A few weeks ago, I wrote about the complete waste of time that is ESPN's NBArank project. Then I admitted that I would be following it closely to see how the Wizards' players were rated and then using that data as an indication of how the team might perform during the 2012-2013 season. While I know the only thing that will truly make me feel better about my team is performance in the win-loss column, I'll take any dram of hope I can get before the season starts. After all, with the Wizards, it's often all about hope.
The 2012 NBArank data is now in the books. Well, that's not exactly true. Number one won't be revealed until late next week or maybe even the week after, but for the Wizards, it was in the books once spot number 51 was reached. That of course means that the ESPN "experts" feel our team has none of the top 50 players currently playing in the NBA and that may very well be true. But does that mean that we don't have a better team on paper than last year? Maybe or maybe not. Let's take a look at how the team stacks up in the NBArank this year.
We currently have 14 players under contract, which is one less than the league roster maximum. Our 14 players, with NBArank position are:
- 52: Nenê
- 55: John Wall
- 101: Emeka Okafor
- 142: Trevor Ariza
- 170: Bradley Beal
- 218: Jordan Crawford
- 266: Jan Vesely
- 279: Trevor Booker
- 281: Kevin Seraphin
- 292: Martell Webster
- 360: Chris Singleton
- 384: A.J. Price
- 396: Shelvin Mack
- 435: Cartier Martin
Last year, the Wizards placed two players in the top 100; three players each between 101 and 200 and 201 and 300; four players between 301 and 400; and our other three fell outside the top 400. This year, our results by hundred are similar, except that instead of three players between 200 and 300, we now have five, with the upward movement coming from the 300s and 400s. Three of our players between 201 and 300 (Vesely, Booker and Seraphin) moved up at least 40 spots from last year, with Seraphin moving up more than 150 spots. That sounds right: Book and Kevin made significant progress in their second years; I'm actually surprised Kevin wasn't ahead of Ves and Book. These guys are in all likelihood going to be the first guys off the bench. Having these guys more developed for the entire season is going to be key. Overall, better on paper this year.
Our two players in the top 100 last year were John Wall (at 40) and JaVale McGee (at 99). This year, our two in the top 100 are Nenê and Wall. While Wall fell 15 spots from his ranking last year, I'm not sure that means he's worse than he was last year. Consider the personnel John has had to work with in his first two years; I am sure guys like Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul would struggle with Nick Young and Jordan Crawford as their leading scorers too. I don't know how much I really have to say about Nenê as an upgrade over McGee. The difference is night and day. Sure, you don't get the highlight dunks out of Nenê that you get out of McGee but you don't get all the other baggage either. I don't think we'll see Nenê alley ooping to himself while the Wizards are getting blown out or claiming to not understand what coach says he's doing wrong or running back on defense while we still possess the ball. No cinnamon eating either! Top 100, better on paper this year.
Last year, our projected starting five were the top five guys on NBArank's list: Wall, Nick Young, Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatche and McGee. This year, our projected starting five at least at the beginning of the year are our top four plus the sixth man, Jordan Crawford, on our list this year. Personnel-wise, there's only one man in common: John Wall. By the numbers, Young blows away Crawford at shooting guard, Lewis last year supposedly beats out Ariza this year, Nenê destroys Blatche at power forward, and McGee edges Okafor at center. On paper, the starting five is better last year but there's no way that starting five lived up to its potential. Not even close. I'll take the personnel we have this year over the dysfunction that pervaded the organization last year. Our starting five last year didn't stay that way for long. By mid-season, Lewis and Blatche were sitting in favor of Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker. Compare that starting five to this year's starters and this year is better on paper.
Finally, it turns out I was totally wrong about the ranking order of our players last year. I clearly have a higher opinion of Kevin Seraphin's ability than the experts. I guess that's why I'm a fan and not an expert.
So what does all that mean? Absolutely nothing. But I'm excited to see how we do. Training camp starts two weeks from today. By the way, ESPN (probably a different panel of experts) picked the Wizards to finish 12th in the East with a 31-51 record. In the past, I've bristled at the low projections for my team's finish by ESPN. I even printed out the predictions one year so I could pull it out when they were proved wrong, but by mid-season it was obvious they weren't. 12th in the conference and 31 wins would be an improvement over last year. I'm hoping our team is a sleeper who can make a little noise this year. Hope has to be worth something, right?