For the second straight year, Brendan Haywood fell short of the promise he showed in his breakout 2004/05 season. For the second straight year, he fought with Eddie Jordan and feuded with Etan Thomas. Yet this year seemed even uglier than last year, as Haywood ended the year in the doghouse and on the trade block.
There's no doubt that Haywood did not take kindly to his benching at the end of the year, and there's also no doubt that he deserved to stay there in the playoffs. But was his season really that awful?
Not at all.
Haywood's advanced numbers mostly improved from 2006/07. His rebounding, in particular, was much better. He averaged 11 rebounds per 40 minutes, and his rebound rate improved by 1.2 percent. He's still not as good in that department as Etan Thomas, but he was pretty close. His shooting percentage, which dipped considerably in 05/06, approached his shooting percentage from 04/05.
But Haywood has never been about offense. For the third year in a row, the Wizards were significantly better defensively with Haywood on the floor. Haywood is not as good a rebounder as Thomas, but again, forcing misses is 4 times as important as grabbing rebounds off missed shots. Haywood's length alters shots, even if he doesn't block them.
Haywood's detractors point to his inconsistency, but as The Secret Weapon mentions, even that is a little overblown. Combine that with Haywood affordable contract, and he's a decent, if not spectacular option in the middle.
The problem with Haywood, of course, is his attitude. Even when he was playing well, he often needed to be benched to give him a wakeup call. Eddie Jordan has done this successfully in the past, but you can't keep using the same trick over and over again. When Eddie tried to do it again this year, Haywood snapped and was never the same player. It's hard to say who was at fault in that situation, but Eddie probably should have known he couldn't keep using the same remedial tactic over and over again.
Now, Haywood and Jordan's relationship is likely beyond repair, which is a real shame. It's not that Haywood's a better center than Etan Thomas; he really isn't. But on this defensive-challenged team, Haywood carries more value.
There are two options here. One is to trade him away, because even if he does stay, he won't play to his full potential. This makes sense because a sulking Haywood drags down the entire team, as it did late in the season. This doesn't make sense because, with Haywood's small contract, it's unlikely any trade will yield a true impact player, and he's worth too much on the open market for the Wizards to simply trade him for a bag of balls.
The other option is to keep him, tell Eddie to figure it out, and give him the starting job back. This makes sense because the Wizards would be keeping their best defensive player after losing two good ones in Jeffries and Hughes the last two offseason. This doesn't make sense because the inevitable benching will happen, and Haywood will react even worse than he did this year.
Clearly, this is an incredibly difficult decision for Ernie Grunfeld. Personally, I'd rather have Haywood stay, but I can understand either side. Ideally, he'd stay and Eddie would leave him alone, but I doubt that happens, and I doubt that would even work. I'm worried this situation is beyond repair, but at the same time, I feel awfully uncomfortable trading away the best defensive player on a team ranked 28th in the league in defensive efficiency.
Besides, if he is traded, who becomes the new Wizard in an Eastern Motors Commercial?
You guys think it's time for Haywood to move on? If you were in Ernie's shoes, what would you do?