Editor's Note: This article has been in the hopper for quite a while, but with the Arenas trade and all the other nonsense that has happened with the team as of late, it took a a backseat. As such, it might read as a rebuttal to Bullet Nation in Exile's article about Flip Saunders. It is not. I want to thank Stop N' Pop from Canis Hoopus for his input.
Earlier in the season, before the wheels fell completely fell off the wagon, a poster made an interesting reference that I believed bore more though; that Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee were basically incompatible on the court and to play both of them together at the same time basically negated that either brought to the court. Further mention was made that the Wizards now find themselves in the same situation as the Timberwolves did last year with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love in that they possess two dynamic post players who could not be on the court at the same time due to both player's defensive deficiencies.
From reading through our sister blog Canis Hoopus (a must read by the way), the general gist or the argument was that neither player allowed the other enough space to do the things that make them valuable on the basketball court. Kevin Love could not be the defensive rebounding machine that he has become because Al Jefferson was taking up all the space in the middle. Further, Al Jefferson went from being a can't miss breakout player to being perceived as a player who needed touches to be effective and negated the value of other players on the court by stopping ball movement to work his post game.
If these arguments sound familiar, they resemble many of the arguments we have made vis a vis Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee this year. JaVale McGee can't do JaVale McGee things (jump around, block shots, act like a menace) with a poor defending PF who who can't clean up his mistakes. Blatche's game is inhibited in the same way in that his defensive liability is further exposed by having a risk taking center on the court with him at the same time, which magnifies his mistakes in a perhaps unfair manner.
Now does the comparison make any sense? The general consensus is that Al Jefferson needed to be shipped out of town to allow Kevin Love to become "30 rebound" Kevin Love. Having not watched much of the T-pups, I asked the same question of Stop N' Pop, the editor of Canis Hoopus to get his take on the situation. He also has watched a lot of Flip Saunders having followed the period when Flip coached the team. His answer, following the jump was extremely interesting.
Stop N' Pop's answer:
A few weeks back, John Hollinger had a very interesting item in one of his chats:Kerry (Dallas) – If you could give the T-wolves organization three pieces of advice, what would they be?
John Hollinger (2:45 PM) – How about one piece for now — bad franchises tend to focus on their best players’s weaknesses. All you heard Minnesota talk about last year was how Al Jefferson couldn’t move, and now you hear the same thing about how Kevin Love can’t defend. Kind of like the things we heard about Pau Gasol in Memphis. The problem isn’t Love or Jefferson, it’s that they’re stuck on a bad team …
Kevin Love and Al Jefferson were the Timberwolves' best two players by a long shot. While it is easy to get lost in definitions of "fit" and "upside", it is similarly as easy to forget about the basic fact that the Wolves--a 15-win team near the bottom of the league--chose to jettison one of their two above-average players in order to "improve". There has been a lot of buzz this season about Love's "fit" with the team, currently sitting there with only 4 wins. Should he be moved for a better "fit", the Wolves will be the only bottom-dwelling team in recent memory that I can think of to get rid of their two best players in consecutive seasons in the name of improvement. Chances are, such an approach will only serve to guarantee them and their fans a couple more years of hoping for luck with lottery balls. Meanwhile, Al Jefferson is somehow finding a way to co-exist with the Love-sized Paul Milsap.Good players are good players are good players and if Blatche and McGee are good players, that should be the end of the story for a franchise like the Wiz. I have long had a theory that getting a team to 45-55 wins requires front office competency while anything more requires luck. The Wizards appear to have been blessed with a great deal of luck with the arrival of John Wall. They now need to pray to the Gods of competency in order to surround him with as many good players as possible. If the Wiz are lucky enough for him to be the real deal, fit will matter about as much as Ricky Rubio does to the current play of my favorite squad.My advice for Wizards fans is to forget about the long run. Worry about the birds you have in hand and forget about the ones in the bush. Are Blatche and McGee above average NBA players? Teams like the Wiz and Wolves shouldn't worry about fit or implementing systems. They should be worried about building a culture of winning along with collecting as many above average players as possible. Unfortunately for both organizations, they appear to have coaches who are tied to a relatively static (and stubborn) type of play.Instead of being Iron Chefs who can roll with the punches and create a fine dish out of whatever nonsensical groceries are placed in front of them, Flip and Rambis are more like short order cooks--guys who will try to pump out burgers and shakes no matter if they are provided with ground beef or eggplant.
So it's not the players as much as it is the system. The question that I want to pose to all of you is what is to be done about this situation. To continue to use S N' P's metaphor, the Wizards have hired a French Chef and presented him with Szechuan Pepper and a blowfish and asked him to make a souffle. One may get a souffle at the end of the day, but it is doubtful that the result would be something that anyone would want to consume. However, it is hard to place the blame on either the Chef or the ingredients. Saunders is going to keep trying to make that souffle, because that is all he knows how to make.