Few things grind my gears more than when I hear the criticism that the Wizards have committed to the same core rotation that has never won more than 45 games and advanced deep into the playoffs. In the first place, it's lazy analysis, but worse yet, it's wrong.
Yes, there have been mainstays in key spots. Gilbert Arenas has always been on the roster, though not necessarily in the main rotation because of injuries. Eddie Jordan has always been the coach. We have always run the Princeton offense. Antawn Jamison has always been the glue guy.
But that doesn't mean the roster has always been the same. Anyone want to guess how many members of that 2005 team are still on the roster only four years later? The answer is four. The only guys left are Arenas, Jamison, Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas. Otherwise, the entire roster is guys acquired after 2005. That hardly strikes me as long-term roster stability.
But fine, let's say that we're talking about a shorter time period. Instead of measuring the names on the roster, though, wouldn't it make more sense to see whether the rotation itself has stayed the same over a certain time period?
The tables below are as follows: The far left column is the most-used 10-man rotation of the previous season, using the most-used starting lineup, per Basketball Reference, and ranking the five bench players by minutes played. The second column is 10-man rotation at the end of the previous season, using the first five spots for the starters of the last game and ranking the bench guys by minutes played in the last game. The third column is the 10-man rotation to start the next season, using the first-game starters and the bench guys who received the most minutes in that game. The fourth column is the same as the first, except for the end of the next season, while the fifth column is the same as the second, except for the next season.
|Position||Most-used 04/05||Last game 04/05||First game 05/06||Most-used 05/06||Last game 05/06|
|PG||Gilbert Arenas||Gilbert Arenas||Antonio Daniels||Gilbert Arenas||Gilbert Arenas|
|SG||Larry Hughes||Larry Hughes||Gilbert Arenas||Caron Butler||Caron Butler|
|SF||Jared Jeffries||Jared Jeffries||Jared Jeffries||Jared Jeffries||Jared Jeffries|
|PF||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamsion||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamison|
|C||Brendan Haywood||Brendan Haywood||Brendan Haywood||Brendan Haywood||Brendan Haywood|
|Bench1||Jarvis Hayes||Juan Dixon||Caron Butler||Antonio Daniels||Antonio Daniels|
|Bench2||Kwame Brown||Michael Ruffin||Jarvis Hayes||Jarvis Hayes||Michael Ruffin|
|Bench3||Etan Thomas||Anthony Peeler||Chucky Atkins||Etan Thomas||Etan Thomas|
|Bench4||Michael Ruffin||Steve Blake||Etan Thomas||Michael Ruffin|
|Bench5||Juan Dixon||Michael Ruffin||Donnell Taylor|
Right away, we see at least a decent amount of turnover. The shooting guard spot, in particular, was in flux, thanks to Larry Hughes' departure. When the 2005/06 season started, the Wizards went with an AD/Gil backcourt, but by the time the season ended, Caron Butler had firmly established that spot.
Granted, the starting frontcourt spots remained the same in each exercise, but look at the changes in the reserve spots. When the 2004/05 season ended, Jarvis Hayes and Etan Thomas were injured and Kwame Brown was suspended, forcing new guys to occupy key rotation spots in the playoffs. Then, after Dixon, Peeler and Blake left, the starting 2005/06 bench included two new faces in Butler and Atkins. By the end of the 05/06 year, though, Atkins was waived, Hayes was injured again and Donnell Taylor was out of the rotation. What began as a 10-man rotation dwindled to an 8-man group by the playoffs, and that might as well have been a six-man group because Ruffin and Etan didn't get many minutes in the playoffs.
How about the next season?
|Position||Most-used 05/06||Last game 05/06||First game 06/07||Most-used 06/07||Last game 06/07|
|PG||Gilbert Arenas||Gilbert Arenas||Gilbert Arenas||Gilbert Arenas||Antonio Daniels|
|SG||Caron Butler||Caron Butler||DeShawn Stevenson||DeShawn Stevenson||DeShawn Stevenson|
|SF||Jared Jeffries||Jared Jeffries||Caron Butler||Caron Butler||Jarvis Hayes|
|PF||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamison|
|C||Brendan Haywood||Brendan Haywood||Etan Thomas||Brendan Haywood||Etan Thomas|
|Bench1||Antonio Daniels||Antonio Daniels||Antonio Daniels||Antonio Daniels||Andray Blatche|
|Bench2||Jarvis Hayes||Michael Ruffin||Jarvis Hayes||Jarvis Hayes||Darius Songaila|
|Bench3||Etan Thomas||Etan Thomas||Brendan Haywood||Etan Thomas||Roger Mason|
|Bench4||Michael Ruffin||Michael Ruffin||Darius Songaila||Calvin Booth|
|Bench5||Donnell Taylor||Andray Blatche||Donnell Taylor|
Here is where we first see injuries significantly altering the state of the rotation. It's not even necessary to note the striking contrast between the rotation in the last 2007 playoff game and the most-used 2006/07 rotation. Beyond that, though, the Wizards entered the season with three out of their starting five positions occupied by someone who didn't have that spot in 2005/06 (Stevenson at SG, Butler at SF, Etan at C). Then, in the middle of the season, you see Songaila and Blatche emerge on the bench rotation to occupy new spots. Clearly, 2006/07 saw a lot of changes in the rotation.
Finally, let's look at this past year. I'm adding a seventh column to correspond with the projected rotation of the first game in 2008/09
|Position||Most-used 06/07||Last game 06/07||First game 07/08||Most-used 07/08||Last game 07/08||Projected 08/09|
|PG||Gilbert Arenas||Antonio Daniels||Gilbert Arenas||Antonio Daniels||Antonio Daniels||Gilbert Arenas|
|SG||DeShawn Stevenson||DeShawn Stevenson||DeShawn Stevenson||DeShawn Stevenson
||DeShawn Stevenson||DeShawn Stevenson|
|SF||Caron Butler||Jarvis Hayes||Caron Butler||Caron Butler||Caron Butler||Caron Butler|
|PF||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamison||Antawn Jamison|
|C||Brendan Haywood||Etan Thomas||Brendan Haywood||Brendan Haywood||Brendan Haywood||Brendan Haywood|
|Bench1||Antonio Daniels||Andray Blatche||Antonio Daniels||Roger Mason||Roger Mason||Andray Blatche|
|Bench2||Jarvis Hayes||Darius Songaila||Darius Songaila||Andray Blatche||Andray Blatche||Antonio Daniels|
|Bench3||Etan Thomas||Roger Mason||Andray Blatche||Darius Songaila||Nick Young||Darius Songaila|
|Bench4||Darius Songaila||Calvin Booth||Roger Mason||Nick Young||Dominic McGuire||Etan Thomas|
|Bench5||Andray Blatche||Donnell Taylor||Nick Young||Dominic McGuire||Oleksiy Pecherov||Nick Young|
(Full disclosure: I set the cutoff for including injured players at 20 games. If they played in more than 20 games, I included them in "most-used." That's why Jarvis Hayes was used in previous tables and Arenas wasn't in this one).
The important thing to remember here is that "status quo" shouldn't mean "same roster from the beginning of the season to the end of the season." In the case of between the beginning of 06/07 to the beginning 07/08 and the beginning of 07/08 to the beginning of 08/09, the "status quo" argument has some merit. The only major changes between 06/07 and 07/08 were on the bench, and there isn't much between the beginning of 07/08 and the beginning of 08/09.
But why should we measure "status quo" like that? Whether the Wizards began the season with similar casts is irrelevant; the important thing is how they actually played out their season. Last year, for example, the Wizards played most of the season without Gilbert Arenas and the entire season without Etan Thomas. Both those guys are back this year, so assuming health, that essentially means two new rotation guys, including one star, are new this year. If you also count Songaila, who missed the last game because of suspension, and Young, who along with Daniels replaces Mason in the rotation, that's four rotation spots where we can definitively say that the Wizards are bringing in someone new from the end of the season.
Two "new" rotation players. One "new" star. Two rotation spots altered because of the return of said players. Only four guys who have remained on the roster throughout this recent run. That doesn't sound like status quo in any sense to me.