2011 NBA Offseason: Washington Bullets

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Washington Wizards (Last Year: 23-59)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grade:

The Wizards, err… Bullets hit a home run during the 2011 NBA Draft. Jan Vesely could end up being the best foreign player out of this draft class so getting him at No. 6 adds instant versatility and athleticism to the frontcourt. Chris Singleton was an absolute steal at No. 18, and could end up Washington’s starting small forward by the end of the year as he will provide a needed defensive stopper. Shelvin Mack is a solid second-round value whose big-game experience should allow him to contribute right away. He should be able to back up John Wall at the point or possibly play alongside him at times. (Team Grade: LOVE IT!)

Live 2011 NBA Draft Grades:

6. Jan Vesely, F, Czech Republic
Vesely has been the guy the Wizards have been targeting for quite some time so this comes as no surprise. He is 6-11 and a great athlete so he will fit the forward spot running alongside John Wall. The big question is whether he is a small forward, power forward, or can play both spots. (Pick Grade: Makes sense)

18. Chris Singleton, F, Florida State
Wizards needed to add a defender and that is exactly what Singleton is. He is a great value here and will help fill a hole at the three along with Vesely. Now with McGee (7-0), Blatche (6-11), Vesely (6-11) and Singleton (6-9), Washington has a ton of size and length in the frontcourt. (Pick Grade: LOVE IT!)

34. Shelvin Mack, G, Butler
The Wizards need a backup point guard for John Wall, and Mack’s big-game experience makes him a very nice second-round value. (Pick Grade: Makes sense)

*** 2011 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***

2010-11 Season Summary:
Despite not winning a road game until the middle of February, there is reason to be optimistic in our nation’s capital, and not just because the Wizards showed off their new, old-look jerseys. The most important part of a re-building project is finding a star player to add pieces around. That is exactly what Washington landed with last year’s first-overall pick, John Wall.

Wall put together an impressive rookie season averaging 16.4 points, 8.3 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game, and appears to be the next young, great point guard in the NBA. He has not even scratched the surface as to how good he will become and should be the foundation of everything the Wizards do for the next several years.

Part of Wall’s spectacular rookie season was due to the Wiz opening up minutes for him at the point. Washington began the season with a crowd, but general manager Ernie Grunfeld found someone to take on Gilbert Arenas’ terrible contract (even though they were forced to acquire Rashard Lewis and his equally awful, cap-killing contract in return.) The Wizards also dealt Hinrich to the Hawks and landed a young shooting guard in Jordan Crawford, who made the most of his opportunity in the District, and an additional 2011 first round pick.

Outside of Wall, the Wizards also saw young players JaVale McGee and Nick Young take major steps in their game. McGee turned into a force on the defensive end with his shot blocking and doubled his rebound average after taking over the full-time duties as starting center. Nick Young took over as the everyday starting shooting guard and emerged into a dangerous scorer, more than doubling his point total in his fourth year in the league.

Andray Blatche continues to develop at the power forward position, posting the best numbers of his career. His effort and commitment to winning is still a question mark but combined with McGee, it is a young frontcourt duo that has the potential to grow into a formidable combination. Not to mention, 2010 first-round picks Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker add even more depth and young talent up front.

Outside of that young core, the Wiz roster was made up of a hodge podge of players who likely should have been playing in the D-League. Still, the franchise has made the correct moves thus far in their re-building process, and as this young team matures together over time, it should soon be back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: JaVale McGee/Trevor Booker/Hamady Ndiaye

PF: Andray Blatche/Jan Vesely/*Yi Jianlian/Kevin Seraphin

SF: Rashard Lewis/Chris Singleton

SG: ^Nick Young/Jordan Crawford

PG: John Wall/Shelvin Mack

NBA Free Agents:

SG-^Nick Young (RFA)

PF-*Yi Jianlian (RFA)

SF-Maurice Evans (UFA)

SF-Josh Howard (UFA)

PG-Mustafa Shakur (UFA)

SF-Larry Owens (UFA)

SG-Othyus Jeffers (UFA)

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $40.7 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. Small Forward: There are young pieces to build around in the backcourt and frontcourt, but the Wizards have a huge hole at small forward. Washington ran a number of players through that position this past season (Al Thornton, Josh Howard, Maurice Evans, Rashard Lewis, Cartier Martin, Alonzo Gee, Larry Owens, and even Yi Jianlian.) Lewis is the only of that group under contract for next season and has played more power forward than small forward the past couple of years. Plus, he has seen a major dip in his production. If the Wizards can find a small forward of the future, it will only accelerate their re-building phase.

2. Forever Young?: Nick Young is entering the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him almost $3.7 million next season. He is a restricted free agent so Washington faces the question of whether it should sign him to a long-term extension, possibly have to match another team’s offer sheet for his services, or risk letting him become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012. While Young knows how to score the basketball, he does not offer much else in terms of his playing defense, creating for teammates and rebounding. Also, he often displays a quick trigger in terms of his shot selection. With another young shooting guard in the fold in Crawford, how much would the Wiz be willing to spend to keep Young?

3. Backup Point Guard: I gushed about Wall’s rookie season earlier, but Washington still needs to add some depth at the point. Wall averaged nearly 38 minutes a game in his first season which is a lot for someone in their rookie season. Finding an affordable veteran who can help Wall hone his game but also contribute valuable minutes when he needs a blow should be an offseason goal despite the weak class of free agent point guards.

4. Three-Point Shooting: Young shot a respectable 38.7 percent from distance last season, but Wall and Crawford did not top the 30-percent mark. Lewis has been a reliable outside shooter during his career but shot his lowest percentage from three in eight years. If the Wizards can add a true three-point threat who can take advantage of Wall’s ability to drive and dish, it will certainly add to their offensive productivity.

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