Note: This is the latest installment in a ten-part series on the top storylines facing the Wizards this season. Check CSNwashington.com daily for additional entries.
The Wizards rebuild is now in to year three and the plan remains to grow with a young roster, but the team sprinkled in veterans this summer by adding forwards Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. This clearly indicates the organization is tired of being a lottery team and believes now is the time to make a playoff push. With center Nene already in the fold, as a trade-deadline addition last season, the Wizards likely will go with all three in the starting lineup when the season kicks off later this month. The rebuild has taken a bit of a new look.
Okafor has averaged a double double for his career and brings a rugged presence to the Wizards frontcourt, while Ariza is a smooth shooting swingman. Both players, had sub-par seasons with the Hornets last year. Ariza averaged 11 points for New Orleans but shot only 41 percent from the field, while Okafor struggled with injury and played in only 27 games, averaging 10 points and 8 rebounds a game. Production and leadership is what the Wizards hope these two can bring to the team as the franchise tries to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
When Nene was healthy last season, the Wizards went 7-4 with him in the lineup. The big Brazilian center, averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds in 11 games for Washington, brings a calming presence offensively.
"Obviously with Emeka and Nene we've got guys that have been around the block, have been to the playoffs, have been on good teams and understand what it takes to do those things," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
Nene's foot issue will be a season-long concern because he missed 11 games with plantar fasciitis last season and he will miss training camp with the same injury. The team hopes he is ready for the season opener later this month, but it's a huge question mark for the Wizards -- and will Nene be able to hold up?
Another concern is will these veteran additions stunt the growth of younger players like Kevin Serpahin, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely and Trevor Booker? All of these players head into either their second or third seasons and have logged considerable playing time. Now their playing time will be cut back now with Nene, Okafor and Ariza on the team.
"I think the more competition you have, whether it's one-on-one at your position or as a whole, makes you a better player and makes the team better," Wittman noted.