Bouncing Back: Washington Wizards Season Preview
19-63; 5th in Southeast Division, 15th in Eastern Conference
Scored 96.1 points per game
Allowed 103.5 points per game
Mike Miller (via trade), Randy Foye (via trade), Fabricio Oberto (via free agency)
Juan Dixon (via free agency), Etan Thomas (via trade), Oleksiy Pecherov (via trade), Darius Songalia (via trade)
PG: Gilbert Arenas/Randy Foye/Javaris Crittenton/Mike James
SG: Mike Miller/Nick Young/DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Caron Butler/Dominic McGuire/Mike Miller
PF: Antawn Jamison/Andray Blatche/JaVale McGee
C: Brendon Haywood/JaVale McGee/Fabricio Oberto
Eddie Jordan was let go just 11 games into his sixth season with the ball club after a 1-10 start to the season. The Wizards were hit hard by injuries and were missing their starting point guard, shooting guard, and center from the previous season in Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson, and Brendon Haywood respectively.
The Washington Wizards finished dead last in the Eastern Conference with an abysmal record of 19-63 last season. They were the only team in the Eastern Conference that did not manage to win 30 games.
Normally when a team is coming off of such a terrible season expectations are virtually nonexistent.
However, that is not the case with the Washington Wizards.
The Wizards spent basically all of last season without their franchise point guard, Gilbert Arenas.
Arenas missed the majority of the season for the second straight year with knee problems, but according to various reports, Agent Zero is fully healthy for the first time in years.
When Arenas is at his best he is one of the most prolific scoring guards in the entire NBA.
He may not be your prototypical point guard that looks to set up his teammates first and foremost, but you cannot deny how talented Arenas is.
He is a dynamic offensive player that can hurt you in a variety of ways. He has a very good jumper, albeit somewhat streaky. He is more than capable of creating his own shot off of the dribble and is good at getting to the free throw line.
Arenas is just an all around threat on the offensive end of the floor.
Joining Arenas are his two old running mates, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.
Last season these two were thrown into the role of franchise players and that simply does not suit their style of play. Both of them are fantastic players that have made multiple All-Star appearances in their careers, but they are better suited as second options.
Having Arenas back in the lineup will allow them to become the excellent complimentary players that both of them are.
This trio was one of the best in the NBA just a few seasons ago, but injuries have prevented them from playing any sort of extended minutes together since then. With Arenas back healthy, these three players look to remind everybody why they were so highly regarded as a trio.
Another major player for the Wizards is returning from injury this upcoming season, and that is starting center Brendan Haywood.
When Haywood was out of the lineup last season it really opened up many people’s eyes as to just how important he is to the success of the Wizards. He is a good interior defender that will get after it on the glass as well.
When he was out of the lineup it really hurt the Wizards down low and opposing teams took advantage of the lack of interior defense without him.
The Wizards biggest move this offseason was when they acquired Mike Miller and Randy Foye from the Minnesota Timberwolves just prior to the NBA Draft.
Mike Miller is a veteran shooting guard that does a fantastic job of spreading the floor. He had an off year last season in Minnesota, but everybody knows that he is a dangerous shooter, and with all of the attention that Arenas, Jamison, and Butler will draw, it will lead to a lot of good looks for Miller.
What Miller doesn’t get a lot of credit for however is his all-around game. He is capable of creating for himself as well as his teammates and is more than just a shooter on offense.
Randy Foye will give the Wizards an explosive scoring combo guard off of the bench. He is stuck in between the one and the two position as he is somewhat of a tweener, but he is a dangerous offensive player.
With his ability to shoot the rock, drive into the paint, create for himself, and his all around offensive ability, Foye may end up becoming one of the best sixth men in the entire NBA.
Both of these two players are dangerous offensive threats and should fit right in with the Wizards system.
The other move that Washington made was signing free agent center Fabricio Oberto to a contract.
Oberto most likely won’t get many minutes this season as this signing was for insurance more than anything else, but he is a very good fifth big man to have off of the bench.
He is a solid veteran that knows his role on the team and doesn’t force anything. He is a decent defender that does a good job of getting under opponents skin.
Washington has a plethora of perimeter depth on the roster which is headlined by some very talented young players.
The already mentioned Foye will be a focal point on this team, but they also have the highly athletic Nick Young, the talented Javaris Crittenton, the rugged Dominic McGuire and the defensive oriented DeShawn Stevenson off of the bench as well.
Having this kind of depth must comfort Wizard fans around the world as they have a pretty extensive past when it comes to injuries.
To go along with their young talent on the perimeter, they also have two very skilled young big men in JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche.
McGee was the Wizards first round pick from last season and he is a very athletic big man with an intriguing upside.
He has tremendous length to go a long with his athleticism and that makes for an interesting defensive prospect. His overall game is still very raw though and needs a lot of polishing up.
As for Blatche, he is one of those big men that you always find yourself thinking “this is his year”. He has the athleticism, skill, and length to be a good power forward in the league. He also has those moments that make you think he has finally put it all together.
Will this be the year that he finally brings a consistent effort night in and night out? I am sure that Wizard fans hope so.
The Wizards are also heading into the season with a brand new coach as Flip Saunders is taking the reins behind the bench.
Saunders has experienced a lot of success in his coaching career.
He coached the Timberwolves to eight straight playoff appearances including one trip to the Western Conference Finals.
He also coached the Pistons to three straight Eastern Conference Finals during his three years in Detroit. Saunders looks to continue to make playoff appearances as he begins his tenure in Washington.
Despite the fact that the Wizards finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference last season, there is a lot of optimism heading into the 2009/2010 season. They are completely healthy for the first time in the past two seasons, they added talent to the perimeter with the acquisition of Miller and Foye, their young players are more mature and experienced, and they have a brand new coach that seems to be a very good fit with the roster.
All of these signs point to the Wizards regaining their playoff form, but will they be able to avoid the injury bug in order to do so? We will soon find out!
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