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2010-11 Washington Wizards preview

Note: every year, Celtics Blog organizes members of the NBA Blogosphere for one collective NBA preview. This is our contribution to that preview. Make the jump for contributions from every one of BF's authors. 

2009-10 Record: 26-56

Losses: Mike Miller and his pet monkey, Randy Foye and his 20-foot jump shot, Shaun Livingston and his magic, James Singleton and his charm, Fabricio Oberto and his hair, Earl Boykins and his strong biceps, Quinton Ross and his ... oh, I don't know. 

Additions: Kirk Hinrich, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, Yi Jianlian, Hilton Armstrong and some guy named John Wall.

State of the Wizards Address, by Mike Prada

Gentlemen, ladies, Wizards players, Wizards coaches, my fellow Wizards fans and my fellow NBA fans: 

Following the NBA declares that, from time to time, one must give an address about the direction of your favorite team.  For several years, we've fulfilled that promise, albeit unofficially.  We've done so during the prosperity of 45-win seasons, and we've done so during the depression of, well, every other time in this team's history.

It's tempting to look back on these moments and assume our team's failure is inevitable - that the Washington basketball franchise was always destined to be the laughingstock of the league. But when Moses Malone was acquired in a trade to join non-brother Jeff Malone, when Michael Jordan came to rescue the franchise, when Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison were flying high, failure was very much in doubt. When Chris Webber and Juwan Howard teamed up, when Kwame Brown was gifted from the heavens, future greatness seemed all but certain. These were the times that tested the courage of our depression and the strength of our vulnerability. And despite all our worries, our hesitations and our fears, Wizards fans believed because we chose to think that a better time may come one day.

Again, we are faced with a new era. And again, we must act differently when responding to history's call.

One year ago, Flip Saunders took office amid a owner hoping for one last successful run, a star player hoping to return from three knee surgeries and a sidekick that was growing increasingly jealous of picking up for the star player's absence. Experts from across the NBA spectrum warned that if we did not change course, we might have no hope for years to come. They were right, and they underestimated the devastation. So we acted, immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed, and hope now springs eternal.

But part of the devastation remains. Gilbert Arenas is stuck here, and for someone that has become used to stardom, life has become that much harder. His presence compounds the burden that Wizards fans have been carrying for three years - the burden of knowing that he can be helpful and can be outstanding; but so often is a question mark. 

So I know the anxieties that are out there right now. Skepticism is not new. 

But these struggles are why Ted Leonsis has now taken charge and worked so hard for change. These struggles are what he's witnessed for years in places like Kettler Capitals Iceplex. He hears about them in the e-mails that he reads each day. For these Wizards fans, change still needs to come faster. Some are frustrated; some are angry; some are skeptical; some are resigned to the team's fate. They're tired of the same quick fixes. They know Leonsis can't afford it. Not now.

And what Wizards fans like us hope -- what we deserve -- is for everyone watching this team, fans or not, to work through the rebuilding process; to overcome the inevitable problems rather than ignore them. For while the people on this current roster have different backgrounds, different stories, different styles of play, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared: a spot in the league they love: a chance to make a name for themselves; most of all, the ability to give their franchise a better future life.

You know what else they, and us, share? We share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity. After one of the most difficult years in our history, we all remain busy hoping, practicing, responding to critics, coming together, finding cohesion and building this franchise slowly but surely. They're mentoring young ones and helping each other. 

It is because of this spirit (and a guy named John Wall, of course) -- this great decency and strength -- that I have never been more hopeful about the Wizards' future than I am tonight. Despite our team's hardships, our chemistry is strong. (Yes, even Arenas). This team will not give up. They will not quit. They will not allow fear of practical jokes, misguided stunts and grumbling about shots to break their spirit. In this new era, it's time the fans of the Washington Wizards get a organizational philosophy that matches their decency, that embodies their faith.

And this season, this season will be the first season where, together, the Wizards can build on that promise 89277_2010_11_nba_all_access_medium

Offseason moves, by Mark Riggs (Rook6980)

Perhaps the biggest change this Summer was the change in ownership with Ted Leonsis taking over as Captain of the Wizard's ship. Ted brings a freshness and openness to the Organization. He is making sweeping changes throughout the roster, the organization and the Verizon Center. Changes as simple as ensuring the condiment containers are refilled and installing a beverage shelf in the men's restrooms - to more complex things like reconnecting with Gilbert Arenas and changing the team colors back to red, white and blue. Perhaps the most important change that I can see is the transparancy of the new Ownership. Leonsis has solicited fan feedback - and is acting on that feedback. He has told the fan base how he will rebuild this franchise; and he's reporting on the progress every step of the way through the media, and his blog. He even got fined for being TOO open. Ted Leonsis is truly the breath of fresh air this stale organization needed.

There are other changes. Big changes. The "old" Wizard's philosophy of just make the playoffs every year by signing retread veterans has been replaced with a rebuild from the bottom up approach. The roster has been completely rebuilt around young talent. The cap situation, once bloated and stagnant - is now considerably more flexible.

Who's in?

John Wall: Lots of words have been written about John Wall, and I'll just say he's a jump shot away from being a super star. He's as fast with the ball as any player I've ever seen. He's incredible on the break, able to finish or find teammates for easy buckets. He's got a tremendous motor - seemingly never taking a play off on defense, and always moving on offense. He gets to the free throw line with frequency. He's committed to playing defense. But aside from his physical gifts and obvious basketball talents; it's his intangibles that will eventually set him apart. He's got leadership skills. He's poised, coachable and easily likable. He's got a tremendous work ethic. The perfect player to build a championship team around.  

Kirk Hinrich: Hinrich is a solid, if not spectacular player. He's a very good perimeter defender, something the Wizards have lacked in recent years. Hinrich is a good shooter, especially off the catch. He won't get you 30 points, but he won't turn the ball over a ton either. He can fill up the stat sheet, shoot a reasonable percentage from the field and knock down free throws. From all reports, he's also a good teammate. The only negative I can say is that he takes up $9 Million in cap space. 

Yi Jianlian: The knock on Yi is that he has all the tools, but lacks the consistency to be a good offensive player. Although it's admittedly a small sample size, so far this Summer Yi may be the Wizard's most consistent performer. What is most impressive is that he's leading the team in rebounding (7.25 per game). That's 12 rebounds per 40 minutes. I'll take that kind of production from Yi any day. Yi has all the tools. He has the size of a center, but runs the floor like a wing player. He can face the basket and either shoot jumpers from outside, but he also has the ball-handling ability to take his man off the dribble. Until this year, he was considered a poor defender and a poor rebounder, but in the World Championships, and so far in preseason, he looks like he's improved considerably in both areas. If he continues developing his defensive skills and rebounding , he could be a steal.

Kevin Seraphin: Seraphin is a big man with long arms, soft hands and an offensive game in the embryotic stage. Right now, his offensive game consists of catch-and-dunk, and not much else. A banger that likes to throw his weight around. He was a starter for his French team for a total of 9 games (16 minutes per game); so don't look for any help from him this year. With his size and athletic abilities, he could develop into a very good low post player in a few years.

Trevor Booker - Booker is an undersized (6'7") banger with a nose for the ball and the motor, the quickness and the speed to go get it. Most scouting services project him as a power forward; but he has some physical abilities and attributes (quickness, footspeed, long arms) that may translate well to small forward. If he wants to be anything other than an undersized, energy guy off the bench - he should work on defending the perimeter, his outside shot; and move to the wing. 

Hamady N'Diaye - Seven foot shot blocker with a very raw offensive game. He does, however, show some good instincts on the defensive end of the floor. 

Hilton Armstrong - Space filler and emergency back up for YiMcBlatche.    


Who's out?

Mike Miller - I won't miss watching Miller pass up an open three-point shot to pass to a teammate with two seconds left on the shot clock. I won't miss the three or four times a week that Miller crashed to the floor and crawled back to the bench looking like he'd suffered a season-ending injury ... only to come back into the game five minutes later and not shoot again. 

Randy Foye: I won't miss Randy's kamikaze, right-handed drives to the basket - where he was a woefully ineffective finisher. 

Shaun Livingston: I WILL miss Livingston's court savvy, and his defense. He seemed to play the game under control, but still had a knack for making shots and moving the ball. I wonder why the Wizards didn't bring him back. At $3.5 Million, his salary demands were not excessive. I like his game better than Cartier Martin's, Adam Morrison's or even Nick Young's. But, he's gone - so we'll move on. 

Quinton Ross: Quinton who?

James Singleton: I'll miss Singleton's energy. I'll miss his rebounding. Worst of all, now I don't have a good reason to wear my big game James shirt.  

Earl Boykins: I'm guessing he was hired by Spalding as a stress tester. In all seriousness, he's off to Milwaukee. 

Fabricio Oberto: He was offered a contract by a Turkish team for temporary three-month deal to fill in for an injured player - but he refused. Based on what we saw last year, I think he should have taken it. I doubt there's an NBA team willing to pony up even the League Minimum for his services.

Alonzo Gee - I know we didn't lose Gee during the summer.... I just wanted to bring this up one more time.

Team Strengths, by CJ Hempfield

The Wizards relative youth and energy can be assets particularly against teams that are a little longer in the tooth. What the Wizards will give up in experience, they should make up with energy and enthusiasm. They're also blessed with speed and quickness at nearly every position, especially at both guard spots, power forward and center. One of the Wizards coaching staff's challenges is to find ways to best capitalize on this asset.

On paper at least, the Wizards have potentially one of the most dynamic back-courts in the explosive scoring ability of Gilbert Arenas, the speed, athleticism and playmaking of John Wall and the ever-steady and defensive-minded Kirk Hinrich. In JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, Yi Jianlian, Josh Howard and Hilton Armstrong the Wizards have the makings of a long and athletic front-court.

Scoring, particularly amongst the projected starting lineup, should not be a problem. The Wizards, with Arenas, Blatche, Josh Howard (when healthy) and Wall have four players who are easily capable of scoring 20 or more points in a given night. When you add Yi Jianlian, Nick Young, Hinrich and Al Thornton off the bench, the Wizards should not have a problem scoring with the best teams in the league.

Finally, the Wizards ability to play essentially three point guards, preferably in small doses, provides them with three guards who are each able to confidently handle the ball. This lineup will enable the team to run without some of the turnovers that are often caused by poor ball-handling.


Team Weaknesses, by Jake Whitacre

To give you an idea of just how young this team is, consider who Flip Saunders would have to roll with if he wanted to trot out his most experienced lineup.

PG: Kirk Hinrich (age 29)
SG: Gilbert Arenas (age 28)
SF: Josh Howard (age 30)
PF: Andray Blatche (age 24)
C: Hilton Armstrong (age 25)

Needless to say, the Wizards' most glaring weakness this season will be inexperience.

The funny thing about inexperience is that while it's an understandable weakness, its far from predictable. Over the course of the season, the Wizards' inexperience will show itself in different ways, depending on the day. One night, the Wizards might put together a solid defensive effort, only to be beset by 25 turnovers. The next night, they might protect the ball, but only shoot 31 percent and watch helplessly as the other team scores 130 points. There's just no way to know how the Wizards' inexperience will show, other than that it will show in more than one way throughout the course of the season.

At one point or another, the Wizards will struggle mightily in just about every conceivable way a team can struggle this season. That might sound like a bit of hyperbole, but that's just life in the NBA as a young team. The good news is that on the flip side, the Wizards will also likely find a way to do well in just about every facet of the game at one point or another this season.

Aside from the weaknesses that come with youth, the other key issue which could turn into a weakness is ball distribution. This season is a fresh slate for everyone, rookies and veterans alike. No player comes into this season slotted to play in the same role as last season, whether they were on the Wizards, another NBA team or playing in college last season. Even if everyone's on their best behavior, adjusting to new roles will create problems because everyone has to learn how to function most effectively in their new role.  In the long run, this will streamline the chain of command, but it will inevitably lead to some headaches as players adjust to the new hierarchy.    

Goals and expectations, by Jon Kelman

I'm pretty sure the Wizards are the team with the widest range of predicted records. On the one hand, you've got fans and NBA GMs who think the team is dramatically improved -- personally, I think we can win 35 games and sneak out the 8th seed in the East. On the other hand, you've got the metrics pointing to the Wiz being the worst team in the league -- Wages of Wins notably has the team winning as low as a historically bad 10 games. Expectations about a mediocre or awful record can be thrown out the window though.

With Uncle Ted (Leonsis) manning the ship, the team is serious about rebuilding. The expectations that do matter are for questions about the individual performances of our young players: how good can John Wall be? Can JaVale McGee become supply more than highlight reel plays? Will Andray Blatche build on his late-season performance? Can Yi Jianlian develop into at least solid rotation player? Can Nick Young remold his game as a spot-up shooter and defender?  The development of Wall, McGee, Blatche, Jianlian, Young, etc. may not be reflected in the record, but will determines long-term expectations, which is the time frame that matters for a team that won't contend this year.


Because we have to talk about Gilbert Arenas, by Sean Fagan

This section was written and ready to be submitted when it was revealed that Gilbert Arenas lied to Flip Saunders about a knee injury in order to get his running buddy Nick Young some playing time. It was all set to be sent in again when Arenas strained his groin against the Milwaukee Bucks, which is either karma in it's purest sense or pure, unfiltered irony. On a scale of Gilbert Arenas "screwups" (his words not mine), "injury gate" falls somewhere between refusing to shoot for the entire second half of a a game and the infamous "choose one" scenario from last winter. The problem is that Arenas has spent up much of his goodwill among Wizards fans and the phantom injury has everyone groaning "not again" instead of chuckling about "Gil being Gil."

The dirty little secret about Gilbert Arenas is that last winter could have played out differently if he was a player still performing at the peak of his powers instead of one coming off of two season cut down by knee surgeries. Superstars of the highest magnitude are allowed some leeway in their transgressions. Fans of opposing teams might dislike you a bit more, but your local fans will love you even more because your are "misunderstood" or being persecuted. This is how the script has played out for Kobe Bryant and to a lesser extent Ben Roethelisberger.  Arenas, who was still rounding into form when he decided to bring guns into the locker room, was no longer the transcendent talent who had dropped 61 on Kobe and the Lakers with a penchant for pranks and speaking his mind. Instead, he immediately became an oft-injured, selfish, and dangerous loon, somebody who was a "cancer" (copyright Tony Kornheiser) in the locker room and a corrupting influence on young talent.


Is this fair? Not particularly? Is this accurate? Actually, probably not. Arenas suffered from a perfect storm of negative media attention which only worsened his plight. The Wizards, predicted to contend in the Eastern Conference following a series of trades and Arenas' return to health had the bottom drop out on the team, which transformed into a group of bickering veterans seemingly overnight. Arenas had trouble adjusting to Flip Saunder's new point guard oriented system which saw his assist total rise, but his dynamic scoring drop off. Finally, many just got sick of the Gilbert Arenas act. Agent Zero beget Serious Gil which beget Agent Zero again. Gilbert's blog beget Youtube comeback videos which beget his twitter escapades. Arenas had stopped being charming and entered that dreaded Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco zone.

Which brings us to this year. 

There are concerns that with Arenas still in the fold, he will become a corrupting influence on John Wall and the other young Wizards. Much like the Emperor in Star Wars, Arenas will draw Wall over to the dark side of the force, and Wall will soon be demanding twenty foot ice sculptures in his likeness outside the Verizon Center. Another tossed around scenario is that Arenas will chafe at Wall taking over superstar status on the team and that he will do all in his power to undermine Wall's rise to prominence and attempt to keep the spotlight focused where it truly belongs, on Gilbert Arenas.

The truth of the matter is that Gilbert Arenas is mostly likely going to become something that will truly horrify Washington Wizards' fans, another overpaid shooting guard. He will adapt his game accordingly, but will never again reach the peaks of the 2006-2007 season. The chances of trading Arenas, his bad knees, and his gargantuan contract are looking slimmer each day. So in the meantime, those in the DMV are stuck with Gilbert Arenas. It appears that Arenas' final prank may have been on us.


Because they're fun, here are our predicted records for this season.

  • Mike: 30-52
  • Mark: 29-53
  • CJ: 37-45
  • Jake: 34-48
  • Jon: 35-47
  • Sean: 30-52