16 Questions About a Season, a Washington Wizards 2014-15 Preview | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

16 Questions About a Season, a Washington Wizards 2014-15 Preview

Updated: October 29, 2014

[via @swedc]

[via @swedendc]

Intro: A basketball season will take place. It starts tonight for the Wizards of Washington. Naturally, there are questions. Does the TAI crew have answers? Pat your head, rub your belly, gaze at your mood ring, and keep reading to find out.

#1) Most likely to succeed (relative to/above current expectation).

@JohnCTownsend (John Converse Townsend): K. Nathan Humphries. He’ll happily play the role of garbage man, but the pick-and-pop game will be there and it will work with Humphries, who’s been a reliable threat from Randy Wittman’s favorite zone on the floor (15-to-19-feet) over the past seven seasons. Fun fact: He shot 46 percent from that area in 2013-14.

Look, all he has to do is play better, or more often, than Dull John Vesely and Chris “NBA-Ready” Singleton, who, since the start of the 2012-13 season, combined to score 536 points for Washington. Humphries scored 579 points last year.

As Father Guido Sarducci once said, “No problem whatsoever. Piece of cake, piece of crumb cake.”

#2) Who (city/team) will be Washington’s nemesis?

@McCarrick (Sean Fagan): Chicago. Stay in your lane, Wizards. LeBron doesn’t do feuds anymore—he is too busy with his job of being master of space and time in the NBA. Stick with the girl that brung ya to the dance, got Nene suspeneded, and still features Kirk Hinrich.

@ConorDDirks (Conor Dirks): We’d all like to imagine ourselves as King Arthur to Cleveland’s Mordred, but that’s all a little premature. And emitting a false aura of rivalry won’t serve the Wizards well in the short-term, especially given the one-sidedness of the previous “rivalry” this town imagined with Cleveland, where D.C.’s pride was nigh mortally wounded at each turn. Most notably, Soulja Boy stood with the Wizards against Cleveland’s champion, Jay Z, a far more talented and notorious figure. (Sometimes, you just have to take the “L” and move on.) As Washington’s prior nemesis, Cleveland did nothing less than completely dominate the relationship.

Why not go with Chicago? This is, after all, a team that nearly inspired a preseason brawl in Paul Pierce’s debut in red and blue. The Bulls have something to prove, having been trounced by the Wizards without the benefit of their best player in last season’s playoffs, and the Wizards have the perfect antidote to Chicago’s tough brand of defense: purposefully take the shots that Chicago wants you to take, proudly, and play enough D to make the Bulls offense look like the cold porridge that I assume Tom Thibodeau both eats and smears all over his naked body every morning just to stay regular. Most importantly, it’s a nemesis the Wizards can beat this season. All about the smiles over here.

@Truth_About_It (Kyle Weidie): Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets, anyone? If they are relevant this season (likely), they are more than a dark horse candidate. They new Hornets are primed to give the Wizards fits while MJ himself sports his ‘dad jeans’ swagger on the sidelines.


[via @ConorDDirks]

#3) Who will lead to the team in #WittmanFaces acquired (both the Kevin Seraphin category and non-Kevin Seraphin category)?

@Truth_About_It (Kyle Weidie): For the Kevin Seraphin category, and likely for all categories, Kevin Seraphin will lead the team in #WittmanFaces. It’s become a unique thing between those two. Wittman gets more into Seraphin’s proverbial shit than anyone else, but in a tough love kind of way. Not an ‘I’m done with young players prior to benching JaVale McGee’ kind of way. And big, lovable, Kev—South American kid with a French accent—takes that coaching well. We think. He’s still happy. He is still go-lucky. Kevin Seraphin is still going triple digits in miles-per-minute. Thus, there will be plenty of #WittmanFaces to be had.

Non-Seraphin category: We’ll forgo obvious answers in pups Otto Porter or Glen Rice, and we’ll event discount a dark horse candidate in Drew Gooden. No, the answer is DeJuan Blair. Sure, he came from the Spurs, and sure, he’s the prodigal son who was actually banished from the Wizards before he could ever blow family money, but one can suspect that Blair’s non-vertical game and occasional defensive inefficiencies (and maybe some Eric Maynor-esque floaters) will make a certain someone’s face cringe and contort.

* For those aficionados, pay special attention to changes (however slight) in nuance of Wittman faces received by Seraphin this season. Think less blue cheese, more Camembert.

#4) What NBA player will kill the Wizards this year?

@McCarrick (Sean Fagan): Nikola Mirotic. Everything that you wanted Jan Vesely to be showed up this summer in the Windy City. I expect at least two backbreaking treys, chest pounding that will make Wizards fans apoplectic, and at least one shoving contest with Marcin Gortat.

@LedellsPlace (Adam Rubin): Kemba Walker. John Wall always has problems with quick guards and Kemba is one of the quickest. Washington and Charlotte will battle for the Southeast Division crown and Walker will score 20-plus points in each division match-up.

@Truth_About_It (Kyle Weidie): Find a small, quick point guard and match him up against John Wall. (Thus, making Rubin’s designation of Kemba a solid choice.) There are others capable of giving Wall trouble. Isaiah Thomas, now of the Phoenix Suns, comes to mind. Of course, the entirety of Phoenix’s backcourt—Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic—is ripe for making Wall’s process (and thus Washington’s process) a little tougher to endure. Kyle Lowry and Ty Lawson probably also fit the bill as nemeses for Wall (and thus Wizards killers). That said, if we want to take the easy way out, we can just say Anthony Davis … but since he will be killing the entire league this season, it’s not a thought-provoking designation.


#5) Which Wizard will win the Ledell Eackles-Jordan Crawford Award for most empty shots?

@McCarrick (Sean Fagan): Glen Rice, Jr. If Beal is healthy, young Glen isn’t going to see a lot of time this year. I expect some exceptional garbage time “I got mine” action.

@Truth_About_It (Kyle Weidie): Hello, thy name is Keve´en Sera-Phin, obviously. Or maybe not so obviously. Bradley Beal and John Wall led the Wizards in field goal attempts per 100 possessions last season (23.4 and 23.1 respectively), and while both are certainly capable of taking those empty shots (midrange!)—and Wall seemingly more so—with the construct of the Wizards, and in the words of the immortal Jordan Crawford (now a pro in China), who else is going to shoot? Unlike Crawford, both Wall and Beal are willing passers and tend not to dribble the air out of the ball. Wall just needs to quell his wasting of possessions late in the clock (period or game) in order to not lead the team in empty shots. Then, last season, Al Harrington finished third in FGAs/100 poss. (20.9)—he’s now gone, also in China. Then you have Nene and Seraphin tied at 19.6. 

Nene is perfectly capable of empty jump shots—and only has so much equity built up from doing Joakim Noah’s hair during the playoffs—but is afforded some leeway because he’s a smart offensive player. Now empty free throws? That’s Nene’s bag. And thus we return to Seraphin, contract year Kevin Seraphin. Glen Rice is nice, but you do the math.

#6) Best / worst beard on the team.

@JohnCTownsend (John Converse Townsend): The best? Easy: Nene, provided he stays away from the Just For Men. His beard, which has forever looked bulletproof, has a new streak of grey. Which is good news! Everyone loves a good salt-and-pepper beard, from the pixel poppers at OK! Magazine to gourmet chef-turned-rapper Action Bronson.

*drops beat*

“You gotta be out of your mind, I’m an anomaly /
Salt-and-pepper beard, distinguished look just like I’m Connery.”

The worst? Paul Pierce. Always and forever.

@Truth_About_It (Kyle Weidie): Not to pick on Seraphin and more than we have to, but the separate, humble mounds of hair on his chin either look like a sideways colon or Morse Code for the letter “i”—pretty bad either way. The best? I’d also have to go with Nene, but don’t discount Drew Gooden, especially since he implements some length which would allow him to store Halloween candy or a razor blade.

#7) Best hair / worst hair after 82 games.

@ConorDDirks (Conor Dirks): Before I get into this, I’d like to give credit where it’s due. Nene’s hair may never be the best (although it’s a perennial dark horse candidate every year), but it’s also never less than very good. Gortat and Webster arrive this season with the coordinated, gimmicky mohawks that may, simply by way of their charm, win the day. But are they the best?

Gortat’s mohawk is fine when viewed from the front, but gazed upon mid-game while he jogs up the court, it closely resembles a dead squirrel whose fur has been replaced by sod. If it continues to grow, it will be more tragic than charming. Webster, on the other hand, currently has a Raichu Soul Glo look that, if maintained, could be legendary. I say a cold shooting streak between games 20-37 convinces Webster to abandon the narrowed otaku bubble dream early, leaving a three-dome race between Nene, Gortat and the presidential Bradley Beal, the sharpness of whose fade offsets his lack of creativity. Ultimately it goes to Gortat, who wises up at some point and slims out the Polish mullet germinating behind an otherwise excellent mohawk.

The worst hair after 82 games is Andre Miller, because Andre Miller has the worst hair, objectively.

[via @swedc]

[via @swedendc]

#8) Who will be more reliable, Glen Rice or Otto Porter?

@Truth_About_It (Kyle Weidie): Basketball-wise, I want to say Rice. He’s the more confident scorer, he’s the more aggressive defender, and he’s shown the ability to get to the free throw line at will. Seems reliable.

Not so fast. For one, Young Otto was the third overall pick. And that’s the type of street cred that top-down management loves. For two, Otto keeps his head. Now he may be a nervous nellie sometimes, but he also has that ‘get that shit outta here‘ confidence. Rice can let circumstance get to him in ways that you’d want him to control more. The deciding factor: length. Not even the Professor Andre Miller can teach it. Otto has it (even if Rice might be stronger). Worth noting that both players have been injured enough, so neither has the edge in anti-Wizardry. Still, advantage Porter.

@ConorDDirks (Conor Dirks): I have to agree with Senator Weidie, here. Otto watched Trevor Ariza get paid this offseason. How did ol’ Trev get paid? He was patient, and he played to John Wall’s strengths. And hallelujah! Otto won the preseason (whereas Rice was named Summer League MVP), and he did so with 3-pointers, with cuts to the basket, with defense, and with emphatic blocks that made us forget, temporarily, how thoroughly invisible he was last season. Otto won’t replace what the Wizards lost in Trevor Ariza right away, but while Glen Rice Jr. seemed to purposefully increase the degree of difficulty on his shots, Porter gave Coach Randy Wittman a taste of what he’s been cooking all offseason. Otto shot 19 percent on 3-pointers last season. That number will go way up and Otto should find himself lodged somewhere in Wittman’s rotation.

#9) Which veteran is most likely to get in Wittman’s doghouse?

@McCarrick (Sean Fagan): Paul Pierce. This has all the makings of a nightmare situation. Pierce still believes, at worst, he is a 1B option. Also, Wittman has never coached a “former superstar” veteran of Pierce’s stature and one never knows when Pierce is going to burn the playbook in front of yours eyes and say “eff this, I’m taking the last shot.”

@LedellsPlace (Adam Rubin): Drew Gooden. It will not be his fault, but Gooden will be glued to the bench a la Chris Singleton. The bench void that Gooden filled with aplomb last season simply no longer exists. Humphries and Blair will steal all the minutes from the pride of North Bethesda.

[via @JohnCTownsend]

[via @JohnCTownsend]

#10) True or False: Discounting the factor of health, free throw shooting will be the bane of the Wizards’ existence this season.

@Truth_About_It (Kyle Weidie): A resounding yes! Washington was the sixth-worst free throw shooting team in the NBA last season (73.1%). That said, “contenders” in the Houston Rockets and L.A. Clippers were worse—71.2 percent and 73 percent respectively. But the thing is, each of those teams have guys who can score at will—James Harden, Dwight Howard (if you get him the ball in the right spot), Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin (assuming the refs received a new Kia from him prior to the game). The Wizards, not so much; they are a team, even with scorer Paul Pierce now in the fold, that will be desperate for points in any manner.

The Clippers and Rockets were better in Net Rating (NetRtg) last season (the difference in points scored versus points allowed per 100 possessions). L.A. was second to only the Spurs with a plus-7.3 and Houston ranked fifth with a plus-5.5. The Wizards were still in the positive, but with just a plus-0.9 NetRtg, ranked 15th in the NBA. Moral of the story: make those free throws, kids.

#11) What quarter of the game will be last season’s third quarter?

@ConorDDirks (Conor Dirks): The phenomenon of suck in the third quarter that plagued the Wizards early on in the season faded into every-once-in-a-while eventually, but its prominence early on left many eager to take up arms against “typical” third-quarter performances later in the year. This season, the Wizards should be a more focused group. Hopefully, between Wittman’s instruction and their own postseason experience, this team has learned what it takes to make secondary pushes in games. But if we’re doing a 1:1 comparison, the Wizards will be vulnerable in the second quarters of games to start this season. This is when we’ll see less of Wall, and more of Washington’s precariously thin cadre of shooters. Having Andre Miller around to post up and distribute the ball is a luxury, but there’s only so much an old guy can do to put the ball in the basket when Porter, Rice, and some combination of Humphries/Seraphin/Blair are out there alongside him. This unit is improved, but could struggle to score, and to defend against quick second units. When Martell Webster returns to action, the second unit should be far more dangerous.

[via @ConorDDirks]

[via @ConorDDirks]

#12) Who’ll take home the Drano Max Award for clearing the second unit’s clogged pipes?

@JohnCTownsend (John Converse Townsend): Glen Rice, Jr., who not only “owns the seventh-highest career PER in D-League history,” but was also named this year’s Las Vegas Summer League MVP. It’s fair to expect him to bring that power, plus some never-before-seen control, to the NBA—provided he’s given minutes with John Wall, Marcin Gortat and Nene on the bench.

His free throw rate will be the stat to track. Washington’s second unit shot the fewest free throws in the NBA last season, averaging just 5.3 attempts per game. Rice, in 11 appearances with the Wizards last season, had a FTr of 0.189, far below the second unit’s average of 0.268, which ranked 25th in the NBA.

(Note: The starting unit had a FTr of 0.289, which ranked 26th.)

#13) Which Wizard will (would?) win best supporting actor in a Rom-Com?

@McCarrick (Sean Fagan): Martell Webster. You can make an argument for Marcin Gortat, but he is more likely to be a villain in a D-List action movie. Martell, even deep within his emo phase, has been playing the role of “charming second banana” for years.

@LedellsPlace (Adam Rubin): Which Wizard will (would?) win best supporting actor in a Rom-Com? You might think it would be Kris Humphries. But you’d be wrong. Sure, he seems tailor-made for a Rick Fox-esque post-basketball career as a Tyler Perry character, but he is more leading man material. The answer is Kevin Seraphin. He is better suited for the role of the goofy, inappropriate friend who gives all the wrong advice to his buddy who is trying to win back Katherine Heigl.

[via @washingtonwizards]

[via @washingtonwizards]

#14) Who is the most likely to disappoint, and when will the pitchforks come out?

@McCarrick (Sean Fagan): DeJuan Blair. I think the expectation is an upgrade over Trevor Booker, and I’m not sure that either Blair’s knees are going to allow him to replicate Booker’s whirling dervish style. I see many three-rebound, 1-for-4 shooting nights in the future and a possible “weak link” label being attached to Mr. Blair’s chest. By January, there will be much pining for the departed Booker.

@ConorDDirks (Conor Dirks): Without Beal, Webster, or the departed Ariza, the Wizards could—and probably will—struggle to shoot the ball out of the gate. Preseason games should be taken with all of the grains of salt in a standard-size Morton’s cylinder, but Washington’s offense ranked 29th out of 30 teams in the preseason. Fair or not, the onus for the team’s success on offense will fall on head coach Randy Wittman and team conductor John Wall.

For the last two years, Wall’s unique style of play has bailed the Wizards out of an otherwise unimpressive offensive playbook. But without his shooters in the corners to start the season, Wall will have to adapt.

With a team seemingly built to resemble a midrange oasis in a league that is increasingly a desert for such shots, it’s on Wittman to make it work. Whether Wall cuts down on his own long twos will go a long way in determining whether the theory is workable, but the Wizards need solid midrange players like Nene and Humphries to lightly yank the floor, rather than properly stretch it, while the team gets healthy. If the Wizards are puking up bricks three nights a week, the internet pitchforks could crop up outside Randy’s house on the information superhighway early in the season. (P.S. Happy 55th, Coach! You don’t look a day over grumpy.)

#15) Who is the most savvy savvy veteran on the team?

@Truth_About_It (Kyle Weidie): “Andre Miller by unanimous decision,” posed John C. Townsend in a GChat. I was most definitely ready to concur. Oldest dude in the NBA (who will play; Steve Nash still “technically” an NBAer) with deceptive on top of deceptive on top of deceptive passing skills to boot? That’s like savvy meatloaf made with savvy grass-feed beef from savvy cuts of certified Angus with savvy bacon from Marcin Gortat’s finest, savvy pig wrapped around it. Gots to be the Professor, right?

Hol’ up, chimed Conor D. Dirks. “What about Paul Pierce?” Miller’s passing is nice, but savvy really means that you bring game-closing offense to the table. Telling the truth always wins out in savvy contests. (And contrary to popular belief, the savvy do not lie.)

One final point from Mr. Dirks, “Also, is RASUAL BUTLER the savviest? I mean, he found a way to make a team over younger prospects despite being on/off NBA teams over last few years.”

Mr. Butler is more like a wrench to this game, but a wrench that can do other things (for the ingenious and defensive-minded, a knife, a cork screw, and a nail file fold out the end of said wrench).

Alas, in the two-horse race between Andre and Paul, as Mr. Townsend called it, the nod is going to go to Pierce. He’s got a ring (so savvy), and unlike Andre Miller, he embraces mind games with opponents. That Paul Pierce, he’s like the candy corn of savvy. Whatever that means.

#16) The Wizards will play 10 nationally-televised games. Who’ll be the pundit’s favorite pundit’s favorite Wizard?

@McCarrick (Sean Fagan): Bradley Beal. Everyone loves cuddly dead-eyed shooters.

@JohnCTownsend (John Converse Townsend): The Wizards went unseen by the masses last season, having no “true” (non-NBA TV) national TV games, which makes the Polish Machine the perfect package for television analysts. He’s white (yes, European), and has never married a Kardashian, so pundits will celebrate his grit and work ethic. They’ll share hearty laughs about what he told them during a morning shootaround, ask media interns to give them mohawks with Photoshop, and marvel that such a big man has such a soft touch around the basket. Your favorite pundit’s favorite pundit will also coo while discussing Gortat’s rebounding ability, as if it were a gift recently handed down from the gods on basketball’s Mount Olympus, failing to note that in his eight seasons, he’s only once recorded fewer than 10 rebounds per 36 minutes (9.9 as a Sun in 2012-13).


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.