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Nets 113, Wizards 101

In the last two years, the Wizards are now 0-7 when Caron Butler doesn't play.  But how exactly Butler's loss impacts the Wizards is more complex than it seems.  Conventional wisdom probably says that stat occurs because Butler is the only guy who provides toughness and grit to the team on both ends of the court.

Of course, this blog is defined by its constant quest to debunk or complicate conventional wisdom, so I'm not going to accept that reality at face value.  

What exactly do the Wizards lose without Butler?  To put it simply, Butler the only player that produces independently of Gilbert Arenas.  His loss means the Wizards really have only one way to score, and that is to give Arenas the ball, isolate him, and let him create opportunities for himself and his teammates.  

But considering this, why would the loss of Butler be so significant?  If Butler's production occurs independently of the rest of the team, wouldn't the rest of the team continue to produce without him?

The reason that it doesn't is because, without Butler, the Wizards offense suddenly becomes so predictable.  Arenas now has to be the centerpoint, and everyone else has to respond only to him.  Stop Arenas, and you stop the Wizards offense.  Those double-teams that we never saw earlier in the year are returning, and unless DeShawn Stevenson or Jarvis Hayes are having a good shooting night, they're going to work.  

And herein analyzes the very problem with this team.  It's not that there's such a huge dropoff from the Big 3 to the rest of the team.  It's that the Big 3 all need each other to maximize their production.  Without a pure point guard or a multi-talented scorer off the bench, the Wizards offense only has two ways to create scoring opportunities.  Either isolate Arenas and let him create an opportunity, or isolate Butler and let him do the same.  Without either Arenas or Butler, the entire thing doesn't work.  

So no, it's not that the Wizards miss Butler's toughness and grit.  It's that, on a team who's offense relies so much on one-on-one play, Butler's ability to isolate is simply essential.  Without him, the Wizards offense becomes incredibly easy to corral.

When you add this all up to the Wizards' inability to defend the perimeter, you're going to get situations like tonight.  Jason Kidd and Vince Carter got far too many open looks, and the Nets were still able to score 113 points without any semblance of an interior presence.  The Wizards are still at the point where they need to win with their offense, and when their offense doesn't have one of the two essential pieces, they can't win.  I imagine if Arenas were to miss time and Butler were to play, we'd see a similar situation.

On another note, this diary really hit it on the head with Jarvis Hayes.  My biggest problem with Hayes is that he becomes so obsessed with making his shot that he loses track of every other part of the game.  It's cliche to refer to things like boxing out and setting picks as little things, but Hayes just doesn't pay attention to those parts of the game.  The ideal role for Hayes, in my mind, is for him to play the two-man game with Arenas, but as sierradave mentioned, he doesn't pay enough detail to setting the solid pick.  He also had 9 rebounds today, but many of those seemed lucky to me, where he was inexplicably in the right place at the right time.  I don't see him boxing out his man or fighting hard to work through screens on the defensive side.  

As a point of comparison, look at the difference between Hayes and DeShawn Stevenson.  Both came into the league as one-dimentional scorers who attempted too many bad, long two-point shots.  They were so obsessed with getting in rhythm with their shot that they neglected many other parts of the game.  This year, however, Stevenson has started to redefine himself.  He's playing better perimeter defense than anyone, and he's starting to take the ball to the basket.  Hayes, on the other hand, is still launching fadeaway 20-footers.  He overrates his own offensive ability, and neglects to focus on anything other than his shooting.  If Hayes were to devote more time to contributing more in other parts of the game, he would be a successful player, and the team would be so much better.

If Hayes continues to neglect the rest of his game, I'd like to see his minutes go to Roger Mason, who has put together consecutive solid games.  Mason is a player that may not be as gifted offensively as Hayes, but he doesn't control the ball as much, takes good shots, and contributes on both ends of the court.  If the Wizards are going to go small, they might as well play Mason ahead of Hayes.