Last season, marked the fourth straight year that the Wizards weren't a part of the playoffs. Their 20 victories were also the second lowest win total in the league, as Washington finished second last in the East, ahead of only the Charlotte Bobcats.
However, the 2011-2012 season wasn't as negative as it may look on paper.
The Wizards ended the season winning six straight games and they've begun putting together a solid roster around star point guard John Wall. They acquired strong veteran talent in centres Nene and Emeka Okafor, as well as small forward Trevor Ariza.
Sky's The Limit - Entering his third season, John Wall is the brightest star in Washington, next to Barack Obama and maybe Robert Griffin III. Wall has averaged 16 points and eight assists per game in each of his two NBA seasons and is the focal point of the Wizards' offence. The former first overall pick needs to cut down his turnovers and improve his shooting percentage, but those are both things that will come as he develops. For now, Wall is one of the most exciting players to watch in the league and has put the Wizards back on the NBA map.
Off The Wall
The Wizards are hoping John Wall is able to come back strong from his knee injury.
Veteran Core - The additions of Nene, Okafor, and Ariza give Washington a much more mature group that can battle through tough stretches in games and in the schedule. Ariza is a very good perimeter defender and Okafor is a defensive beast on the inside. When healthy, Nenê can be one of the best centres in the league and can be especially dangerous at the offensive end at times. No matter how the season turns out, this group will provide Wall with a much better enviroment to grow.
Tough Loss - Wall won't begin the season with the Wizards, as he rehabs from a knee injury. He is targeting a late November return date, but his conditioning may be an issue even when he does get back into the lineup. With Wall not on the floor to start the year, the Wizards could struggle out of the gate, which could seriously diminish their chances of pushing for a playoff spot.
Making Their Points - Wall isn't a prolific scorer at this point in his career and he may need to be if the Wizards are going to take the next step. Several members of the Wizards should be able to put up points, but none of them are consistent enough to rely on every game. Add to that the fact that Wall will miss the start of the year and point production coudl be an issue.
With their only star, John Wall, sidelined the Wizards are in a tough spot.
John Wall is the top Wizard at 35th overall in spite of his injured knee.
X Factor: Emeka Okafor
One way to improve scoring is through strong defence and fast break points. Okafor will help Washington in that area, as his defence is recognized across the league. Once debated against Dwight Howard over who should be the top pick, Okafor has had a far less publicized career. Okafor has spent time with the Bobcats and Hornets before landing in Washington, and in addition to his defence he can deliver a double-double and should be a great contributor for the Wizards.
What to Expect
While it may be easier to crack the top eight in the East, when you look at last year's playoff teams, Orlando appears to be the only club set to fall off. That leaves one spot open and it will be tightly contested with Brooklyn making major strides in the off-season. With Wall sidelined early, the Wizards will likely be left out of the playoffs for the fifth straight year. However, the sitation in Washington has improved a great deal and is on the right path.
Tim Chisholm's Offseason Grade
A lot of teams made moves this summer to position themselves closer to (or in) the Playoffs, but no team was quite so single-minded about it as the Wizards.
In sacrificing a lot of near-term cap room by absorbing the salaries of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, and that's after taking on Nenê last year, the Wiz are better now but poised to stagnate quickly due to a lack of flexibility.
Plus, with Nenê and John Wall expected to miss time early the Wizards may not even be able to make good on the Playoff bid these expenditures were made for.
The Wiz hurt their future to help their present, and now their present looks as muddy as their future.