Last season the Washington Wizards were coming from the second worst
season in franchise history, in which they had just won 19 games, but
their expectations were high as everybody expected a strong bounce back
season for team. Indeed they were one of the most talked teams during
the season, but turned out to be for the wrong reasons.
The initial plan was pretty simple: they put all the stakes together
in winning in the present! They got the 5th draft pick in the 2009
lottery, but they decided to trade it to Minnesota in exchange of Randy
Foye and Mike Miller and they were counting with a bounce back season
from Gilbert Arenas who had played 2 games in the previous season.
On paper, a starting lineup constituted by Gilbert Arenas, Mike
Miller, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Heywood would scare
some teams on a game to game basis. Plus they signed head coach Flip
Saunders who had a career track record of 587-396 – a 59.7% winning
percentage! Naturally that we all know what happened to Arenas and where
are now playing Butler, Jamison and Heywood. To make a long story
short, the Wizards ended the season playing with the following starting
unit: Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, Mike Miller, Andray Blatche and
Fabricio Oberto with JaVale McGee being the 6th man coming off the
They finished the month of April with a 4-4 record – their best
month after going 5-10; 5-10; 6-10; 5-6 and in the month of March they
hit in a wall by losing 16 consecutive games after winning the first
game of the month. Nevertheless, they were the 19th best defensive unit
in the league and surely Flip Saunders had his shares to avoid an even
more disastrous season for the organization.
2009/10 Advanced Stats:
Pace 19th 94.8
Offense 25th 101.5
Defense 19th 106.6
Rebounds 19th -0.52
Projected Depth Chart:
PG: John Wall, Kirk Hinrich
SG: Gilbert Arenas, Nick Young
SF: Josh Howard, Al Thornton
PF: Andray Blatche, Yi Jianlian, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin
C: JaVale McGee, Hilton Armstrong
The basketball Gods were in Washington this summer when they
presented them the number 1 draft pick in the name of John Wall. The
Wizards were stuck in the middle of an identity crisis, as they really
didn’t a have a direction for the future. Hardly they would be able to
attract a top player in the free agency period; their roster was
arguably the weakest roster in the league and they were stuck with
Arenas’ mammoth contract for the next years. Now they can focus in
building a team around John Wall!
Nevertheless all the spotlights won’t be focused in Wall, instead
Gilbert Arenas will demand all the attentions, as he will attempt to
bounce back from the disastrous last two years on his career and the
pathetic gunplay situation.
Note that not long time ago Arenas averaged 28.5 points, 6.0
assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.8 3pts in 2006-2007 and he really was one
of the most dangerous player in the league. The Wizards are hoping such
production for the future or else they didn’t give him a contract worth
$111 million over six years back in 2008 right? However the sample of
last season wasn’t pretty to watch. Sure that he still averaged 22.6
points and 7.2 assists per game, but by going deep in the analysis, his
production was horrible. He shot only 41.1% from the field and amongst
Point Guards no player attempted more Field Goals per game than Gilbert
Arenas last season! He also averaged 3.7 Turnovers per game – second
worst mark in the league only behind Monta Ellis!
After such terrible year will Arenas bounce back this season,
knowing that he won’t be anymore the leading Point Guard of this team?
Arenas had a 31.9 usage rate last season before he was suspended and
that just isn’t going to happen this year as John Wall will receive his
shares of touches on the offensive end so Arenas will have to adjust
into a new role: Shooting Guard!
John Wall is now the face of the franchise for the future and
probably for the present as well. Hardly in the last years no rookie was
so hyped and brings so excitement to the league than Wall was able to
originate during his freshman season at Kentucky. However, Wall has all
the tools to succeed in the NBA: a lighting-quick point guard that can
jump out of the gym and score at will while he has a tremendous feel
for the game. If there was any doubt about his level of play Wall
showed in the last Las Vegas Summer League that is simply that good as
he led all players in scoring (23.5 PPG) and assists (7.8 APG).
To compliment the backcourt the Wizards too advantage of the free
agency intensive battles and grabbed Kirk Hinrich from the Bulls for
basically nothing. Last season Hinrich bounced back from a dismal
2008-09 season by averaging a respectable 10.9 points, 4.5 assists and
1.1 steals per game. In Washington he will play a similar role as he had
in Chicago: coming off the bench and give a spark in both ends of the
floor. He is by far the best backcourt defender and he can help the
Wizards future greatly by serving as a mentor to John Wall.
The Wizards backcourt have the potential to be a really good unit,
unfortunately for the team the rest of the roster appears to be short in
quality and depth.
The Small Forward position will be filled between Josh Howard and Al
Thornton, but by tearing his ACL Howard isn’t expected to be at full
strength until midseason, so Al Thornton will earn the starting job
duty and how good this will be for the team? When you have the chance
to play almost 30 minutes per game in a time like the Clippers and
still you can’t convince them then you got a big problem and Al
Thornton will have to prove he is capable of a starting role in an NBA
Andray Blatche was the Wizards best player last season, as he took
advantage of all the missing pieces after the trade deadline and was the
team’s primary option of the offensive end. As a starter he averaged
20.8ppg, 8.2rpg and 3.5apg while shooting 48% from the field – indeed
pretty impressive numbers! While many experts are expecting Blatche to
carry over such numbers for this season I have some concerns about this.
The first alert is that he attempted 18.1 Field Goals per game as a
starter. Now with Arenas back and John Wall running the show, do you
really think that he is still going to get 19 shots per game? Also, the
Wizards simply didn’t have any expectations after the trade deadline,
so he was playing without any pressure. The scenario won’t be the same
anymore, as he is appointed as the teams’ offensive force down low, so
let’s see what he’ll do under these circumstances.
Yi Jianlian is yet to show the potential that many experts were
expecting from him. His career 40.2% FG numbers are terrible for a Power
Forward, but let’s not forget that he’s only 22 years old. He is
coming from a terrific FIBA World Championships performance, in which
he averaged 20.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, so maybe this will
be the year that Jianlian has a breakout season.
In the center position, the Wizards are hoping for JaVale McGee to
grow fast because he is still raw on the offensive end and he despite
being an energetic player, he needs to work on his defense. However his
upside is pretty good, as he impressed many his American teammates
during his short stint with Team USA and certainly he’ll have chances to
play because behind him the Wizards have Hilton Armstrong and this
isn’t a good sign for the team.
With such unbalanced roster, head coach Flip Saunders’ task is to
make his team competitive, while developing the young players and
already said that he wants his team to run more in the open court. John
Wall is the leading candidate to win the Rookie of the year award and
his chemistry with Gilbert Arenas will dictate the final outcome for the