Feb. 20, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall during game against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Wizards 104-88. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

NBA 2012 Offseason Grades: Washington Wizards

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2011-12 Record: 20-46, fourth place in Southwest Division, 14th in Eastern Conference

2012 NBA Draft: G Bradley Beal (Florida, 3rd overall), G Tomas Satoransky (CB Sevilla, 32nd overall)

Offseason Additions: A.J Price (1 year, $915,000), G Jannero Pargo (1 year, $854,000), F Martell Webster (terms undisclosed), F Trevor Ariza (acquired from New Orleans Hornets), C Emeka Okafor (acquired from New Orleans Hornets)

Offseason Losses: G Roger Mason Jr. (signed with New Orleans Hornets), F Rashard Lewis (traded to New Orleans Hornets), F Andray Blatche (amnestied)

Re-signed: F Cartier Martin (1 year, $992,000), Head Coach Randy Wittman

Projected Starting Line-up: PG John Wall, SG Jordan Crawford, SF Trevor Ariza, PF Nene, C Emeka Okafor

OFFSEASON GRADE:  B 

Operation “Culture Change”: Complete.

The Washington Wizards are no longer a laughing stock, and that alone warrants a high grade for this offseason.

Often seen as one of the most poorly run and most dysfunctional franchises in all of basketball, the Wizards front-office has done plenty this summer to help remove that stigma and shed a more positive light on this team.

Amnestying Andray Blatche will help greatly in that department. He had all the tools necessary (at least physically) to be a star power forward in the NBA (averaged 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds in 2010/11), but his attitude, selfishness, inconsistencies and childish antics on and off the court constantly held him back. He was a cancer in the locker room and losing his services will not hurt this team at all.

If anything, losing Blatche should be considered the perfect example of “addition by subtraction”.

Good riddance.

The 2012 NBA Draft brought much praise to the Wizards organization, as they used their third overall pick to select guard Bradley Beal out of the University of Florida.

Heading into the draft, Beal was considered by many to be the 2nd best player available. Washington scored big when Charlotte took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second pick, allowing Beal to fall right into their lap. Many teams were ready to give an arm and a leg to take Beal, with rumours that the Oklahoma City Thunder even had James Harden on the market in case a deal could be struck.

Bradley averaged 14.8 points and 6.7 rebounds in 37 games for the Florida Gators. He was named to the All-SEC first team and the SEC All-Freshman team.

He may not start right away, but the idea of a Beal/John Wall backcourt should have the mouths of Wizards fans salivating. The Ray Allen comparisons are completely warranted, in my opinion. Beal is a streaky shooter with the athleticism to attack the basket at a high rate. He can shoot the long range jumper as well as dribble penetrate and create shots for himself in the paint. He’s also very humble and mature for his young age (19), which is a definite plus for a team looking to rebuild its image.

Whether he starts immediately at the shooting guard spot or leads the Wizards second unit, Bradley Beal is definitely someone to keep an eye on in 2012/13. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see him challenge Hornets center and #1 overall pick Anthony Davis for that Rookie of the Year crown.

He’s that good.

In Washingtons big trade of the summer, the Wizards sent forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick to the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for small forward Trevor Ariza and center Emeka Okafor.

Ariza averaged 10.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists last season in New Orleans. Okafor averaged 9.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. Okafor missed a handful of games with a sore left knee while Ariza sat to give the Hornets younger forwards more playing time.

From a basketball and personnel standpoint, this trade makes total sense. Okafor and Ariza are both high character guys and great additions to the locker room. There the kind of players John Wall needs to be surrounded with at this stage of his career. Blatche and even former Wizards Nick Young and JaVale McGee were terrible influences. Emeka/Trevor will have a far more encouraging effect.

While Okafor has never quite lived up to his #2 overall pick (right behind Dwight Howard) back in 2004, he’s still a career double-double guy (12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds) who can block shots and defend bigs effectively in the paint. The Wizards were 20th in the league last season in points allowed (98.4) and 18th in rebounds (41.7). With JaVale Mcgee now in Denver, Okafor can now step in and fill that defensive void alongside teammate Nene Hilario. His knee issues may spring up from time to time in 2013, but there’s still a lot to like about having him on board.

Ariza never got a fair shake last season with the Hornets. He’s still very young at 27 years of age and already has championship experience after winning a ring with the Los Angeles Lakers back in 09. Trevor has always been a strong perimeter defender with quick hands (1.7 steals a game last season) and amazing agility. He’s not much of a threat on offense, but he can slash the lanes and get his points that way if need be.

At the very least, if Okafor and Ariza don’t pan out, both contracts are very reasonable with 2 years left in the deals. That will make for some valuable cap space down the road.

Update: It’s now been confirmed that because of early signs of a stress injury in his left knee, John Wall will have to remain on the sidelines for the next 8 weeks, which is an absolutely huge blow to this team’s playoff chances. Wall is the franchise and this team will go as far as he takes him. Losing him for 2 months and possibly longer severely alters the teams playoff outlook as getting off to a hot start at the beginning of every NBA season is always crucial.

The Washington Wizards are once again relevant. They’re not relevant in a “we’re now a sure thing for the NBA Playoffs” kind of way, but they do have their credibility back in the Eastern Conference.

That’s huge.

Hopefully the days of having players with piss-poor attitudes ruining team chemistry are far, far behind them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPn83dVU-lc

Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports

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Tags: Bradley Beal Eastern Conference Emeka Okafor Florida Gators John Wall Trevor Ariza Washington Wizards

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