"LeBron James does it again, he has taken out the Washington Wizards!"
These are the highlights that have defined the Washington Wizards this decade. From calling one of the league's elite as overrated to hearing Jay Z diss an entire team, we witnessed it all. From crab dribbles to game winners, from Cleveland, Ohio to the Nation's Capital, from Deshawn Stevenson to LeBron James, if there's one thing fans in D.C recognize, it's humiliation.
"The Washington Wizards are the dumbest team of all time."
"Put this one in the books, the Cavaliers have defeated the Washington Wizards."
"Another year, another playoff exit for the Washington Wizards."
D.C. sports has not witnessed a championship since Joe Gibbs first tenure as Head Coach of the Washington Redskins in 1987. The Wizards alone have not won a Championship since Dick Motta was the Head Coach.
We have had 5 non-playoff seasons, 3 first round exits, and 1 second round exit this decade. Losing has been too relevant in D.C, but as our President once stated, If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.
In the 2006-2007 season, the Wizards achieve first place in the East by the all-star break with their star trio of Arenas, Butler, and Jamison. However, about 10-15 games in the second half and of the season Arenas and Butler get injured and the team plummets without its two best players to the 7th seed with a record of 41-41. Eventually they get swept in the first round against none other than the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In 2007-2008 season, Arenas tries to comes back far too early from a micro-fracture surgery because it was his contract year and is gone in 13 games. However the improved play from Butler, Jamison, and Haywood plus the passing of Daniels gets the team to 43 wins, with the East very weak, we’re able to grab 5th seed. Haywood averaged 11 and 7 on a 58%TS while being one of the better defenders at the C position. Stevenson shoots 38% 3pt from three while taking 5 per game and becomes one of the better defensive stoppers in the league. This team takes the Cavaliers to 6 games, but ended up losing a controversial series which featured the likes of Jay Z and Soulja Boy, along with many on the court altercations.
In the 2008-2009 season, Haywood goes down with an injury in 6 games, and Stevenson battles a bad back and ankle for 32 games until he calls it quits. Antonio Daniels is traded for Mike James to cut cost, and the team goes into tanking mode, leaving Jamison and Butler with three solid players which have potiential in Nick Young, JeVale McGee, and Andray Blatche. Our genius interim coach, Ed Tapscott, felt these players only deserved 22, 15, and 24 minutes respectively, despite the fact that outside of these three players and our remaining two stars, no one else belonged on a NBA roster.
I could care less about a few assumptions, mainly because it's a bunch of half assed assessments about a team hardly anyone watches. The Wizards have a lot of "ifs" in the equation this year but a lot people are detracting from the Wizards on equally big "ifs" (as if that's really different than any other team). Yes, if they're going to succeed, they need Arenas to be healthy, and for young players like Blatche, Young, McGee, McGuire (how do I know that people don't pay attention to the Wizards, it's because McGuire's never mentioned, if they did pay attention, it'd be readily clear to anyone that McGuire is going to make a strong push for rotation minutes next season), and Crittenton to take the next step in their development to really be a factor making a strong push for the playoffs. But even then, they still have a relatively veteran team with Jamison, Butler, Haywood, and Miller there, along with a veteran coach (which will take good bit less adjusting than hiring a completely new coach), so they'll be able to score. And while their relative lack of defense might be a problem in the playoffs, it really isn't going to hurt them as much in the regular season as one might think.
The 42-40 record is a misnomer (which I've pointed out before) because the team as a whole wasn't healthy for the majority of it. Not to mention it happened three seasons ago and not four (see, this season hasn't happened yet). To add on to that, the fifth seed last season won 43 games (they didn't really improve either).
The top three teams improved to varying degrees and it's arguable if the Hawks improved (I guess Jamal Crawford is an upgrade), but outside of them (and maybe the Raptors), every other Eastern Conference team is at best treading water and hoping for improvement inside the organization rather than getting something from outside.
In Arenas case, the guy went through microfracture surgery. It takes a while to come back from it, but, in recent history, players coming back to their previous level typically in two year's time, see Amare and Kidd, have returned playing at a high level. Guess how long it has been for Arenas.
Stevenson had the surgery in March so he should be ready by opening day, if he’s still not fully recuperated then we use nick Young off the bench. Stevenson was as good a shooter as Mike Miller from three, but he’s a much better defender, so expect him to play some big minutes next year.
Here’s the most probable rotation this season:
PG: Gilbert Arenas — Randy Foye — Javaris Crittenton
SG: Mike Miller — DeShawn Stevenson — Nick Young
SF: Caron Butler — Dominic McGuire
PF: Antawn Jamison — Andray Blatche
C: Brendan Haywood — JaVale McGee — Fabricio Oberto
Stevenson, Butler, and Haywood are at least good defenders and Jamsion and Arenas offensive production more than makes up for whatever liabilities they may be on the defensive end easily, which are seriously overrated. All the bench players except for Miller and Young are good defenders and you can bet Young will get better simply to keep his job. The defense would only have to be average to win 50-55 games.
Offensively this team will be an absolute nightmare to defend. A healthy Arenas and Butler form one of the great perimeter scoring duos.
Again before micro-fracture Arenas put up 29 on a 58 TS percent in 05-06 and 28 on a 57 TS percent. Caron the third option just put up 21 on a 55 TS percent. The second option Jamison put up 22 on 55 percent TS.
At the pace Washington plays I don’t think these numbers would drop that much. Stevenson and Miller prevent helping by being such good shooters. Haywood as well considering he scores on 11 a 58 percent TS.
The Wizards offense (or the way Saunders has traditionally ran his offense) doesn't rely on one single playmaker to do all the work in the vein of the Jazz or the Hornets, so you don't have to worry about having one designated playmaker as long as you have a number of players who can spread the ball.
And they lost size in the trade, but Thomas and Pech didn't play at all, and really the Wizards had to get rid of Songaila if they wanted to develop McGee and Blatche further. None of the pieces they gave are is any big loss to what they got.
If this team is healthy, the question isn’t will this team make the playoffs it’s how far this team goes in the playoffs.