After finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2011, John Wall put up remarkably similar numbers in his second season. That wasn't the kind of progress expected of the man the Wizards were counting on when they took him first overall. Whether that stagnant play was a function of Wall's limitations or of his teammates' should become clear in December, when the 22-year-old returns from a stress injury in his left knee. Gone are Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young, intriguing talents whose bouts of immaturity couldn't have made it easy for Wall to grow.
Along with Nen√™, who was acquired late last season, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza promise to create a more professional atmosphere, as well as give Wall (whose assist-to-turnover ratio was 38th among point guards) more reliable targets. Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal should help as well—especially if his long-distance touch rubs off on his backcourt mate: Last season Wall missed 39 of his 42 three-point attempts.
COACH: Randy Wittman (2nd season with Wizards)
2011--12 RECORD: 20--46 (4th in Southeast)
OFFENSE: 93.6 ppg (22nd)
DEFENSE: 98.4 ppg (20th)
PICK-AND-ROLL OFFENSE: 23.7 ppg (13th)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
New acquisition (R) Rookie, college stats
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE WIZARDS
In all of my years in the NBA, I don't think I've ever seen a more dysfunctional group of players than the Wizards last season. It's as if the Wizards were trying to put together the dysfunction knuckleheads.... John Wall is a willing passer. He's got a pretty good knack at finding guys. He's hard to keep out of the paint off the dribble, but he's such a reluctant shooter—and that's got to change.... You have to give them credit for taking on Nen√™'s big contract. The deal he signed was one of those that as soon as the ink was dry, you're kind of second-guessing it. He's still a good player. He is a huge body, but he moves well, he's nimble, has great feet.... Bradley Beal was the best shooting guard in the draft, but with only one year of college and the fact that he had some inconsistency with his shot, this will be a developmental year for him. No one should be surprised if he's not ready to light the world on fire.... With Wall out, that leaves the ball in A.J. Price's hands for now. The defense won't get sucked in as much with Price as it would with Wall, and the other guys on the team are going to find Price does not get them open shots like Wall does.
A more responsible Wall clicks with his new teammates, and the Wizards make a run at a playoff spot.
With Nen√™ hampered by the foot injury that plagued him in the preseason, Wall tries to do too much and ends up regressing.
Career winning percentage (118--238) of Wizards coach Randy Wittman, not just the lowest among current NBA coaches but also the lowest in NBA history for anyone with at least 350 games on the sideline.
HEINZ KLUETMEIER (WALL)
NED DISHMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (NEN√ä)