The eminent return of Gilbert Arenas after two injury plagued seasons, has Wizards fans understandably excited about the up coming season.
Any why not?
Before he got hurt, Arenas was a bonafide 28 ppg player. A legitimate contender for leading scorer in the league, and without question, one of the best scoring PG's in the league.
But, for having such a high powered player leading the team, have the Washington Wizards really enjoyed all that much success?
Washington stormed backed into post season play in 2004-05 after a seven season absence in Arenas fourth year. The result was a 47-35 season, which led many to believe Washington was one of the east's up and coming team.
The next 2 seasons disappointed.
Even with Arenas burning up the league with his scoring, the Wiz ended around the .500 mark, followed by an early first round exit.
The 2007-08 season was marginally better, even though Arenas was hurt for most of it. The result was another first round exit for former coach, Eddie Jordan's Wizards.
With Arenas watching from the bench all of last season, the wheels fell off completely, resulting in the worst season since 2000-01. The only good news was the resulting high draft pick that Wizards management turned into Mike Miller and Randy Foye.
Looking around the league, there are other teams that use score first PG's (not as good as Arenas) and enjoy considerable success. Washington has good players in Antwan Jamison and Caron Butler to support Arenas. There is still enough talent here to be a very good team.
So what is difference between a Wizards team that relies on a scoring point guard, and other successful teams using that model?
The Orlando Magic rely on Jameer Nelson at the point. Nelson has a career average of 12 ppg and 4.5 assists. He was given All-Star consideration last season, in part at least, because of the success of his team.
But would the Magic have been as successful if Hedo Turkoglu wasn't providing five apg for the past two seasons?
The Cleveland Cavaliers brought in Mo Williams to be a scoring point guard.
Last year, Mo only averaged four assists per game as the Cavs led the league with 66 wins. Mo was an All-Star. Apparently, your point guard doesn't need to create much if you have Lebron dishing out seven apg.
So what changed following that 2004-05 season?
In the Wizard's best season, 2004-05, Gilbert Arenas was good for 25.5 ppg, but only 5.1 apg. Fortunately, the team had Larry Hughes' 4.7 apg to provide some balance to the play-making. Sure, Hughes was a big time scorer too, but every team needs to share the ball at least some of the time, and Hughes provided that.
Larry Hughes turned that good season into a big free agent contract with the Cavs. And, in what shouldn't have been a surprise, never really fit in as the Cavs already had their play-making wing player.
During the next couple of seasons in Washington, Antonio Daniels stepped in to provide 3.6 apg. Apparently, not enough, despite Arenas' amazing point production. Then, in the year Arenas goes down, Daniels and Butler step it up to 4.8 and 4.9 apg respectively, and the team enjoys its best result's in three seasons.
Last season, Daniels departed after 13 games and Mike James replaced him.
Entering 2009-10, the encouraging news is that Mike Miller could be that complementary wing player for Arenas' game.
In 2 of his last 3 seasons, Mike Miller averaged 4.3 and 4.5 apg. He is also an excellent rebounder and can be an effective scorer.
There is always a litany of reasons or excuses as to why a team doesn't perform up to expectations. But basketball is a team game, and teams that can't provide balance to their game will be expected to struggle. Washington just may have improved the balance of their team enough with the new acquisitions.
So, if Arenas can bring his scoring touch back to Washington; and Mike Miller can fit in with his new teammates and share the ball; and Caron Butler can keep his new found 4+ apg stat going; then, Washington can once again be that dangerous team they were five short seasons ago and return to the playoffs.