Looking Forward: Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizards were terrible last season. Injuries to Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson derailed their season. After a woeful 1-10 start, head coach Eddie Jordan was probably unfairly fired. Interim coach Ed Tapscott apparently felt the pressure to win, as he persisted in playing vets Darius Songaila and Mike James 20 and 30 minutes a night, respectively, rather than giving more minutes to promising young players such as Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, and Javaris Crittenton. Nevertheless, Tapscott’s coaching record stands at 18-53 and the Wiz finished the season tied with the L.A. Clippers for the 2nd-worst record in the league. This netted them the 5th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.

Heading into the summer, the Wizards were in a tough spot because of the huge contracts management handed out a year prior. Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison were locked up long-term for big money and in-his-prime small forward Caron Butler was locked up till 2011. With Arenas and Jamison essentially unmovable, it made little sense to trade Butler, despite his high value. Even though most would agree that this core cannot win an NBA title, the extensions given out last summer made it too difficult to rebuild in 2009. So, they traded the fifth pick in the upcoming “weak” draft (plus Etan Thomas, Oleksiy Pecherov, and Darius Songaila) to Minnesota for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. At the time the deal was made, Washington was mostly praised – they had brought in two players who can score very well and can help them win more games right now. New hire Flip Saunders would seem like the perfect coach for this new assortment of players, given his ability to get the most out of his players on the offensive end of the court. The thing is, that #5 pick unexpectedly ended up becoming Ricky Rubio, the Spanish point guard every basketball fan has been drooling over for quite some time. This put the deal in a new light, and it left some Wizards fans asking, “What if we hadn’t extended Arenas and Jamison, what if we had drafted Rubio?” This is a very legitimate gripe and I know that I would be gutted if my team narrowly missed out on Rubio, but I still think that those in Washington have reason to be excited about next season.

With Flip Saunders coaching experienced guys like Arenas, Foye, Butler, Jamison, Haywood, Miller, and DeShawn Stevenson, the Wizards should have a deadly offense. With Blatche, McGee, Crittenton, and Nick Young, they have some young guys who have shown flashes of brilliance. The major challenge the team faces is how to develop these young guys now, as there is a lot of proven talent ahead of them in the rotation. This is especially a problem in the crowded backcourt. It seems there won’t be enough minutes for everyone, and Washington should probably think about addressing these looming chemistry issues before they come to the surface. One thing to think about would be dealing one of their young guys for a big, tough power forward who can rebound. As it stands, there are a ton of scorers on the team and not enough guys who do the dirty work or even play especially good defense.

Even if they do manage to make a minor deal like that, I don’t believe the Wizards will be in the title hunt next season. I’d be surprised if they made much noise in the playoffs, with the defensive problems they will likely have. Still, there is reason for optimism. To my eyes, this is definitely a playoff-calibre group if healthy, even though nobody’s really talking about them. They’re essentially a less-hyped Toronto Raptors right now, in that even if you’re not convinced that the franchise’s long-term plan is a great one, you have to be reasonably sure there will be a much-improved product on the floor with the season starts. Let’s just hope their main guys can stay healthy. Especially this guy, we’ve all missed him.

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5 Comments

Filed under Looking Forward, Washington Wizards

5 responses to “Looking Forward: Washington Wizards

  1. Wizards had better have some Magic up their Sleeves....

    Vittorio,

    All I’ve got to say about the Wiz is that they remind my a lot of the pre-Rose Bulls. Talented but crowded backcourt, with lots of potential and inexperience up front. The difference is they are more talented and hence have much less flexibility in the coming years, also not as Gritty (but that is partially a reflection of Skiles). Personally I think they need to make a blockuster trade, even if it means getting the short end of the stick. Their core is great fun but as you say will never win a championshiop, and that is what a true Wiz fan would want. In other words SCRAP IT!!

    Given the moves many elite teams have made, and Washingtons depth I would love to see them take advantage of a team trying to get over that hump. In my eyes Cleveland could use Mike Miller or Jameson in a big way! This could really help Washington get some flexibilility and start their rebuild sooner rather than later. I think Portland is also a potential partner looking for an upgrade at SF or PG.

    I don’t really understand the trade they made for Foye/Miller. They either plan on playing VERY small or plan to make more moves (my thinking). It just doesnt make sense to trade for those positions just to fight for time with Butler and Arenas (top two players) and Young (very promising wing).

    Until next time

  2. vittoriodezen

    Mike Miller’s contract is expiring anyway. The only way for the Wiz to completely scrap it is to dump Arenas/Jamison. Problem is, I really can’t see anyone wanting those contracts. Arenas will still be making $22 million in 2013-2014; Jamison will still be making $15 million in 2011-12. Would Cleveland even want him, at that pricetag? This is the whole conundrum with the Wizards – yes, they should have blown this thing up, but it’s too late now, with those extensions in place. Portland would have been interesting, yeah, but I’d guess Washington would have offered up Jamison for the LaFrentz contract last season.

    Yeah, the trade does marginalize Young a bit. But he could be trade bait. I would be very surprised if Young and Stevenson were still on the team by the trade deadline. I understand the move, though – Miller can play both the 2 and the 3, Foye can play at the 1 or the 2. I’m not sure which one of them will start, but I would guess right now. He should help Arenas – I see Gilbert sticking on the perimeter more than in the past, so Foye would get to penetrate and make plays, as he’s used to doing.

    …still, if I was a Wiz fan, I’d rather have Rubio.

  3. Love McGee. Still not sold on any of their other young draft picks.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Foye reacts to what is essentially a demotion.

  4. vittoriodezen

    Yep, I think McGee probably has the most potential of the bunch. Andray Blatche is really talented too, I’ve been hoping for a few years that he’d put it together.

    Foye? Well, if they’re winning, and he’s still starting, I think he’ll be happy with playing fewer minutes. We’ll see how it works out. I like his game but I don’t really think he’s the type of guy you want to be your #2 or even #3 option. This could be a really good fit.

  5. Pingback: Looking Forward Roundup « Vittorio De Zen's Fast Break

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