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2011/12 Wizards Road Map: Flip Saunders' Role In Cultivating John Wall Era

Well, the post NBA Draft roster makeup completely lacked for drama, as Ernie Grunfeld wisely sat on his hands instead of trading up (especially considering the ridiculuous asking price). A team heavy on youth must be light on experience, and with the added pressure of showing John Wall that D.C. can build a winner around him, Grunfeld has executed Ted's directive of bringing in tough, high-character youth while sending out the old guard on a burning raft.

Flip Saunders was originally brought to town to mold a contender in time for a deep run through the playoffs.  The team fell apart like a house of cards made of emo CDs and pure sadness.  Hardly able to believe the catastrophe, he received a visit from David Stern in his darkest hour.

Flip: And finga gunz?  With the league still deliberating?

David: I know.

Flip: I just can't believe this.

David: Help is coming.

Flip: Maybe a lockout...I could spend a year in the Bahamas...

David: Next year.

(Note: this is fake)

The other "manna from heaven" came down in the draft lottery, in the form of John Wall.  Suddenly Ernie and Flip looked at each other and saw not a wasteland, but a brave, new world that could (and would, Ted help them both) write their legacy in D.C. basketball and bring the Larry O'Brien trophy home once more.

Ernie has done his job, for now.  It's time for Flip Saunders to take up the composer's mantle and bring the magic to life. 

Wizards fans wanted young prospects with mean streaks, and the Wizards have them ... a lot of them.  I happen to agree with Jordan Crawford: there's no development tool like court time.  So Flip's ability to balance PT for the bench guys while deciding who gets the starting nod is crucial to the arc of so many high-profile careers.

For the sake of this argument, let's assume that all players give a qualifying offer are retained, no new players are brought on board and Mo Evans, while I'd love to keep him, departs.  In order to accomplish the breakdown, we'll have to look at each position, and divide up the pie from there.

At point guard, the Wizards are looking at John Wall, Shelvin Mack, and Jordan Crawford logging minutes, with a possession or two for Pierre on the fast break when hundreds of Wizards fans will cry out in terror and then be suddenly silenced.  This is John's position, and it's likely he's going to soak up 35+ minutes per game now that we have a full complement.  Mack and Crawford will account for the rest. As to how, I suspect they'll see the floor together.  Crawford is a ball-dominant shooting guard with playmaking instincts, while Mack is a combo guard used to playing off the ball but with a talent for the pick and roll game.  Since the Wizards' bigs who set the best picks are relatively green, it's likely Mack will have a chance to showcase his talents there.

At shooting guard, I'm betting Nick Young, if re-signed, gets the start and 25-35 minutes a game.  Crawford picks up his 25-35 minutes between here and PG.  Othyus Jeffers gets 0-5 minutes a night, spot duty

Small forward looks to be this year's problem child.  Rashard Lewis, Trevor Booker, Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton will likely all log minutes at power forward, but with Andray Blatche soaking up 30-35 minutes a night (with spot duty at center), there won't be much time available there, especially if the offense has trouble generating shots.  I see Rashard grabbing 15-25 minutes and probably starting as the season begins, with Flip (hopefully) taking it easy on his scoped knee.  Jan Vesely grabs 10-20 minutes depending on Flip's blood pressure (again, as things get started), while Trevor Booker gets the benefit of last season's campaign and 15-20 minutes a night.  Singleton gets 5-10 minutes while Owens sees spot duty.  The excess minutes shake down to PF.

At power forward, everything depends on Blatche and whether or not his conditioning and decision-making are up to his rhetoric.  I'm guessing 30-35 minutes with the balance available for the SF Mob.

At center, it's going to be Javale McGee's progress versus Kevin Seraphin's conditioning to determine the balance.  Javale gets the lion's share with 30-35 minutes, Keveen gets 10-15 minutes, and Hamady Ndiaye is called on for spot duty.

There's a reason Flip is going to have to emulate Mozart this season.  While last season we saw Flip relying heavily on the team's more established players to the point of breakdown, that will not fly this season.  His task is seriously complicated by the lockout and an almost certain loss of training camp and exhibition in addition to the Summer League.

Remember how Corey Brewer found it almost impossible to get on the floor for the Mavericks in the postseason?  Coach Rick Carlisle's system is complex to the point where the coach must be able to trust his players to execute the schemes or everything looks like a hot mess (sound familiar?).  Yet this season has to be about developing the guys the Wizards have, and the majority need to see significant court time with significant slack.

The problem will be shortening minutes from some of last year's heavy-use guys while allowing the young guns to make the mistakes that got guys pulled in short order last season.  Wall won't be threatened, and will probably see many more 40-minute games than I'd like, but I'm most concerned with how Javale handles what might be perceived as a demotion.  He has to see how much the franchise values his presence, but last year's concern about a lack of touches in the post won't be ameliorated by losing time to help another player develop.

To get so many developmental prospects significant time is going to require Flip to get creative with his lineups.  It's not enough to simply say so-and-so gets so-many-minutes. Mostly this is about laying the groundwork for future discussion on next year's coaching challenges.  John Wall wants to be able to play with everybody, and being the conductor of the basketball symphony, Mr. Saunders will have to write next season.

We'll talk about what some of those movements/lineups might look like on Friday.