The Wizards had a relatively uneventful off-season and will be looking internally for improvement off of last season. The team was one of the best in the Eastern Conference before a series of key injuries stripped them of much of their potency.
Washington had a solid draft for itself in June when they acquired explosive shooting guard Nick Young
early in the first round. The late addition of multi-positional player Dominic McGuire
helped to round out a successful draft night. Third addition, Oleksiy Pecherov
was brought across the pond to help the depth in the frontcourt rotation, which was timely considering the loss of Etan Thomas
to heart surgery.
The biggest news around the club revolved around overseas sensation Juan Carlos Navarro
. The team was extremely slow to make a decision about Navarro and were somewhat hamstrung by their need to re-sign DeShawn Stevenson
. Navarro would have been an excellent scoring option off the bench for the team, but Stevensons defense and off-court politics helped to conspire against him.
As a result, the team didnt receive much value in exchange for Navarro and he has been extremely impressive thus far in Memphis. The 1st round pick Washington received is heavily protected and could very well turn into cash considerations while Navarro is contributing heavily to the Grizzly attack.
A contrast to the Navarro situation has been the development of Andray Blatche
during training camp. Blatche has had a checkered beginning to his young career and looked to be heading in the wrong direction. Questions about maturity and his ability to handle professional responsibility have chased Blatche around since he was drafted.
But Blatche has been very impressive thus far in the preseason and has been getting high praise for his efforts and improvement during the early part of training camp. The team had to make a tough choice and a strong financial commitment to the talented near-seven footer and the early signs are encouraging.
Washington appears intent on staying under the luxury tax, and therefore will likely go into the season with only 13 players on their roster. Depth Chart:
[c]courtesy of Synergy Sports Tech: Figure represents NBA offensive percentile rank[/c]Strengths:
The Wizards have star power like few other teams in the league. Their main three options, Arenas, Butler, Jamison are all star caliber talents who are capable of putting up a 30 point effort on any given night.
Agent Zero is the focal point of this team. His ability to win games with big time play is what separates Washington from being mediocre or below. As good as Jamison and Butler can be, Arenas is truly a top 5 star player in the league when it comes to stepping up and taking over a game in need of a prime time effort. Arenas has improved yearly and the teams record with his presence speaks volumes for his value.
Washington also benefits from having one of the better coaches in the NBA. Eddie Jordan
is underrated to some degree, but his offensive prowess and ability to mix most of the egos on the team into a cohesive unit should not be overlooked. It takes a strong leader to manage the antics of quirky captain Arenas. The fact that very little noise escaped from the locker room was a testament to his ability to put a program in place that the players can buy into.
The core of this team has also been in place for a while, which will make it easier for them to incorporate the newcomers. The team has playoff experience and has improved, even if incrementally, each successive season. Barring injury last year the team would have enjoyed their best season yet. Weaknesses:
One of the biggest weaknesses was taken care of when Etan Thomas
went down for the year. Thomas and Brendan Haywood
were a veritable soap opera for much of last season, getting in fist-a-cuffs on a number of occasions. Locker room chemistry is an essential element to any club, and these two were a fire that Jordon just couldnt put out on his own.
Thomas physical presence and defensive intensity will be missed on the court for this team however. Washington has had defensive issues for some time and are not a tremendous rebounding team to boot. The addition of Pecherov and Blatche will help the offensive game, but one of the two best step up and become a difference maker from the help-side defensively or Haywood will be alone on a island in the middle and much easier to exploit.
The impending opt-out and potential free agency of Gilbert Arenas
has got to have management sweating bullets this season. It will be very important for the team to have a strong showing this season in order to convince the oft-odd Arenas that Washington is the place to be. A little adversity during this season could provide a major test for the teams solidarity. Outlook:
The Wizards looked poised to pick up where they left off last season, which should put them in the mix for a home-court playoff seeding. The team is probably better on paper this season than last. The added offensive depth and the balance that it could help create if/when one of the go-to players struggles should allow the team to be more consistent.
Both Pecherov and McGuire had strong showings in the VSL and look to be fighting their way toward carving out some niche supporting roles. Young was hit-or-miss at VSL, but will have some time to develop. Young has a chance to be an offensive go-to player in time, though he must commit to defense and better play recognition. Caron Butler
s continued maturation should provide another boost to the teams performance, and it will be needed as many Eastern Conference teams appear to have improved themselves. Look for Butler to make a strong push for an all star berth, which should further help to solidify Washington as the class of their division.
But the Wizards need to be a more disciplined defensive team and a much stronger rebounding team if they are to entertain thoughts of knocking off the Easts elite in the playoffs. Washington doesnt have a true interior scoring threat and their big man rotation is fairly lopsided toward the scoring end of the court.
With a majority of their shots coming from the perimeter it will be tough for the Wizards to unseat a strong interior team such as Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland. If the Boston defense improves this season the Wizards may be faced with four playoff competitors that they dont match up well based off what theyve shown in the past. It will be interesting to see how this Wizards team develops throughout the season, but at the onset of the year they look a step below the top-tier of the conference.