Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

SANTAMARIA: Wizards’ Young Talent Brings Buzz to Capital

It would be a lie to say that the Washington Wizards showed any signs of competitiveness before last season.

For the last few years, they were a team full of washed-out veterans like center Brendan Haywood and forward Michael Ruffin, mixed with immature young talents like guard Nick Young and forward Andray “where’s my defense?” Blatche. However, the truth now is that the Wizards are finally good again. After a surprisingly successful playoff run last season, this year holds legitimate promise for postseason success.

Despite shooting guard Bradley Beal’s preseason wrist injury that will keep him out of action for up to 8 weeks, the Wizards have started 4-1, tied for best record in the East thus far. John Wall is averaging 10 assists per game, and Paul Pierce is playing like he did in Boston. In the Southeast Division, Miami once again appears to be the Wizards’ main competition for a division crown, with Washington’s only loss coming to Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and company.

However, a Miami team without a true point guard and one that relies solely on star power to carry them (even though they lost the biggest star of them all in Lebron James) cannot hope to compete with Washington’s increasingly fluid offense and rising superstar in John Wall. Moreover, Miami’s youth, in the form of guards Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier and James Ennis, is no match for Washington’s Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and Glen Rice, Jr., all three of whom are excellent perimeter shooters with the ability to bring more ball movement to the offense.

Porter, a Georgetown product, dominated the NBA Summer League alongside Rice, a former Georgia Tech star. Otto-matic and Rice averaged over 18 and 24 points, respectively.

The Wizards have a solid starting five of Wall, Beal, Pierce, Nene Hilario and Marcin Gortat, but their bench is admittedly weak, devoid of any real offensive creator. While at Georgetown, Porter allowed the offense to move through him, controlling games in many ways beyond just scoring. His passing and constant rotations on offense brought fluidity to Coach John Thompson III’s system and will undoubtedly do the same for Washington. Although the Wizards’ bench lacks a true 6th man as of now, perhaps Porter can rise up to that role, especially after a 21-point game in a 108-97 win against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Rice Jr. is a born scorer whose game is raw and unpolished but with a potential unlike anyone else on the roster. After a dominating stretch over the summer, Rice is ready to shine. Shooting 47 percent from the field and 36 percent from beyond the three-point line, Rice, along with Porter, carried a team with no real NBA-ready talent to a 5-1 Summer League record.

Although the Summer League is not the best indicator of regular season player performance, Porter and Rice stepped up and were leaders, hopefully a foreshadowing of what they will do for D.C. when their names are called.

But until that day comes, Bradley Beal, just 21 years old, is at the forefront of the Wizards offensive strategy. An excellent shooter who shot 40 percent from the three last season, Beal is poised for another great year upon his return from injury. Not only did Beal perform in the regular season for the Wizards last year, he lit up the stat sheet in the playoffs, shooting nearly 42 percent from three and averaging 19.2 points per game, up from 17.1 in the regular season.

While Washington will miss his shooting until his return, his absence paves the way for Pierce to adjust himself into the Wizards’ offense without having to worry about taking shots away from Beal. More than that, Pierce’s increased minutes in Beal’s absence forces Coach Randy Wittman to sit the 37-year old and put in young players like Porter, who scored those 21 points in 37 minutes of action

Without a doubt, the youth of the Wizards should keep fans hopeful, though they can also be excited about Wall’s development into a bona fide elite point guard and the intimidating frontcourt pairing of Nene and Gortat that is infamous for getting into mid-game scuffles.

Playing to a 4-1 record while missing their second-best player is nothing to scoff at. Once the squad is back up to full strength, and with the added contributions of young players like Rice and Porter, the team has the potential to improve on last year’s 44-38 record. With the right luck, Washington will be celebrating next June.

Paolo Santamaria is a freshman in the College. SAXA SYNERGY appears every other Friday.

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