Winless Wizards need someone to step up

Winless Wizards need someone to step up
November 15, 2012, 2:30 pm
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Bucher: Beal will learn consistency, benefit from Wall's return

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

When Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld selected Bradley Beal with the third pick of the 2012 NBA draft it was with the idea that the 19-year-old rookie would complement third-year guard John Wall, not replace him.

Grunfeld had similar aspirations for A.J. Price when he signed him as a free agent.

And when Grunfeld traded for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza over the summer he did so with the intent of adding some muscle and scoring touch to a frontcourt anchored by Nene.

That all changed when Nene, who averaged 13.7 points last season, showed up for training camp with plantar fasciitis and Wall, who averaged 16.3 points, was found to have a stress injury to his right knee.

“We have a deep roster right now,” Grunfeld said at the time Wall’s injury was announced. “We have a lot of players in a lot of different positions.

“It’s not going to be about one player taking over what John has done. It’s about a whole team effort. I think we’re deep, we have players to pick up the slack and it’s not going to be up to just one player. It’s going to be a team effort until we get John back.”

With Nene and Wall watching from the bench, Beal, Price Okafor and Ariza have been everyday starters asked to shoulder a load that has ultimately proven too heavy to bear.

Through seven games the Wizards are the only team in the NBA without a victory, a streak they will try to end on Friday when the Utah Jazz visit Verizon Center.

The following numbers tell a quick story of the Wizards problems this season:

  •  They rank 27th in the NBA in points per game [88.1]
  • They rank 30th in points in the paint [29.4] compared to sixth last season [43]
  • They rank 29th with a point differential of 7.86
  • They rank 28th in field goal percentage [40.7] and 23rd from 3-point range [30.9]
  • They rank 20th in rebounding and have been outrebounded by an average of 44-41

But if you look closely at their individual stats, it’s hard to place a lot of blame on anyone in particular.

Beal, Price, Okafor and Ariza had not worn a Wizards jersey before this season and all four have started every game so far.

Beal, who averaged 14.8 points and 2.2 assists at the University of Florida, is leading the Wizards with 11.6 points per game, a number most fans would have been satisfied with if Wall was putting up between 20 and 25 a night.

Price is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.1 points per game, which is 6.2 points more than he averaged last season with Indiana.

Meanwhile, Okafor and Ariza have seen a dip in production. Okafor is averaging 8.4 points and six rebounds a game, slightly below the 9.9 points and 7.9 rebounds he averaged last season in New Orleans. And Ariza is averaging 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds this season, well off the 10.8 and 5.2 rebounds he averaged last season

Wizards coach Randy Wittman could probably live with those numbers if Wall and Nene were in the lineup. Without them he is trying to keep the Wizards’ slow start in perspective in a season that began with playoff aspirations.

“We gotta keep fighting,” Wittman said after Wednesday night’s loss in Dallas. “We fought tonight. There have been very few nights where we haven’t. There are things we have to do better and be more consistent at. …  It’s a learning process.”