With uncertainty surrounding the return of the NBA amidst the global pandemic caused by COVID-19, we’ve been given an opportunity to have a little fun looking at the Washington Wizards’ past and present and imagining “what if.”
Our brainstorming was sparked by this tweet, throwing out a hypothetical Bradley Beal/Gilbert Arenas backcourt.
Best backcourt here? pic.twitter.com/VR8jHB1DUp— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) March 31, 2020
Let’s just say we were intrigued by this pairing and decided to let you, Wizards twitter build a roster around the Arenas/Beal backcourt, using players who played with either on playoffs teams for the Wizards.
We ran five polls, filling out the three frontcourt positions, a sixth man, and a Head Coach. You got the version of that player who was in Washington. So for example, you were voting for Al Harrington the Wizard, not the Pacer You were voting for Paul Pierce the Wizard, not the Celtic.
Finally, we had a couple more rules: players who have not made the playoffs here were not eligible, so someone like Davis Bertans couldn’t make it. Finally, the 6th man had to actually a bench player, not a starter we wanted to sneak on the roster. So as much as we love John Wall, he was ineligible for the team.
So without further ado, here’s the Wizards with a Beal and Arenas backcourt. (You, the community chose this!)
- Guards: Bradley Beal/Gilbert Arenas (the permanent stays)
- Forwards: Caron Butler/Antawn Jamison
- Center: Marcin Gortat
- Sixth Man: Andre Miller
- Head Coach: Eddie Jordan
We then handed this off to our staff and had them judge how you actually did in building this team, what their strengths and weaknesses would be, where they disagreed with your choices, and could this team compete. Let’s tip it off!
Kevin Broom: This is a unit that will score on anyone. If they could take the floor together, with each player at their Wizards’ peak, this is probably the best offense in league history. The obvious weakness is defense. Arenas and Beal are both average to below-average on that end, Butler and Gortat are ok (though Gortat was never an outstanding rim protector) and Jamison was downright awful defensively. And they’re further handicapped by Eddie Jordan at coach, who was never all that interested in the defensive end.
I don’t think they have the defensive chops to compete for a title, but this would be a fuuuuuun group to watch.
Matt Modderno: I love Caron and he was obvious the better player of the two. But Trevor Ariza seemed like a better fit with this group during his first stint from 2012-14. He was a better three-point shooter in Washington than Caron was. He was also the better defender and his length would offer more positional versatility.
I also would have gone with Antonio Daniels over Andre Miller. Neither were super spry by the time they got to DC but Daniels was bigger and would allow for more flexibility in the lineup.
Osman Baig: Assuming they take the court at their peak as Wizards, the offense would be special. But like Kevin said, this team would be poor on defense.
We’d see a lot of games like this past season’s home opener versus the Rockets, where both teams combined for 317 points (in regulation!). Gil and Brad are the main attraction here and the ball would be in their hands a lot. They give the team shot creation, shot making, ability to drive, and ability to get to the free throw line. Since neither is traditional pass first, Eddie’s offense probably works.
Butler can function as the third scoring option, with the change up of being able to get a basket in the half-court if the game slows down. Gortat would complement them well rim running with high efficiency. I’d worry about Jamison playing too large of a role in the offense. With plenty of scoring options, they don’t need him to take any rushed long jumpers early in the shot clock.
Alan Jenkins: Just to echo what everyone else has said, this team will be able to put up numbers. This team’s nightly scoring output would be in the 120s-130s (assuming they played in today’s NBA) and would have their nights where they could pop for 150 or even 160 points in regulation. I think these guys would be awesome in Eddie Jordan’s Princeton offense as well.
Aside from Gortat, every guy can operate either with the ball in their hands or play off the ball. The constant motion would cause mismatches galore and when things stalled out, you could call Gortat, an elite screener, to come set a pick at the top of the key to jumpstart the offense.
This team would not be good defensively as stated previously. And sincedefense wasn’t really Eddie Jordan’s forte, every night would have the pace of an All-Star game.
Matt Modderno: I think an underrated aspect of picking Gortat to go with this group is his ability to create screen assists. Gortat was arguably one of the best pick-setters in the NBA and could free up anyone else in the starting five for an open look. I know it’s not exactly how Eddie Jordan created offense but running pick-and-roll with any combination of these guys would be tough to stop.
Kevin Broom: One thing about Eddie is that on the offensive end, he was highly adaptable. His system was based on the Princeton offense, but it ran differently with Arenas than it did with the then-New Jersey Nets with Jason Kidd. With Arenas, Beal and Gortat, they’d be running a TON of high pick and roll.
I think Porter was the best choice because he was by the far the best shooter of the bunch, he had zero ego so he wouldn’t have groused about not getting the ball, he was a quality defender and rebounder, and they could have played him at four in small-ball sets.
There’s an argument to be made for Haywood over Gortat just for defense, but I think Gortat was the right choice.
I agree with Matt, Daniels over Miller for sixth man.
Osman Baig: Admittedly I’m a huge Tuff Juice fan so I would want him on the team. I like his ability to create his own shot if the game really grinds down. There were some duels he had late in ball games with Paul Pierce and Danny Granger that really stand out, including this game winner in the playoffs over LeBron James in 2008.
I think Twitter got it wrong with Jamison and that’s where either a Butler/Otto Porter or a Butler and Ariza forward duo would be the far better choice. Really any combination of the three (Butler, Ariza, Porter) could work.
Otto is the better, more consistent shooter but Ariza is probably more switchable on defense – I recall he played a pivotal role in the series versus Chicago in 2014, getting the assignment on DJ Augustine who was giving Wall fits.
Alan Jenkins: I wouldn’t necessarily say a weakness but the biggest question mark for me with this team would be managing their egos as this team as a ton of big personalities. We all know about Gilbert’s history, Marcin Gortat’s divorce with the team wasn’t the prettiest, and let’s not forget about Bradley Beal and how he sometimes expresses his frustrations with unnamed teammates to the media rather than keeping things in-house.
If they hit a speed bump, as teams usually do during an NBA season, would they be able to rally around the adversity? What about if guys weren’t “getting theirs”, could they put that aside betterment of the team?
Osman Baig: Alan, you make a good point about managing egos - a point Kevin touched on also when suggesting Otto as a player who isn’t selfish being the better fit on this team. Considering we’ve had “who’s the alpha” moments here, it would be interesting to see the Gil/Beal dynamic play out. Beal’s usage and touches have skyrocketed but you can’t take the ball out of Gil’s hands, especially late. Who gets the last shot? Can you take it out of Agent Zero’s hands?
Kevin Broom: Rather than giving “last shot,” I’d give last “possession” to Arenas. Put the ball in his hands, maybe give him a screen from Gortat and then let him attack with Beal, Porter and Jamison spaced at the three-point line.
Matt Modderno: Gilbert has to be the answer here. Ignoring a couple of very un-clutch free throws, he typically welcomed the big moment. Beal doesn’t inspire that same confidence watching him try to get shots late in games the last few years. Maybe with more space from having more offensive weapons around him he would look more comfortable in that role.
Osman Baig: Kevin, you said this team ultimately couldn’t win a title which I agree with. Is there a version of this team that could have contended? If we were to swap in Otto or Ariza for Jamison and have a Butler/Porter or Butler/’13-’14 Ariza front-court does that change things? Or how about an Ariza/Porter front-court?
Kevin Broom: I don’t think there’s a mix of players from these eras that makes a title contender because none of them was in that truly elite category. Probably the closest they could get would be to swap in Porter for Jamison to get punishing efficiency plus defense.
Matt Modderno: I can’t see this team beating any of the top three teams in the NBA this year in a seven-game series. I’m just not convinced they could get enough stops. But I think they would be really fun to watch and as a long suffering Wizards fan I can happily settle for that!