and Booker. They’ve also demonstrated a gift for acquiring aging, middling talent that blocks their young studs. Score: 4 out of 10.
SEAN FAGAN: [No comment] Score: 2 out of 10.
ADAM MCGINNIS: A record of 88 win and 224 losses over the past four seasons did not prevent Ernie Grunfeld from earning a contract extension. The opinion of Ted Leonsis is still TBD, and it will ultimately be tied to his decision to give Grunfeld another shot at turning the franchise around. Score: 2 out of 10.
RASHAD MOBLEY: Leonsis and Grunfeld have done a great job of ridding themselves of the very contracts they helped facilitate. I appreciate the change in philosophy, but do you really deserve props for cleaning a mess you made? Still, this is the first Wizards’ roster since the Eddie Jordan years that has a good mix of vets and young players, so that’s a “new beginning.” Score: 6 out of 10.
JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND: The Wizards haven’t yet produced under new management, but that was part of “the plan.” While the losses have piled up, Leonsis & Co. have also made the right moves in terms of advanced analytics and sports technology, including being one of just 10 NBA franchises to have its arena fitted with SportsVU. Remember, having access to accurate information—and knowing what to do with it—is half the battle. Score: 6 out of 10.
KYLE WEIDIE: It’s tough to fight the internal battle over whether Grunfeld is the right man for the job when you think the Wizards have the right owner in place. The same owner who gave Grunfeld a contract extension for a variety of reasons from saving money to the team president simply excelling at following the plan of rapid turnover. Impending doom under Grunfeld is a drastic exaggeration, but it’s still unfortunate that optimism here could be contingent on the owner’s willingness to cut losses if things don’t progress as intended. Score: 6 out of 10.
>> AVERAGE TAI RATING: 4.3 out of 10 – 43% optimism
SPECIAL GUEST STAR MICHAEL KATZ: Still don’t get retaining Ernie Grunfeld, but Wizards fans should be happy with Leonsis, I think. He wants to win (to win, and to make lots of money) and he writes neat blog posts.
>> GUEST STAR RATING: 6 out of 10 — 60% optimism
DAN DIAMOND: Have you seen the Verizon Center? No, really, have you? Most local fans are finding reasons to skip a trip; last year’s team finished 25th in the NBA in attendance – the franchise’s lowest mark in 20 years. Score: 1 out of 5.
SEAN FAGAN: [No comment] Score: 1 out of 5.
JOHN CONVERSE TOWNSEND: Back in August, I went to three sports and apparel stores in my ‘hood in search of Wizards gear. I found one—one!—snapback cap. No love for the home team, I commented. “Not unless it’s the Redskins,” replied the lady behind the check-out counter in store No. 3. But, hey, winning changes everything. (Right, Nats fans?) Score: 1 out of 5.
ADAM MCGINNIS: Even with the emotional turmoil this fan base has endured since Gerald Wallace crashed into Gil’s knee, supporters are still passionate and possess an appetite for a winner. Passing up the opportunity to bring in new leadership at coach and front office are questionable moves that could test the patience of some loyal followers if neither pan out. Score: 3 out of 5.
RASHAD MOBLEY: As long as RGIII is making the magic happen on the football field no one will care about the Washington Wizards. The only way they’ll (re)gain the trust of their fans is to win flashy with Wall and Beal, and that could take until January. Score: 1 out of 5.
KYLE WEIDIE: Will locked-out Capitals fans turn to the local pro basketball team? Highly unlikely… /Demographics. But, the infrastructure is there. The neighborhood is good. And Ted Leonsis won the battle of LCD signs. If the Wizards ever win, the locals will get excited, and we’re talking about a buzz that’s much more meaningful than positive season ticket sales reports. But even they are a start. Score: 4 out of 5.
>> AVERAGE TAI RATING: 1.8 out of 5 — 36% optimism
SPECIAL GUEST STAR BEN STANDIG: I’ll make this simple: dim the lights concert style (or the how MSG and Barclays Center folks roll); stop with the never-ending music/telling folks when to chair – especially during live action; and lastly, more cowbell.
SPECIAL GUEST STAR MICHAEL KATZ: There will be fans for a good Wizards team, the way there have been fans for good Caps and Nats teams. Plus, the Wizards are the only local franchise with a Chipotle Burrito Dash. Gold.
>> AVERAGE GUEST STAR RATING: 2.5 out of 5 – 50% optimism
- Dan Diamond – 35% optimism
- Sean Fagan – 40% optimism
- Adam McGinnis – 48% optimism
- Rashad Mobley – 57% optimism
- John Converse Townsend – 57% optimism
- Kyle Weidie – 73 % optimism
>> AVERAGE: 51.7 out of 100 — 51.7% optimism
On the scale of 0-to-5, 0 being not at all optimistic and 5 being extremely optimistic, place your vote on the categories below:
Future Players/Cap Space/Draft Picks>>>