Vegas Insider has the total number of wins for the Wizards this season at 33.5. One of my cohosts on The Sports Junkies, Jason Bishop (Lurch), has a $400 bet that the Wizards don't win 40 games. Michael Wallace from ESPN.com thinks the Wizards will finish 12th in the Eastern Conference - light years away from the playoffs. Chris Sheridan also from ESPN.com has them finishing in 7th and making the postseason. The only thing we do know is they are going to be fun to watch. And I'm going to pick them to make the playoffs.
I haven't been this excited about the team since 1994 when the Wizards selected Juwan Howard in the draft and traded for Chris Webber. That was 16 years ago! Nevermind that the Wiz went 21-61. There was room for optimism as the team was loading up on young talent. The following year the Wizards finished 39-43 and missed the playoffs by one game. In '97-'98 the Wizards won 44 games and played the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. Even though they were swept by the Bulls in the first round, Michael Jordan said the Wizards were a team to watch out for in the future.
Obviously it never happened. I don't need to rehash the history and the different story lines that developed over the years. The names alone bring chills and bittersweet memories. I know you remember Mitch Richmond, Etan Thomas, Christian Laettner, Jerry Stackhouse, Larry Hughes and Jared Jeffries. Don't forget Calvin Booth, Obinna Ekezie, Courtney Alexander and Kwame Brown. My God Air Jordan himself actually played two years for the Wizards. I actually was a fan of Tyronn Lue. Last year I fell in love with Earl Boykins.
But those players, some of them former all stars, never developed or meshed into a winner for the Wizards. Some flat out never developed. Of course the most recent big plan was Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antwan Jamison and Brendan Haywood. That was supposed to be the foundation. We all know how that worked out.
Sure Gilbert remains. And he's just as enigmatic as ever. Is he happy or sad? Is he healthy or hurt? Can he still play or is he done? Nobody knows. Eventually he'll move on. But the real story is John Wall. He's the next Juwan, Webber, Brown and any other young star the Wizards have built their franchise around. Except barring some sort of awful Wizards jinx, he appears to be the real deal.
After a breathtaking year at Kentucky, the Wizards made the obvious selection and took John Wall number one overall. There really was no other choice. Some threw Evan Turner's name out there as a potential alternative. Get back to me in two years and see if they compare. My guess is it won't be close. Wall is as fast with the ball as he is without it. Flip Saunders says he's the fastest player he's ever seen. Think about that.
He's a great passer who can finish around the basket. He can block shots, rebound and steal. He can do it all. Sure he's a low percentage shooter. He's not going to kill you from outside. But neither does Rajon Rando. I think he'll be better than him. Barring injury or some random gun incident in the locker room, Wall is going to be a dynamic superstar for the Wizards. Take it to the Bank.
Throw in last year's number one option in Andray Blatche and you have someone that can do a little of everything and score in bunches if need be. Blatche is only 24. Javale McGee, 22, has improved every year and was the last cut for Team USA this summer. He can rebound, block shots and get easy baskets on the break. Coach Saunders has been raving about Kirk Heinrich all preseason. Yi Jianlan averaged 12 and 7 last season for the Nets. He's only 23 years old.
The big question is obviously how often and how good Gilbert Arenas will play. Last year he averaged 23 and 7. If he comes anywhere near that and plays 60 plus games, Lurch is going to lose $400 and my Wizards are going to make the playoffs. Take that to the bank. I love this time of year. We haven't lost a game yet.