Washington Wizards Season Rests On a Knee and a Prayer

Matthew Brown@mlb923Correspondent IOctober 19, 2009

The Washington Wizards would be wise to put last season behind them as the team suffered through one of the worst seasons ever in their storied history.

After four straight playoff appearances from 2004 to 2008, the Wizards fell from grace in big way.

Gilbert Arenas, the outspoken but explosive star, has seen very little time on the court following a knee injury that required three surgeries and stole two seasons from the man and the team.

This season, however, the Wizards are about more than just one man.

New coach Flip Saunders came in to Washington with his work cut out for him. He had to juggle the returns of Arenas and Brendan Haywood, as well as work in the rest of the returning roster and the new additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye.

History has shown that Saunders is capable of leading teams to the postseason, and Wizards fans hope history repeats itself in that regard.

With a wealth of talent at their disposal, the Wizards garnered praise in an NBA poll which saw them taking the most votes for the most improved team in the league. While that honor is a good sign for the team, it comes down to how they bring it all together on the court.

The amount of depth the Wizards have is a good problem to have. In the past, the team has struggled with injuries to key players that has left them limping along until that player returns.

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Depth, and not injuries, will be the difference for the Wizards this season.

There are at least five players who could rotate in and out of the point and shooting guard positions, and more players that can occupy time at the forward and center spots.

It is safe to assume Arenas will demand the lion's share of minutes at point guard. The rotation at shooting guard is more interesting because of the contrast in the styles of the players at the position

DeShawn Stevenson is the best defensive option at shooting guard and holds tenure over every other player. Nick Young is coming into his own as a scorer and has some great performances from last season to make his case for ample time.

Miller could be inserted into the line-up to create a size advantage and a spike in scoring potential, as he poses the biggest three-point threat on the Wizards right now.

While Miller is better suited for the shooting guard based on his skill set, he could split time with Caron Butler, who is in sole possession of the small forward position.

Butler has been a rock for the Wizards since coming to the team from Los Angeles in the Kwame Brown trade. He has been injured off and on over the last few years, but is a great defender and solid rebounder and scorer.

Antawn Jamison is one of the best 'old guys' at the power forward position in the NBA. It is often said that he is too small to play against the sizable forwards in the league today, but his speed and veteran presence give him an advantage on the offensive end of the court.

The center position is likely to be occupied by the returning Haywood, who means more the Wizards than many casual fans notice.

Haywood may not be Howard or Shaq, but his presence alone deters teams from driving into the lane and gives the Wizards another body on the boards. Behind Haywood is the sometimes bone-headed, but talent-laden Andray Blatche.

It has been reported that Blatche has taken to coach Saunders' style of coaching and showed up to camp in the best shape of his young career.

If Blatche can bring the mental aspect of his game to the same level of his physical potential and talent, he could provide valuable points, rebounds and minutes in the times when Haywood needs a rest, or the Wizards need some size at power forward.

JaVale McGee looks to be the odd man out in the rotation, but has been a great asset for the Wizards in terms of his energy and athleticism.

McGee isn't the greatest scorer, but he has a presence similar to Tyson Chandler in that he can bring in double digit rebounds and use his length to alter shots in the lane.

It isn't a question of offense but rather defense that poses the real question, especially considering the disadvantage they have in the conference.

The Wizards lack the dominant inside presence of Shaq in Cleveland or Dwight Howard in Orlando, but they have depth and a wealth of experience in their players and coaches.

With all the depth and returning players, the real test for the Wizards will be how quickly they can adapt to the system coach Saunders runs.

Following one of the biggest let downs in team history, the Wizards have nowhere to go but up. The 2009-2010 season could be a surprise for a lot of people, including fans and the Eastern Conference at large.