Last week I answered some questions for the Bullets Forever blog about Rondo, the Celtics, and a few thoughts on the Wizards development. This week I've asked Jake Whitacre to return the favor.
Kevin Seraphin is arguably the best player the Wizards have developed since Richard Hamilton (you could make a case for Andray Blatche, but I don't think any Wizards fan wants to make that case right now). When the Wizards took him with the pick they got in the Kirk Hinrich deal, they made it clear he was a work in progress. Early on, it was clear he had the right mindset, frame and skills to be a solid player, but it was also clear that his conditioning needed work and he would need some time to adjust to the NBA. He started to show some flashes mid-season after Randy Wittman was made head coach and really blossomed after JaVale McGee was traded to Denver. It flew under the radar because
Saturday night, he showed off some nice range on his jumper and his baby hook shot (he was 6-7 on shots from 10 feet out or further), which isn't sustainable, but it's encouraging. He probably won't play quite as well as what we saw on Saturday, but more good things are on the way for him.
2. On a similar theme: No Wall, no Nene, and your team had a chance to win against the supposed contender Celtics last night. Is that more of a flukey, first week of the season, sort of thing or are the Wizards going to surprise people this year?
As much as I hate being a pessimist, I'm leaning more towards it being a flukey situation. The Wizards were playing their home opener and had three days of rest while the Celtics were on the back end of a back to back where they knew they could probably get away with a less than stellar effort. Seraphin's return helped the Wizards replace some of what they lost with Nene on the shelf, but there's still a wide gap between John Wall and A.J. Price and Jannero Pargo.
3. You endured me yammering on about Wall and Rondo in answering your questions. What is your impression of Rondo as an outsider? Based on your question, do you see him as a sort of model of how to succeed as a point guard who has trouble with his outside shot? What's Wall's next step? (Yes, that's totally cheating on the 3 question thing, but they are related questions)
I'm a big fan of Rondo. While I'd still put him a notch below Chris Paul, he's absolutely a top five point guard in this league and doesn't get the credit he deserves for making Boston a contender and how he can be effective on the break and in half-court. Plus, with the way rule changes have made it easier for penetrate, it makes Rondo's defense all the more valuable.
The Wizards can take a lot from how the Celtics have built the team around Rondo to utilize in their roster-building with Wall. While I doubt the Wizards will ever be able to haul in three future Hall of Famers like Danny Ainge did, the Wizards can at least try to target similar skills in Wall's supporting cast. Spacing is the biggest thing. Throughout Rondo's career, he's always had guys he could kick it out to for big shots, and so far that hasn't been the case with Wall. Drafting Bradley Beal this summer certainly helps, but they're still not there yet. Having a bigs who can knock down mid-range jumpers is nice as well. Until the Wizards traded for Nene, they really didn't have much in that department either, but that's beginning to change. The last thing the Wizards can adapt from the Celtics is having someone else on the roster who can handle the ball with some authority to explore Wall's abilities off the ball. Jordan Crawford isn't exactly the ideal candidate to be running the show to allow Wall to play off the ball, but they've done some nice work together in those roles. Hopefully with time Beal can also swap roles with Wall and be a facilitator in certain play sets to set up Wall in different ways, but that will probably take some time.
As for Wall's next step, I think it comes in learning how to take advantage control the tempo of a game better. Wall is excellent at attacking, but he's still learning how to probe into a defense and manipulate it to create mismatches and opportunities for scores like Rondo. I feel like that's what separates Rondo from Wall in terms of being effective despite their poor shooting. They both have great vision and their both extremely willing passers, but Rondo is far better at manipulating defenses into creating scoring opportunities. I don't think Wall will ever be able to quite reach Rondo's level at doing that, but as he grows he'll begin to cut into that gap.
That said, I think it's pretty remarkable how far he's been able to get (he was only one of three players to average 16 points and 8 assists last season) with no jump shot and players who don't lend themselves to finishing off assist opportunities very well. Since I have my doubts on how much that jumper will improve, I think gearing towards modeling his game after Rondo is the way to go.