Gilbert Arenas is an enigma in Washington, DC. We don't know what to say about him. Before, it was that he was a great shooter but a ball hog. Then it became he's stealing money from the Wizards because of his injuries. Now, he's the second coming of the Messiah, and the Wizards actually play competitive basketball when he's in the lineup.
Wait. Could that be a problem?
As of my writing this, the Wizards are a half game ahead of the Sacramento Kings in the overall league standings. That means the Wizards are a half game behind the Kings in the race for the most ping pong balls, and potentially the first pick in the draft.
Could Gilbert Arenas cause the Wizards more harm than good this season?
Not really, and last year is proof of that. Chicago got the first pick in the draft even though Miami had the worst record. The whole point of the lottery is so teams don't tank on purpose in the second half of the season.
Personally, I want this team to win as many games as they can down the stretch. They don't need Blake Griffin. They don't need any more youth.
In fact, I think they should make a deal with whatever draft choice they end up with to pick up an established veteran center or shooting guard. They already have youth, the Wizards need experience.
As Arenas told the Washington Post last week, "Eventually when you have enough projects, you live in the 'hood."
That is precisely the reason why the Wizards find themselves with their sixth 60-loss season in franchise history. When role players become starters, your team is usually doomed.
Nick Young? Great shooter coming off the bench. Darius Songallia? A force when he wants to be, as was evidenced by his performance against the Cavaliers. Andre Blatche? An underrated sixth man.
Should any of them be starting? No.
The starting five heading into last year's playoff series was Arenas, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison, and Haywood. Four of those five are the best of their position on the Wizards' roster. Stevenson is the only one who could conceivably be replaced by the time the 2009-2010 season starts in October.
Stevenson is a good defender but, as a shooting guard, he is awfully inconsistent. He can go from 9-for-13 from the field to 1-for-13; you never really know what to expect.
The problem is that when looking at his potential replacements, it's hard to be inspired. Dominic McGuire, listed as a power forward, passed up several open shots against Miami Saturday night, or hesitated and the shot was off. It resulted in six points off a 2-for-6 shooting effort.
Juan Dixon, the team's only other veteran shooting guard, went 1-for-5 for five points.
Nick Young will be that player before too long, but he's not there yet, and won't be for another year or two.
Brendan Haywood was underrated last season, and that was made very clear by his absence this season. Against Miami, he had a strong 18-point, 12-rebound performance. He's an adequate center, but there may be other options on the trading block come draft time.
Above all else, this team needs confidence in itself. The roster they have can win if they're healthy. Adding more youth is not going to get this team to the finals or even the second round of the playoffs. If they can win a few more games before the season's over, that's fine.
The Wizards can win out and still get the No. 1 pick; that's just how the lottery works. If they get it, great, they can get an elite college player. If not, fine. They don't need it.