4 WASHINGTON WIZARDS

October 27, 2014

2013--14 RECORD: 44-38 (2ND IN SOUTHEAST) COACH: RANDY WITTMAN (4TH SEASON WITH WIZARDS)

SPOTLIGHT

It took four years, but John Wall has restored credibility to a franchise that cleaned house after the fallout in 2010 from an infamous locker-room gun incident. Wall enjoyed a '13--14 season worthy of a former No. 1 pick, leading Washington to the conference semifinals for the first time since '05. Stephen Curry and Chris Paul were the only players to average 19 points and eight assists besides Wall, who also made strides as a shooter (his 108 successful three-pointers more than doubled his total from the previous three seasons) to complement his elusiveness off the dribble.

The next area for improvement: taking better care of the ball. Wall attacks so relentlessly that miscues are inevitable, but he led the NBA in total turnovers and committed at least five in four of six games during a second-round loss to the Pacers.

Having revived the Wizards, Wall must now stabilize them. Washington will open the season without its up-and-coming shooting guard, Bradley Beal, who is expected to miss at least another month with a broken left wrist, and its top reserve swingman, Martell Webster, who is recovering from his third back surgery in four years. The 24-year-old Wall will need to fill in the gaps by increasing his scoring, quickly developing chemistry with free-agent signee Paul Pierce and getting more offense from big men Marcin Gortat and Nenê. That's asking a lot, but Wall's development suggests he's up to the task.

PROJECTED LINEUP

(2013--14 STATS)

STARTERS

PG

JOHN WALL

19.3 PPG; 8.8 APG; 1.8 SPG; 43.3 FG%

SG

BRADLEY BEAL

17.1 PPG; 3.7 RPG; 41.9 FG%; 40.2 3FG%

SF

PAUL PIERCE*

13.5 PPG; 4.6 RPG; 45.1 FG%; 37.3 3FG%

PF

NENÊ

14.2 PPG; 5.5 RPG; 2.9 APG; 50.3 FG%

C

MARCIN GORTAT

13.2 PPG; 9.5 RPG; 1.5 BPG; 54.2 FG%

BENCH

SG

MARTELL WEBSTER

9.7 PPG; 2.8 RPG; 43.3 FG%; 39.2 3FG%

PF

DEJUAN BLAIR*

6.4 PPG; 4.7 RPG; 0.9 APG; 53.4 FG%

*NEW ACQUISITION

BEST CASE

Rising guards and low-post stability push the Wizards into the East finals for the first time in 36 years.

WORST CASE

Momentum stalls as a ball-dominant Pierce and an untested Porter fail to replace Ariza at the three.

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE WIZARDS

This team can win the East. The Wizards had great chemistry last season, most of the rotation is back, and they added depth.... John Wall is a one-man fast break, the closest to Russell Westbrook at pressuring defenses in transition. You have to try to step in front of Wall and draw charges, which sounds easier than it is. If he's called for one or two early, that takes away his aggressiveness.... Wall attracts so much attention that he frees Bradley Beal to find his spots. With his smooth stroke Beal might shoot 40% from three-point range for the next 10 years, like he did last season.... Their frontcourt is really good too. Nenê and Marcin Gortat are bona fide scoring options, the Wizards' version of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis.... They will have to manage Paul Pierce's minutes because the focus is having him primed for the playoffs. He's right at home when the game slows down in the postseason. Because Pierce isn't a traditional spot-up shooter, he could be better as a scorer with the second unit. But that setup only works if Otto Porter Jr. is ready to start.... Porter needs to establish himself: What does he do well? If he can hit open threes and defend the wing, they'd be thrilled. That's what they lost when Trevor Ariza went to Houston.... Their bench is solid. Martell Webster gives them a shooter when he returns. DeJuan Blair can play starters' minutes if needed, and Drew Gooden, Kris Humphries and Kevin Seraphin provide more insurance up front. They have options to handle injuries or give different looks.

PHOTOBILL FRAKES/SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDWall & Co. face high expectations. FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)