The 00s kicked off with the 99-00 Wizards sitting at 10-20 and with Gar Heard nearing the end of his tenure. (The team that eventually finished 29-53 (.354) for the 99-00 season.) They end with the team again sitting at 10-20 (.333).
In between were four playoff appearances in a weak Eastern conference, never winning more than 45 games, sandwiched between some bad and occasionally dreadful seasons, including a pair of 19-63s in the first and last full seasons of the decade (00-01 and 08-09). Uncanny. The symmetry is depressing.
Only once, in 05-06, did the team actually manage a positive point differential. (That isn't a typo--in 04-05, the 45-win and got past the first round season, the team still had a negative point differential and a losing pythagorean (projected) record.)
Rather than reviewing that lame decade season-by-season, let's look at the players that helped the team win as many times as it did. Here is a sampling of the 25 best individual statistical seasons posted by the Wizards this decade (including 99-00). The selections give extra weight to the "advanced stats" (mostly win shares and off/def ratings--wait, who am I kidding, the def ratings were irrelevant for this franchise), but also consider headline stats like points per game.
- Gilbert Arenas 05-06, 13.6 WS, 23.8 PER (3,384 min). 11 of those win shares came on offense. 58.1 TS% supported by 36.9% from three on 6.8 attempts per game. 6.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game versus 3.7 TOs per game. 29.3 ppg. And he did this at age 24.
- Gilbert Arenas 04-05, 11.5 WS, 21.3 PER (3,274 min). His breakthrough season, the shots started falling more often (FG% went from 39 to 43%), the whistle blew for him more often (FTA/game went from 5.8 to 8.0), and he became the Agent Zero that was the best thing the franchise had going for it.
- Gilbert Arenas 06-07, 10.8 WS, 24.0 PER (2,942 min). 25.8 ppg were a high for the decade.
- Antawn Jamison 07-08, 9.2 WS, 20.3 PER (3,060 min). 21.4 pts and 10.2 reb per game. The only double-double for a season of the decade.
- Larry Hughes 04-05, 7.7 WS, 21.6 PER (2,358 min). 22 pts, 6.3 reb, 4.7 ast, 2.9 stl per game, for the best 4-category line of the decade. Would his career have played out differently if he'd stayed alongside Arenas?
- Antawn Jamison 05-06, 8.2 WS, 17.7 PER (3,288 min). 20.5 pts and 9.3 reb per game.
- Caron Butler 07-08, 7.2 WS, 20.7 PER (2,314 min). 55.8 TS%, 20.3 pts, 6.7 reb, 4.9 pts, and 2.2 stl per game, cut to only 58 games by injury.
- Antawn Jamison 08-09, 8.1 WS, 20.6 PER (3.096 min). 22.2 pts, 8.9 reb per game.
- Brendan Haywood 07-08, 6.8 WS, 18.3 PER (2,228 min). 10.6 pts, 7.2 reb (3.4 off), 1.7 blk per game with 58 TS%.
- Antawn Jamison 06-07, 6.8 WS, 18.4 PER (2,662 min). 19.8 pts and 8.0 reb per game.
- Christian Laettner 02-03, 6.6 WS, 16.1 PER (2,215 min) 54.5 TS%, 6.6 reb and 3.1 ast per game. One of the most efficient seasons of the decade.
- Michael Jordan 02-03, 6.2 WS, 19.3 PER (3,031 min). 20.0 pts, 5.2 reb, 3.8 ast, 1.5 stl per game. At age 39, led the team in minutes, FGA, defensive rebounds, steals, and points.
- Jerry Stackhouse 02-03, 6.5 WS, 18.7 PER (2,747 min). 21.5 pts, 4.5 ast/2.8 tov per game.
- Caron Butler 05-06, 6.3 WS, 17.0 PER (2,708 min). 17.6 pts, 6.2 reb per game. The year of putting the three in the big three.
- Michael Jordan 01-02, 3.3 WS, 20.8 PER (2,092 min). 23.7 pts, 5.8 reb, 5.3 ast per game--probably the best non-Arenas three-category line of the decade--make up for the turnovers and low shooting percentage.
- Chris Whitney 01-02, 6.5 WS, 15.6 PER (2,171 min). 56.8 TS%, 5.2 ast/36, 88 FT%.
- Aaron Williams 99-00, 4.8 WS, 17.7 PER (1,545 min). 14.4 pts and 9.5 reb (3.7 off) per 36. Second most win shares on the team despite never starting (stuck behind Howard and White/Austin). Also posted 5.5 fouls per 36 minutes. Turned it all into a nice multi-year contract with the Nets and was eventually part of the Vince Carter trade.
- Antawn Jamison 04-05, 5.4 WS, 16.9 PER (2,605 min). 19.6 pts, 7.6 reb per game.
- Brendan Haywood 03-04, 3.8 WS, 17.2 PER (1,484 min). 13.4 pts, 10.0 reb, and 2.3 blk per 36. But, couldn't get more minutes than either Etan or Kwame.
- Brendan Haywood 04-05, 5.2 WS, 16.5 PER (1,865 min). 58.8 TS%, 6.8 reb and 1.7 blk per game.
- Kwame Brown 03-04, 4.9 WS, 15.7 PER (2,239 min). 54.7 TS%. Actually, not a bad season for a 21-y.o. If you ignore the taken-first-in-the-draft thing.
- Mitch Richmond 99-00, 5.2 WS, 16.5 PER (2,397 min). 17.4 pts, 1.5 steals per game and 38.6% from three.
- Antonio Daniels 05-06, 5.3 WS, 13.7 PER (2,283 min). 118 offensive rating was the second highest of the decade (behind Haywood's 07-08), driven by 3.6 ast : 1.1 TO per game.
- Caron Butler 06-07, 5.3 WS, 18.3 PER (2,474 min). 19.1 pts, 7.4 reb per game.
- Caron Butler 08-09, 4.5 WS, 18.8 PER (2,585 min). 20.8 pts, 6.2 reb per game.
(Honorable mentions include Rod Strickland's 7.5 assists per game in 09-00, Haywood's 02-03, Michael Smith's 20% rebound percentage in 00-01, and Etan's 03-04. A case could be made for any of those in the top 25, as there isn't much to separate those from 18th on down.)
(The very worst season's include Mike James' 08-09 with negative win shares in over 1500 minutes, arvis Hayes' 0.5 win shares in 2000 minutes in 03-04, and ared effries' 0.6 in 1900 minutes the same year.)
One notable complete omission is Rip Hamilton. Looking back, he just didn't do much other than score during his time here, and he wasn't even very efficient doing that. A notable season omission is Gilbert's first year with the team, 03-04, which involved too much inefficient volume shooting to make the list.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this list is......how bad it is. The franchise couldn't even muster 25 player-seasons with 5.0 WS or more over the entire decade (there were 21 total, including Haywood's 02-03 that just missed the cut for the top 25). Kwame Brown legitimately made the top 25. Unsurprisingly, it is hard to have winning teams that way.
No matter whether or how much you agree with the way win shares are calculated/allocated, it is pretty plainly obvious that a team's ceiling is limited if it only has (at most) one player who can "produce" 10 or more wins and no more than four players who can "produce" at least 5 wins. (For some perspective, the league overall had 168 player-seasons of 10 or more win shares for the decade and 922 player-seasons of 5 or more win shares. It is safe to say that the Wizards had less than their share of productive players during that time.) Here's hoping the 2010s bring some better times (and players) to Washington.