A quote from A.J. Price, the Indiana Pacers rookie PG, got my attention. 'Anytime I get in there, I try to produce and show what I'm capable of doing, whether it be the end of the season or whenever,' Price said. 'Even though we don't have much to play for, we still have a lot at stake for us.' The Wiz are coming off a physically and emotionally draining couple weeks that have yet to let up. Players are trying not to be frustrated with themselves, but it's getting more and more difficult as the L's pile up. So, let's take a brief look at a few high profile instances:
- AB is establishing his bonafides as the go-to scorer, and learning how to deal with the double team without turning it over. It's been beaten to death, but his committment to improvement (the workouts with Gene Banks especially got my attention) has been inspired. At the same time, I was worried he may be trying to carry the team on his shoulders before he's ready. His perspective has been rapidly maturing. What may be at stake: Blatche's confidence in his ability to help this team win. As Brendan Haywood said, "...in Washington, we hoped we could win. [In Dallas], they expect to." These are the expectations perennial playoff teams possess, granted, but the last thing a developing talent like AB needs to feel is futile.
- What's at stake: JM's playing time two seasons from now. Yes, a lot can happen between now and then. Yes, JM has finally started hitting the gym and if he keeps it up through the offseason, we're going to see a different Kill + Mode = Cheese next year. We've seen good signs; double-doubles, Derrick Rose hesitant to drive with McGee manning the paint. But with Fabricio Oberto likely gone next year and the Wiz having cap space for the first time in recent memory points to a significant big man acquisition in 2010/11 FA. The impact of that acquisition will likely reflect Saunders' and Grunfeld's (if he is still with us) assessment of JM's progress.
- Does NY become the next Javaris Crittenton? No, I don't think he's going to pull a gun on Shaun Livingston, but becoming low salary bench ballast may be on the horizon. Being the poor man's version of an inconsistent Eddie House isn't endearing him to Flip Saunders. NY will see more playing time next season, guaranteed, but the impression of a tempermental bench scorer isn't an easy one to shake. What's at stake: NY's career.
- The majority of mock drafts thus far are relatively pointless, but they all seem to agree that the Wiz will look hard at Syracus SF Wesley Johnson and Wake Forest SF Al-farouq Aminu should they find themselves in the middle of the lottery. The Wiz have had difficulties getting to the line, and AT must consistently attack the rim to establish some breathing room for our lottery pick coming off the bench. What's at stake: AT's playing time.
- Continued from previous: this situation is drastically compounded by two factors. One (1), if the Wiz resign Josh Howard, available minutes will shrink, and Thornton's minutes likely shrink with it. Two (2), Alonzo Gee. Hard to find a Wiz fan who isn't high on him. Yes, his production has come in garbage time but we don't often see double-doubles from any Wizard not named Andray Blatche regardless of minutes. I'm excited and you should be, too. The logjam this creates at the 3 is obvious. Two possible situations occur to me. One (1), Josh Howard is not resigned. We need a positive, veteran voice in the locker room. And no coach ever complained about having too many quality players. But four at a single position is pushing it, and three quality young SF who all need playing time to continue development makes Howard a luxury. Two (2), the Wiz sign Howard and don't select a SF in the lottery. Who that makes our pick, assuming we fall in the middle of the lottery as predicted, I don't know. Demarcus Cousins, or Cole Aldrich, maybe. Plug for Vasquez in the second round... This comes down to when we want to compete, we're still years away, and I'm all for stockpiling cheap players with upside. What's at stake: young talent, the future foundation of this team. Kevin Durant will not show up to play with Josh Howard...but the team does need a strong, veteran presence on the court. I don't believe Mike Miller is capable of filling that role.
- What's at stake: the future of the PG position/Shaun Livingston's knee. I think we're all agreed Shaun Livingston is coming back next year. Beyond that, Foye is affordable...but a poor fit for Saunders' system while Boykins is a poor fit for any system. Do we pick a PG up in the draft? Livingston can't play 48 minutes, do we get him a backup, or bring him off the bench? PG is extremely thin in FA...no way does Nash leave Phoenix (no sane rebuilding team would sign him) and the best after that is...Rafer Alston? It's not likely Livingston is the PG of the future and that being said...do we use our cap space to trade for Darren Collison? The Hornets are financially choked...more on this in another post.
What's at stake for the Wiz largely concerns the rebuilding process (as it should) and what the playoffs are going to look like in 2012 (we're going, end of story). How deep we go will depend on personnel decisions, and with Grunfeld at the helm, that should be enough to give any Wizards fan pause (no surprises there).
So, this is my first post...hope I haven't made any silly/ignorant/overhashed statements, but I guess I should expect it, being a noob :)