Today that Golden State Warriors take on the Washington Wizards, a team I honestly haven't seen play much though I know they're in the Eastern Conference where being .500 puts you firmly in the playoffs.
Just to get myself ready to write the preview for today's game, I contacted a friend from the Bullets Forever community who also provides me ample help in running SB Nation's women's basketball site Swish Appeal (where we'll be keeping folks updated on whether the Warriors bring a WNBA team back to the Bay Area in the coming weeks/months).
Albert and I go back and forth about our respective teams throughout the year so really this is partially a summary of some of those ongoing conversations coalesced around a few specific questions I asked him over the last few days.
So without further ado, today's Q&A with Washington Wizards fan Albert Lee with most questions being posed prior to the Warriors' wins against the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks.
GSoM: The Wizards, much like 2/3 of the East right now, are in a sort of weird spot of being solidly in the playoff picture despite having a sub-.500 record (and would be on the outside looking in if they were in the West). Owner Ted Leonsis has been pretty specific about outlining his thoughts on rebuilding, but do you really see the rebuilding process as over at this point? Or what do you see as the next step?
Albert Lee: The Ten Point Plan certainly has been scrutinized heavily among Wizards fans. I think that the Wizards have more or less attempted to adhere to all of the points on it thus far.
One place where they fell short is with Point 4, on building around the Draft. While the Wizards have acquired multiple first round draft picks since 2010 when Ted became majority owner, many of the draft picks have not developed as well as desired, most notably with the 2011 first round draft picks, Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton, who will not have their fourth year options on their rookie contracts.
In terms of whether the rebuild is over, I will say that the foundational rebuild is over but there's still work to do.
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis openly says the team's foundational players are set at the 7:40 to 7:50 minute mark.
The Wizards know who the foundational players are for the foreseeable future: John Wall and Bradley Beal at a minimum. At this point, the most important thing is to surround them with players who can highlight their strengths and help their development as they head toward their primes. Acquiring players like Nene, Webster, Ariza, and Gortat are part of that.
Over the next few years, the Wizards will have to be savvy with their cap space because Beal will likely get a maximum sophomore contract in 2015. Then, down the road they should look for another impact post player to replace Nene because he is injury prone. Lastly, the Wizards need more depth, in particular at backup point guard, as Eric Maynor does not appear to be the answer there. They need to attract and find better players who are willing to play as regular bench rotation players.
GSoM: Some Warriors fans and Wizards fans might have something in common: dissatisfaction with their head coach. Wittman's job security was a topic of discussion among some Wizards fans even before the season began and that continued after an ugly 2-5 start to the season. How you feel about Randy Wittman now with the Wizards in playoff contention?
AL: Wittman is a coach who gets his players to buy into his message even during adversity. He showed that last year in the wake of a 5-28 start when many other teams would have tuned out their coaches in that span. But when there are multiple respected former NBA head coaches like George Karl and Lionel Hollins available, it sometimes makes me wonder whether the Wizards are making the right decision to keep Wittman. If the Wizards win 45 or more games this season and/or advance in the playoffs, Wittman should get a chance to stay. Maybe he is the coach who can grow with the young John Wall-Bradley Beal duo as they continue to improve.
But the bigger question is whether Team President Ernie Grunfeld should stay past this season. Many, if not most fans believe that he needs to go, even if the Wizards make the playoffs in part because the East is weak. Both Grunfeld and Wittman are on the last year of their contracts so this is an important year for them indeed.
GSoM: You recently wrote a post about Otto Porter being someone who could benefit from going to the D-League. He recently got a career-high in minutes after Bradley Beal's injury, but didn't really post spectacular numbers. From what you've seen from him so far (or at Georgetown), how do you see him fitting (or hope he'll fit) into this team's long-term plan?
AL: On the first game after that post, Bradley Beal had a left knee injury during a road loss to Minnesota. If that injury forced him to miss many games, then Porter shouldn't go to the D-League because he will or at least should get more minutes because of Beal's absence. Fortunately for Beal and for Wizards fans, he only had a bruise and didn't miss any games, playing the next night for DC in a win against Detroit.
I still think that the D-League can be a good thing for Porter, especially if he still cannot play many minutes with Ariza and Webster on the roster. Even though Porter is a Top 3 draft pick , the D-League needs to be used as an asset for player development, not viewed as a badge of shame, even if owner Ted Leonsis doesn't own a D-League franchise right now.
In terms of what I'd like to see Porter do in DC, he has labeled himself as a "glue guy" and has said that he tries to emulate Memphis Grizzlies forward Tayshaun Prince's game. That is the type of role I'd like to see him have when he's in his prime. Someone who can defend multiple positions on the floor, someone who can make timely shots on offense, but at least to me, I'd like to see him become a bit of a point forward as well to take some pressure off of John Wall even when he is on the floor with him.
GSoM: Stephen Curry and John Wall are two of five point guards on Sekou Smith's latest MVP rankings, highlighting the value of the position even if there are less "pure point guards" in today's NBA. With "value" being a subjective term and Wall himself claiming to be the best point guard in the league earlier this season, which player would you rather have as your point guard if you were to start a team: Wall or Curry?
AL: This is really tough but it depends on the type of team that is around the point guard. If I need a point guard who has to be a top scoring option, especially from three, I'll pick Curry. Curry is a much better shooter than Wall, even after he has made significant strides in the last two seasons. In addition, Curry is scoring more and averaging more points and assists than Wall is against tougher opponents since the Warriors are in the West and the Wizards are in the East.
At the same time if I have a team with many shooters in multiple positions besides point guard, I'll pick Wall. He is one of the most athletic point guards in the NBA, and is very good driving to the basket which opens up the floor for open shooters in catch and shoot situations, most notably Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, and Martell Webster.
The aforementioned three average 22.2 points per game from a catch and shoot situation based on SportVU statistics, with many of those passes coming from Wall. All three are among the Top 20 in that category (Ariza and Beal are in the Top 10), while for the Warriors, only Klay Thompson ranks in the Top 20 for catch and shoot points per game. To be fair, he's 2nd in the league there with 9.5 ppg, with Kyle Korver of Atlanta in first, and Thompson has the most total catch and shoot points in the NBA.
*stats are for games before January 3, 2014.
Smart man to pick Curry.
Feel free to weigh in on Curry vs. Wall, the use of the D-League, or the Wizards' rebuilding process in the comments.