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Washington Wizards: "Defense? We're Talking About Defense?"

WASHINGTON - MAY 2: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gets fouled by Antawn Jamison #4 and Brendan Haywood #33 of the Washington Wizards in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2008 NBA Playoffs at the Verizon Center on May 2, 2008 in Washington, DC. The Cavaliers won 105-88 to advance to the next round. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
ROB YOUNG SRContributor IMay 11, 2009

Watching postseason play, there is one thing that stands out that we don't see very much of in Washington—defensive stops.

Flip Saunders is the former coach of the Detroit Pistons—a team that has been known for their aggressive defensive play.

Hopefully has packaged whatever was used in Detroit and brought it with him to Washington.

Saunders must first get into the players heads. Defense is mostly desire—you have got to want to play defense. The player must have the mindset that his opponent will not score.

John Thompson, former coach of Georgetown University, made his mark with his team's smothering defense.  He has said if a player puts forth half the effort that he does on offense on the defensive side, it would make him a 200-percent better player.

The Wizards are currently stocked with scorers and role players. They presently have only two players who show a real desire to play defense, and they're both one-year players: F Dominic McGuire and C Javale McGhee.

Saunders has two immediate tasks at hand. First, he must figure out what to do about the current roster—mainly G Mike James and F Etan Thomas, whose contracts are like anvils around the teams neck.

Also, decisions must be made about players like F Oleksiy Pecherov, who has talent but just did not seem to fit in with Eddie Jordan or Ed Tapscott. Will Javaris Crittenton stick around as the back up Point Guard? Is there a place still for Darius Songailia or D. Stevenson?

And what will they do if they do not acquire the number-one pick?

Once the roster decisions are made, Day One of camp team defense and rebounding must be the priority. This team can score—they have the big three and that's what they do. But the days of just trying to outscore teams are over, because the other team's focus on defense is a a natural part of their game.

The Wizards need Ernie Grunfeld to pull off another Kwame Brown for Caron Butler type of deal. They must also make room to find a defensive-minded, rebounding power forward if they do not get the first pick—and with it, Blake Griffin.

If they do acquire Griffin, I would consider seeing what I could get for Aundray Blatche in trade while he still has some value. A front court of Haywood, Griffin, McGee is solid—and the grace period of being praised just for your "potential" is about up for Blatche.

The team must also consider making roster moves this season to put themselves in a better position for the 2010 free agent class, in which even the second-tier group is filled with starters.

Imagine adding Jason Maxiell, Brandon Bass, or Leon Powe at power forward.  Even if they don't get Griffin the Wizards would still have a formidable front line. Then they could trade down pairing Thomas's or James's bad contract with the pick and add Eric Maynor or Ty Lawson at the point guard spot, and clear some cap space.

Improving this team's defense by moving guys who don't and adding players who want to play defense is very important to making it possible for Saunders to take this team to the next level. Have them watch Boston, or even their nemesis, Cleveland—they are serious about defense.

Run-and-gun play can get you to the postseason, but once you are there things get physical.  The lay-ups you got during the regular season will not come as easily.

So you must be able to get stops. You must be able to shut down the other Lakers when you can't contain Kobe.

It's defense—yes, we're talking about defense.

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