He will admit it: The losing got to him. Since John Wall arrived in Washington as the draft's No. 1 pick in 2010, the Wizards are 72--158. The failure eroded Wall's confidence, causing his three-point shooting to dip to 7.1% in '11--12, a number Wall raised to a still unbecoming 26.7% last season. But those days could be behind him. Health was a major problem in Washington last season, with Wall (33 games), Bradley Beal (26) and Nen√™ (21) missing significant time. Washington was 15--7 when those three played together, and they all arrived in camp injury-free.
The Wizards want to play up-tempo and have the talent around Wall to do it. Beal, small forward Martell Webster and power forward Al Harrington are quality shooters who will space the floor in transition. A top 10 rebounding team last season, Washington has the depth (Nen√™, Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin) to control the glass and start the break.
Wall—who signed a five-year, $80 million extension in July—spent part of the summer training with Kevin Durant, and he says an improved pull-up jump shot and a midrange floater will make him a more diverse threat. But he shouldn't feel as much pressure to score: Last season, in the 22 games with Beal and Nen√™, he attempted only 12.1 field goals per game, as opposed to 17.4 the rest of the season. Surrounded, for once, by talent, Wall can focus more on developing into an elite point guard.
COACH RANDY WITTMAN (3RD SEASON WITH WIZARDS)
2012--13 RECORD 29--53 (3RD IN SOUTHEAST)
WHAT'S NEW Aside from Georgetown rookie Otto Porter Jr., very little. After a promising finish, Washington stood pat.
PROJECTED LINEUP (2012--13 STATS)
PG JOHN WALL
18.5 PPG; 7.6 APG; 1.3 SPG; 44.1 FG%
SG BRADLEY BEAL
13.9 PPG; 3.8 RPG; 41.0 FG%; 38.6 3FG%
SF OTTO PORTER JR. (R)
16.2 PPG; 7.5 RPG; 48.0 FG%; 42.2 3FG%
12.6 PPG; 6.7 RPG; 2.9 APG; 48.0 FG%
C EMEKA OKAFOR
9.7 PPG; 8.8 RPG; 1.0 BPG; 47.7 FG%
G-F MARTELL WEBSTER
11.4 PPG; 3.9 RPG; 44.2 FG%; 42.2 3FG%
NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE (COLLEGE STATS)
IMPROVEMENT IN the Wizards' winning percentage with John Wall in the lineup. Washington was 5--28 (.152) when Wall was nursing a right-knee injury and 24--25 (.490) after he returned.
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE WIZARDS
John Wall's shooting is always going to be an issue—people are going to continue to load up the paint. Having Bradley Beal stretch the floor is a big plus because he's best in a fast-paced style. Playing that way, Wall doesn't have to make decisions in the half-court under pressure. He's good in transition, but what makes him transcendent is his speed. It puts so much pressure on you.... Everyone said what a great shooter Beal was coming out of Florida, and he started to show signs in the NBA. He started to attack the basket too. He could be like Rip Hamilton, someone who is exceptional coming off screens.... The bigs they have don't fit their style. Having a face-up four is better for them than having Nen√™ and Emeka Okafor playing together. Okafor is a paint player. Nen√™ is a paint player. They should have a two-headed five man, where just one of them plays.... Nen√™ had games where he looked like the old Nen√™, and games where he looked like a shell of Nen√™.... Who can play with these fast guys? Al Harrington might be the best fit. He can be a face-up four. If he is healthy, that's a good spot.... Otto Porter doesn't need the ball, and he can do a lot of things. As long as he defends his position and knocks down open shots, he helps them.... I thought Randy Wittman was going to get fired at Christmas, but his guys didn't quit on him. When everyone got healthy they started to play well. No one would say Wittman is James Naismith, but he is underrated.
SIMON BRUTY/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WALL)
SHOW RUNNER WALL
ERICK W. RASCO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (BEAL)