Another season brought another lottery selection for the Washington Wizards. After collecting John Wall and Bradley Beal in recent drafts, Washington nabbed Georgetown small forward Otto Porter with the third pick in the NBA Draft June 27, making him the newest member of a growing collection of talented perimeter players.
But after finishing 29-53 last season and earning a fifth straight lottery appearance; next season, the time will be for the team to start winning. Porter, a 6-foot, 9-inch “Swiss Army knife,” is expected to translate his all-around game to professional hardwood, and help the Wizards avoid what would be a sixth consecutive losing season next year. But will Porter be enough to push Washington into the playoffs? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: It doesn't all rest on Porter but if this team can make a few offseason moves (such as re-signing Martell Webster) and is fortunate enough to get a clean bill of health next year, then they could easily make the playoffs. After Wall returned midseason from a knee injury, the team had an above .500 record at one point until a rash of even more injuries to Wall’s teammates caused them to end the season on a six-game losing streak. Washington needs to stay healthy first and foremost. They need Nene, Wall, Webster, Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal to stay on the court. If they can manage to get some luck in that regard, Porter and maybe even rookie swingman Glen Rice Jr. should be enough to allow them to vie for a postseason position.
Green: The Wizards haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2008, and I don’t see it happening in 2014. The team is slowly stockpiling players on their roster, but every player they pick up is either a glorified role player or an underdeveloped prospect. Right now, if I had to pick a team to make the Eastern Conference playoffs that didn't make it last year, I would go with the Philadelphia 76ers, who recently reshuffled its roster with a couple of savvy moves in the draft. Philly traded young All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, but they picked up two rookie prospects with a ton of upside in 7-foot center Nerlens Noel and 6-foot, 6-inch point guard Michael Carter-Williams (MCW). Noel could turn out to be the next Marcus Camby and MCW has the makings of the next Penny Hardaway. Toronto should also be better as Rudy Gay gets more acclimated and the Cleveland Cavs are also on the rise with young star Kyrie Irving. We simply can't slide Washington into the playoffs so easily when they still lack star power.
Riley: One thing that the Wizards have over a few of those teams which you didn't mention is point guard play. Wall showed over the last few months of the season that he may have a breakout campaign next year. And while Cleveland's Kyrie Irving is already an All-Star, the Cavaliers don't have the depth that Washington has as of right now. Their depth is obviously contingent on Webster re-signing, but if he does you’re talking about a team that could literally be two players deep at every position except for power forward. Out of the teams in the East that didn't make the playoffs last year, the Wizards may have the best combination of youth and veteran leadership on their side. The odds are in their favor.
Green: Cleveland's roster, despite the lack of quality depth, looks pretty enticing on paper and they've done a nice job rebuilding since LeBron James skipped town. Washington's roster is filled with solid role players but I just see other teams with better coaches and management and better stars who could trump Washington for a playoff spot. The top five spots are probably already accounted for by Miami, Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn and the New York Knicks, and I wouldn't be surprised if Milwaukee made it back, which would leave only two spots available. Is Washington ready for a playoff appearance after being so horrible and at times, even unwatchable, for the past few seasons? I don't know. But what I do know is that the Wizards didn't exactly show critics, coaches or even fans that they should be counted on for next summer's playoff party. If anything, it may take another two to three years before we’ll see them in the postseason.