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Men in the Middle

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When Etan Thomas surprisingly beat out Brendan Haywood for the starting center job in training camp, there was much speculation about the ramifications of Eddie Jordan's decision.  Jordan denied that the decision was yet another one of his subliminal wake up calls to Haywood, but if one believes Jordan's assertions that Haywood didn't have a bad training camp, it's easy to wonder why the switch was made.  Perhaps Jordan and the team were exasperated by Haywood's poor 2005/06 season in which he saw his numbers decline across the board.  Perhaps the Wizards really felt Thomas gave them a better chance to win.  But either way, it was unclear how long the change would last.

Early in the season, Thomas' energy was an asset to the Wizards.  He played out of his mind in the first quarter against Cleveland in the opener, and his style was a breath of fresh air when compared to Haywood's laboring.  Thomas swatted shots, grabbed rebounds, and looked like the Charles Oakley-like tough guy the team really needed.  In the meantime, Haywood, after letting his anger out with the infamous fight, has played solidly off the bench, and the two of them combined to be a competent center duo.  The position seemed to be stable, even while the Wizards defense was falling to new lows.  Then, Thomas went down with yet another injury against the Rockets, and Haywood was starting once again.  In his first start, Haywood had a big game against the Nuggets, going for 12 points and 13 rebounds.  He also was solid against the Heat and the Lakers before sucking like the rest of the team against Denver the other night.  

It's still unclear when Thomas is coming back, but when he does, should he start again?  More importantly, does this discussion even matter?

Personally, I'd rather see Haywood play more minutes.  Haywood gets a bad rep as a guy who doesn't try and loses concentration easily.  When contrasted with the energetic style of Thomas, Haywood looks even worse.  However, when you compare the two centers, Haywood comes ahead in most categories.  Thomas is certainly better on the defensive glass, and is arguably a better offensive center, but Haywood takes the cake in every other category.  Despite Thomas' highlight plays, Haywood is a significantly better defensive center.  His length and athleticism alters more shots than Thomas ever can, and it's no accident that the team's defensive efficiency is much better with Haywood on the floor.  As a man defender, Haywood is significantly better than Thomas, as his length and size bode well for guarding top centers.  Finally, his offensive rebounding ability is a major asset for a quick-paced team like the Wizards.  Offensive rebounds allow a potent offense like the Wizards even more chances to score, and that's a major asset.  

In the end, while the two centers compliment each other well, I'd give more time to Haywood and bring Thomas off the bench.  

Which would you do?  Who should start for this team?