New Wizards Beginnings of Simple Preseason Patience | Truth About It.net

New Wizards Beginnings of Simple Preseason Patience

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Updated: October 18, 2012

Shelvin Mack races down the floor in training camp. Photo: K. Weidie

The Washington Wizards, well, aren’t doing too well this preseason. Randy Wittman’s bunch is also not a full bunch. Surely not the way coach wanted to start his campaign.

John Wall’s knee will continue to be a gargantuan question mark, even as his scheduled return date — toward the end of November — nears. What else would the preemptive resting of a 22-year-old because he was on his way to a stress fracture of the patella mean? It’s a major threat to Ted Leonsis’ rebuilding project until proven otherwise.

Nene is getting fitted for orthotics in order to tolerate the pain in his foot — and play — instead of showing off suits on the sidelines. Since players started convening in D.C. for training camp, Emeka Okafor has dislocated his finger, taken time off due to “rest/soreness” (per various box score reports), and has had a bout with food poisoning via a burger from the George Mason University hotel during training camp. (He’s playing now.) Trevor Booker, because of a hamstring pull, just played in his first preseason game last night (he played well). Kevin Seraphin has missed the last two preseason games with a calf injury. Jannero Pargo’s ribs, Chris Singleton’s shoulder — things happen.

Most young and up-and-coming NBA teams don’t start the year like this. Maybe teams chock full of aging beauties, but not young ones. These are your Wizards, right now at least.

It’s not the end of the world. Leonsis’ fluctuating plan still aims true. But if there are to be new beginnings, or traditions, the Wizards have got to get past to the old ones. And they can’t. Not until real games start. And let’s be honest, not until Wall comes back. See you in December.

Injuries have become the narrative, again. These are your Wizards, right now at least.

Without further ado, it’s just the preseason. And with the facts being the facts, we don’t know what we don’t know. But what we see is that a lot of Wizards just can’t plain shoot the basketball. And so Wittman, stuck with this roster for the most part, has the daunting task of determining who simply isn’t a player and which guys need to come together.

But as Flip Saunders infamously said, “Don’t think it can’t get any worse (because it can),” then to get better, assuming that the Wizards hit rock bottom with the Gilbert Arenas-Javaris Crittenton fiasco, then you’ve got to go through a little less worse, right? …Right?

For some, however, the issue is that Sisyphus — Ernie Grunfeld — is still pushing that rock up the hill. But at this juncture, that’s neither here nor there. The man was blessed with a gift of an extension, and the team can only move forward under that circumstance.

Or maybe it is what is it {*Mike Miller style*} and you just look at the numbers for what they are worth… in the preseason.

Out of eight total preseason contests that the Wizards will play, statistics from five games is sizable enough to make an educated judgement.

Jordan Crawford is shooting 35.4 percent from the field in 123 preseason minutes, which is only a hair off his 40 percent from last season. From beyond the arc, he’s shooting 21.4 percent. Crawford is passing more this preseason, that’s for sure. He dropped six assists in the first quarter against Toronto, finished with seven, and through five preseason games he’s averaging 5.9 assists per 36 minutes, as opposed to last year’s 3.9 assists per 36. I’ve only closely watched three of the five preseason games, but Crawford’s offensive capabilities still look as limited as ever, which is ironic for a player who can score in a number of unpredictable ways. He finished 4-for-14 against the Raptors on Wednesday night (1-for-4 in the first quarter). Aside from confidence, it’s hard to see where Crawford’s offense has improved (thus far).

“It really comes down to if I make the shot, it’s a good shot,” said Crawford recently. The same probably would apply to basketball life the Latvian pro league, too.

Trevor Ariza is shooting 28.2 percent from the field in 103 preseason minutes (26.7 3P%), Jannero Pargo is shooting 36.7 percent in 79 minutes (28.6 3P%), and A.J. Price is shooting 40 percent in 88 minutes (41.7 3P%). Ariza is the third-highest paid Wizard after Nene and Emeka Okafor; Pargo and Price are Grunfeld’s prized point guard stop gaps. Better start going in the other direction, quickly.

Not all is bad, however. Okafor has gotten off to a nice start in two games. Booker, too, who finished his first contest with 12 points in 17 minutes off the bench. Seraphin, in his three healthy preseason games, showed enough to know that his progress last season wasn’t a fluke. Shelvin Mack has also been playing above expectations in 73 preseason minutes. He’s shooting 45.5 percent from the field and has made 2-of-4 from deep; Mack shot 40 percent from the field last season. Martell Webster didn’t even know he was in the Wizards’ plans until late August. Now he’s leading the team in preseason points per 36 minutes at 20.7. Brad Beal is averaging 19.2 points per 36.

Speaking of Beal, let’s breakdown recent examples of his shooting…

Bradley Beal’s shooting in one season at Florida:

  • 44.5 FG%
  • 33.9 3P%
  • 76.9 FT%

Beal’s shooting in five NBA Summer League games:

  • 41.8 FG%
  • 30.0 3P%
  • 72.2 3P%

Beal’s shooting in five NBA preseason games:

  • 42.6 FG%
  • 33.3 3P%
  • 86.4 FT%

Not exactly Ray Allen, but progress is evident. But also, Beal’s career has barely started.

Per 36 minutes, as mentioned, Beal is averaging 19.2 points. To that he adds 3.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds per 36. Those numbers compare favorably (via Basketball-Reference.com) to the per 36 numbers of past great NBA rookie guards, but Beal is also unique in his own right.

The Wizards are averaging 95.4 points per game in the preseason, ranked 18th in the league. They are shooting 40.2 percent from the field in the preseason, fourth-worst amongst all NBA teams. Yea, yea… It’s only the preseason. (If the Wizards were impressing with their play you’d be saying the same thing.) Things are simple now. Let’s not complicate it before it gets complicated.

“You can’t get any better until you get a little less worse.” – Not sure who, if anyone, has ever said that. But stay tuned anyway…