With the season just around the corner, the Wizards web editors tackle some burning questions entering the season.
*Editor's Note: This was written before the Wizards acquisition of Marcin Gortat.
1. Who will step up in the middle with Okafor out?
It will not just be one player who replaces Okafor, and frankly on the defensive end Okafor is irreplaceable but Seraphin has to be the guy this year. He provides the most upside in half court offensive sets of any of the young bigs and is also the best option to allow Nene to stay as a true four and play his most natural position. Seraphin has had a nice preseason, particularly doing surprisingly good work on the boards, averaging 8.8 points and 6.8 boards per game. He's not going to be the first, second or third option on offense so he just has to make sure he converts his easy baskets around the rim and is a responsible rebounder and he will have success. Okafor was without a doubt the anchor of the defense last season and no player on the Wizards roster can replace what he brings to the roster on the defensive end. This isn't to say though that the onus lies on just Seraphin to replace Okafor, nor does it mean that it necessarily has to be a big who replaces his production. Randy Wittman is going to get very creative with his lineups meaning that often there will not be two true bigs on the floor, instead going with some much smaller lineups. We saw one particular lineup this preseason where Trevor Booker at 6'8 was the only big on the floor and the Wizards had success running. So while I think it's going to be a team effort to replace Okafor, the pieces are in place for Seraphin to have a breakout year.
2. How good can Wall and Beal be this season?
Wall and Beal could be really, really good. The upside is more or less limitless. Beal has shown this preseason especially that he can score from just about anywhere on the floor, whether it is from beyond the arc or when he has put it on the deck and taken it to the hoop. He is a guy who will always have to be guarded no matter where he is on the floor. As he proves himself as a more proficient scorer, he could start seeing help defense which will make things more complicated for him, but should open up the Wizards offense even further. It's certainly not out of the question that he could average 20 per game as soon as this year. As for Wall, his upside is even higher as a scorer and as a distributor. Few in this league can play with the pace he does. Constantly this preseason he has been getting into the lane and either going to the hoop for an easy bucket, getting fouled or collapsing the defense and finding an open shooter. Wall's upside will only be limited by his jumpshot and turnovers. If his jumper shows the kind of progress we saw at the end of last season and he limits his turnovers, he's going to be an all-star.
3. One bold prediction for 2013-14?
My bold prediction is that Beal just sneaks his way into the top 10 in points per game in 2013-14. The cutoff last year was Brook Lopez at 19.4 ppg and I think that if everything breaks right for Beal, he'll average 20 a game this coming season. Yes these expectations are lofty, but this prediction was supposed to be bold, right?
4. One under the radar guy who will step up this year?
I wanted to put Al Harrington here, but I think that with the preseason he's had, and the obvious need this team has for a big man who can stretch the floor, Harrington is no longer under the radar. So I'm going to go with Garrett Temple for his versatility. He's a player who clearly has Wittman's trust, can play both guard spots, and can shoot the ball, as evidenced by his over 40% clip from three point range over the second half of last season. Temple's calling card though is his defense, and as the team’s best on the ball defender at both guard spots, is somebody who Wittman will use during crunch time minutes, especially in half court defensive sets. With Wittman almost certainly going to more small ball lineups this year, you could see some three guard lineups featuring Temple playing alongside Wall and Beal as a unique look. 'Three and D' guys are becoming en vogue in this league, and as an outstanding defender who has proven he can shoot the ball well in spurts, Temple will be an important part of this team in 2013-14.
5. The Wizards will make the playoffs if...
The main thing it comes down to is Wall and Beal staying healthy for an entire season, and continuing to develop as one of the elite backcourts in the NBA. Beyond that it is finding a way to maintain the high level of defense the team played last year until the anchor of the D, Okafor, comes back. If those two things happen, this will be a playoff team in 2013-14.