It's been a long day at zillions of family events for the Jewish New Year, so I'm pretty tired, but I did notice that Mr. John Hollinger issued another pessimistic prediction for our Wizards today. I've spilled tons of cyber ink trying to debunk his claims in the past, but at this point, it's not really worth the effort. I don't mean to disparage Hollinger at all by saying that (he's most certainly not a hack), but like Kelly Dwyer said earlier today, a writer that has a more negative opinion of your team than you only means that he has a different opinion that yours. It doesn't mean he's a "hater" or a bad writer by any means.
Hollinger certainly did his research on this piece, and lots of the things he wrote worry me. I'm particularly concerned about the backcourt without Arenas, which he mentioned several times and which I'll write more about tomorrow. That said, there are a few things that I can't let slide.
The quality of the Wizards' shooters is what allowed them to be such a low-turnover team the past two years: There's not as much risk of losing the ball if you don't have to dribble into traffic to get a shot off.
Not a huge fan of this point. I'll come back to this later, but while the Wizards certainly didn't shoot free throws as frequently as in years past, they still finished 11th in the league in free throws made per shot attempt. Essentially, for every 100 shots the Wizards attempted, they made 23.3 free throws (meaning they attempted even more. Granted, that same total would have placed them 21st in the league in 2007, but even without Arenas, they shot more free throws than the league median.
So Mr. Hollinger, perhaps the Wizards don't turn the ball over because they have good ballhandlers, not because they don't drive to draw fouls. Evidence from years past bears this out. In 2007, when the Wizards were sixth in the league in FTM/FGA, averaging 27.2 free throws made per 100 shot attempts, they finished second in the league in lowest turnover rate. Second! If the Wizards really had low turnover rates because they shot a lot of jumprs, then how does it follow that they turn the ball over even less when they draw more fouls?
I didn't like this deal for a number of reasons. First of all, as mentioned above, the Wizards punted on a chance to dramatically remake their team. Even failing that, they grossly overpaid. Washington actually offered Arenas a lot more than this amount, but talked him down to the $111 million figure for the good of the team.
If by "overpaid," you mean offered less annually than Golden State was ready to pay, and if by "dramatically remake their team," you mean "sign Chris Duhon or Beno Udrih for the MLE instead," then sure.
For starters, Arenas is going to miss half the season, and there's no guarantee that when he comes back he'll be the same player. (For that matter, there's no guarantee he won't need another surgery -- we've already had three false alarms on his return.)
This may sound like a good bet, but it's not a certainty. Arenas is talking about coming back by January at the latest ... that's only a third of the season. It's dishonest to put this out there like it's fact.
Heading into this season, two additional red flags stick out. First, center Brendan Haywood had a fluke-rule season a year ago -- that means we can expect his PER to dip by roughly three points from his career year of 2007-08.
Boo! This point bothered me the most. How did Haywood's PER go up? As mentioned here, mostly it was because of his improved free throw percentage and his lower turnover rate. It's true that his true shooting percentage and rebound rate were both better than his career average, but neither was a career-high. His usage rate was also the highest of his career, but it wasn't by much and there's a qualitative reason for that fact that'll manifest itself this year (the team's slower pace without Arenas, which suits Haywood better). The only areas where he abnormally stood out were free throws and turnovers. We'll see about turnovers, but are you willing to bet on Haywood's free throw percentage falling?
I didn't think so. But sure, apply a blanket "rule" without considering the specifics.
But sum it all up, and what you're left with is a team with two proven, star scorers and a lot of question marks surrounding them.
Earlier in the piece, Hollinger referred to six of these guys as making up a solid seven-man core last season (the seventh being Roger Mason), and now they're question marks? I mean, I get the age thing, but it's only one year and the group includes a young'in in Blatche and prime guys like Haywood and Stevenson. Those guys aren't the question marks, the question marks are guys outside the group. Guys like Nick Young, Juan Dixon, Dee Brown and Etan Thomas.
And then, there are teams like Orlando, Toronto and Cleveland that are chastised for their depth, yet are given much better records? Sure, we don't have LeBron, Chris Bosh or Dwight Howard, but why is the same logic used for those teams being applied to us?
Bottom line: We're winning more than 36. How much more, I don't know, and I doubt it'll be a ton more without Arenas around, but we're still better than Indiana, Miami, Chicago and Charlotte at least, aren't we?