Six lessons from the Wizards' preseason

Real quick, because the season starts tomorrow and there's so much season preview goodness to get to:

1.  Mike Miller needs to be put in a position to succeed:

I can't even begin to imagine the type of wear and tear that an athlete gets from carrying some pretty awful teams through some pretty awful seasons, so Mike Miller certainly has every reason to be a passive, complimentary player.  But when that means he stops shooting and instead is content to stand around on the wing, then it starts to get to the point where he's hurting the team.  We've seen both extremes this preseason from Miller.  We've seen times when he has fired away, and the rest of his all-around game comes as well.  We've also seen times where he's been fearful to shoot, and the rest of his game suffers.  For the Wizards to get the most out of Miller this season, they need to run some plays with him that are designed to end with him shooting the damn ball.  They need to put him in a position to make plays, because Miller sure as hell won't seek them out as much as he should.

2.  Gilbert Arenas is getting his rhythm back, but his health is fine

Well, except for his immune system, which didn't do enough to stave off the flu.  However, his knee has held up quite well while playing more minutes than even Flip Saunders may have liked.  He's also played a back-to-back set and didn't show any ill effects from the knee.  What Arenas has lost, however, is some of his rhythm.  He's dominated some quarters and disappeared in others.  He's spent some quarters taking it hard to the basket and others flinging away from the perimeter.  He's spent some quarters only passing and others only shooting.  He hasn't yet put it all together, but the signs are there.  Once he gets some games in him, I think he'll be on point.

3.  The defense showed flashes, but isn't there yet

The overall numbers aren't too awful -- 44.6% shooting, 36.8% on threes, outrebounded by about four per game -- which is a major plus.  The Wizards' defense did look very good against Philadelphia, in particular.  But there are still too many lapses that cause mediocre defense.  The rebounding thing was definitely a problem until late in the season, and you still see the same old habits from several of the key players on the team (Gilbert Arenas leaving his man, Caron Butler playing the passing lanes instead of preventing dribble penetration, Andray Blatche fouling).  Overall, though, Flip Saunders' club did play fairly well on that end and may continue to do so as long as Fabricio Oberto and Blatche take most of Antawn Jamison's minutes.

4.  Randy Foye needs to play more off the ball

Ironically, it's not the assists that are the problem -- Foye has 3.1 to just 1.6 turnovers -- it's the shooting.  Foye's hitting under 40 percent of his shots this preseason, and has nailed just 8 of 24 threes.  The problem, of course, is that, in running the point guard position, Foye's calling his own number a lot, which leads to a lot of contested shots.  If Foye could just get some time letting others create the opportunities for him, he'd be much more efficient.  The Wizards can survive 6-8 minutes of Mike James if it means giving Foye a chance to get more open looks. 

5.  Fabricio Oberto can still play

Kyle's got a really great feature story on Oberto, who really came on after the first couple games.  I'm not sure how many minutes he can give during the course of the season, but despite putting up some awful individual numbers, Oberto definitely improves the productivity of his teammates when he's on the court.  His fundamentals are key in Saunders' defensive system in particular, which focuses so much on denying dribble penetration, forcing teams to beat you from the outside and sealing off your man in proper box out position.  If this Oberto is the Oberto we get all year, he easily makes up for the loss of Darius Songaila.

6.  Nick Young missed his chance

It's no fault of his own, really.  Young looked ready to make a case for major minutes, and his failure didn't come out of a lack of effort.  But 35% shooting with basically no assists will bury you on a team with so many other shooting guard options.  Again, I don't think Young did anything wrong.  Sure, he couldn't shed his "gotta make my first few shots otherwise I get too down on myself to continue" mindset, but the real problem was that the guys in preseason were better than the guys in Summer League.  Young had more guys trailing him properly on those screens, more guys who could properly contest his shot and more guys who could really attack him on defense.  Frankly, it overwhelmed him.  Assuming he is out of the rotation, it becomes time to wonder whether he needs to be moved to bring in another veteran piece, preferably up front. 

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