With this season finally over, I've naturally started thinking about next season. As with all Wizard's fans, it's always about next year. So let's look at next year's Starting line up. First, let's assume that both Mike James and Etan Thomas are no longer in the Wizard's long term plans. I think that's a safe assumption. Since we don't know who the Wizards might trade for, or who they may draft - let's just look at the existing roster.
Point Guard -
Candidates: Gilbert Arenas.
I think there's very little chance that Flip Saunders will come in and change Gil to a Shooting Guard. Even if the Wizards draft a guy like Ricky Rubio, or if Javaris Crittenton makes a quantum leap; the whole team is built around Arenas as the PG. So that position is set.
Shooting Guard -
Candidates: DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Javaris Crittenton, Mike James
This position is really up in the air. We saw Caron Butler try (and fail) to play the position. We know what Nick Young brings. Dominic McGuire played a lot of SG this year, and brought some unusual and needed skills to the position. I think this choice comes down to health.
If DeShawn Stevenson is really healed from his back problems, he's a pretty good fit. He brings some assets to the Starting 5 that are sorely needed; specifically 3-point shooting and perimeter defense. He doesn't need the ball to score. He was becoming a very spot up good 3-point shooter. He plays decent perimeter defense, and he plays extremely well with Arenas.
If DeShawn can't return to his 2006-07 form (11 ppg, 40% 3-pt percentage), then Dominic McGuire should be given a shot. Dom provides excellent (although not quite elite) perimeter defense, and unusual size (6'9") for the position. He's low usage, and gets his points from open looks, and offensive rebounding. Not since ared effries have the Wizards had a really big, defensive minded perimeter player. Fortunately for McGuire, he can shoot the ball better than ared did (43% from the field). Dom's jump shot steadily improved throughout the year, and he will no doubt benefit from more work this off-season. He would also provide a defender to counter the big SG's and SF's (LeBaby) in the Eastern Conference. But he does not shoot the 3, and that would be a problem.
I think it's fair to say that Nick Young, while much improved over 2007-08, would still be a defensive liability. Nick may need another year (or two) before he cracks the starting line up. We did start to see some defensive intensity from Nick, especially in the last 2 months of the season. He had some spectacular defensive plays, and seemed genuinely to be trying on D - but there were still times when he blew assignments, or was late closing out. Nick would be best utilized by coming off the bench to provide energy and scoring. He's a high usage player and needs the ball to score; and with three other scorers in the Starting line up (Arenas, Butler and Jamison) - Nick wouldn't get enough touches to be effective.
Small Forward -
Candidates: Caron Butler, Dominic McGuire
Hands down, there's no question that Caron Butler should be the Starter at Small Forward... but just a small caveat. I liked the line up the Wizards employed during the second half of 2008-09. With Caron Butler and Dominic McGuire both in the Starting line up. Either can play SG or SF interchangably, depending on match-ups. Or Caron can play SF on Offense, where he is most effective, but guard the SG on Defense. The only problem with the Butler/McGuire SF/SF combination is that neither player is a serious 3-point threat, and I think the Wizards need a knock down 3-point shooter in the line up to spread the floor.
Power Forward -
Candidates: Antawn Jamison, Andray Blatche, Darius Songaila
I think it's safe to say that Andray Blatche has not progressed enough to take over the Starting position from a guy that just finished the season averaging 22 points and 9 rebounds and 38 minutes per game in almost a full schedule (81 games played). Antawn Jamison, once again, proved the naysayers wrong. Those that keep saying that he's too old, and that his game would eventually fall off or that he would become injury prone are WRONG AGAIN !
2005-06 he played in 82 games, averaging 40 minutes 20 points and 9 rebounds per game.
2006-07 he played in 70 games, averaging 39 minutes 19 points and 8 rebounds per game.
2007-08 he played in 79 games, averaging 39 minutes 21 points and 10 rebounds per game.
2008-09 he played in 81 games, averaging 38 minutes 22 points and 9 rebounds per game.
I think there's a pattern here.... We can just pencil Antawn Jamison into the Starting line up and assume he'll be playing around 80 games, and putting up near 20-10 numbers again next year. Perhaps eventually Blatche will progress to the point that Jamison can move to the bench, but I don't see that happening any time soon.. (if ever).
Candidates: Brendan Haywood, JaVale McGee, Oleksiy Pecherov, Darius Songaila (urp)
Brendan Haywood will be the starter. Hands down. I don't believe any further discussion is needed.
So, after all that... the only real question mark on the team right now is who will be the opening day starter at Shooting Guard. I think it should be DeShawn Stevenson, because he fills multiple needs (defense, 3-point shooting, low usage, etc...). But I'd like to hear from the rest of the Bulletsforever community - what do you think?