STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
After a 2009-10 season of massive upheaval, the Wizards actually appear to have some positive momentum headed into the 2010-11 season thanks in large part to winning the draft lottery and selecting a potential future superstar in point guard John Wall. Two major events that occurred in the 2009-10 season, along with the winning of the draft lottery, triggered a series of moves that have led the team to where it is now. First, longtime owner and community stalwart Abe Polin passed away early last season. Then, point guard Gilbert Arenas pulled one of the dumbest moves ever by an NBA player as he brought guns to the Verizon Center locker room in December of 2009 as a "joke" to supposedly help lighten a dispute with former Wizard Javaris Crittenton. Not only did Arenas break the law, he acted like a buffoon with the way he initially handled the controversy and was suspended for the final 50 games of the season by NBA commissioner David Stern. These events cleared the way for the team to finally blow up their veteran but no longer effective core as they traded away Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson during last season and then let Mike Miller and Randy Foye leave via free agency in the offseason in order to fully commit to a youth movement, minus the continued presence of the untradeable Arenas, heading into 2010-11.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Assuming everyone can stay healthy - always a big if with this franchise - here's how the minutes should shake out: Arenas should log about 35 at mainly shooting guard and a little at point guard. Wall will probably also get a similar workload to Arenas at the point, assuming he can handle the heavy minutes all year. Andray Blatche and Al Thornton should get around 30 minutes a game at power forward and small forward respectively, with Blatche also getting some time at center. JaVale McGee will be the starter at center and should get about 25-30 mpg. Newcomers Yi Jianlian and Kirk Hinrich, along with holdover Josh Howard, could all see about 20-25 minutes a game with Yi and Howard seeing minutes off the bench at both forward spots and Hinrich at both guard spots. Hilton Armstrong will be the primary backup at center, which should get him around 15-20 mpg. Nick Young will be a backup at shooting guard and small forward and should see about 15 mpg. Rookies Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin may each see about 10 minutes a game backing up both forward positions (Booker) and center (Seraphin), although they will have to fight to get minutes. It should be added that at the time of this preview, the Wizards only have 12 signed players, so as the season approaches a few more players may be signed on who could get some minutes here and there.
JaVale McGee: McGee has shown flashes of brilliance, along with inconsistency, in his brief two-year career. He is very raw but has amazing athletic ability for a 7-footer and should get the first shot at being the Wizardsí starting center in 2010-11. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he has the ability to put up double-digit scoring and rebounding totals, along with a lot of blocks.
Hilton Armstrong: Armstrong, a former first-round draft pick of the Hornets singed by the Wizards as a free agent this offseason, has not done much so far in his NBA career but still may have some upside. He could push McGee for minutes at center in 2010-11.
Kevin Seraphin: Seraphin, one of the three 2010 first-round picks on the Wizards (he arrived along with Hinrich from the Bulls in a trade), is a physical big man. He might not yet be ready for major minutes, but could see a little action in 2010-11 given his upside.
Andray Blatche: After showing flashes of brilliance throughout his short career, Blatche put it all together in 2009-10 after the team traded away Antawn Jamison and handed the power forward job to him. Blatche wound up averaging 20.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and roughly one steal and one block a game while shooting 48 percent from the field in 36 starts last season. Unfortunately, Blatche broke his foot in the offseason and is expected to receive competition for minutes at power forward from new acquisition Yi Jianlian, although he should still be the starter. Blatche is versatile enough to play all three frontcourt positions, so he will get minutes somehow in 2010-11.
Al Thornton: Thornton came over to the Wizards via trade in 2009-10 and should at least begin the year as the starter at small forward. After a fairly strong 2008-09 season (his second year) in which he averaged 16.8 points and 5.2 rebounds a game, Thornton regressed to only 10.7 points and 3.9 rebounds last season due in part to injuries and inconsistent playing time. He will be pushed for minutes at small forward by Josh Howard and Nick Young, but should keep his job if he can revert back to his 2008-09 form.
Josh Howard: Howard, who came over from the Mavericks in the Caron Butler trade, had a lost season in 2009-10 as he struggled with injuries and inconsistent play. He is currently recovering from major knee surgery and will not be 100 percent to begin the season. When Howard does get back to full strength, most likely in late November, he'll provide energy and scoring off the bench at small forward and shooting guard and could conceivably push Al Thornton out of the starting small forward job at some point this season.
Yi Jianlian: The Wizards acquired Yi from the Nets in the offseason and like the young Chinese forward's upside. He is coming off his best NBA season as he averaged 12 points, 7.1 rebounds, one block and one assist in 2009-10. In addition, Yi played very well for China in the World Championships this summer. Yi is expected to battle Andray Blatche for the starting power forward position, but should ultimately wind up as his backup.
Trevor Booker: Booker is a 2010 first-round pick who will probably fill an energy role off the bench at least in his first season. He is an undersized power forward who should see action at both forward spots, but will struggle to get consistent minutes. The team liked his play in summer league action.
John Wall: After all the bad luck the Wizards endured in the 2009-10 season, it was only fitting that the team was able to win the NBA draft lottery and get the chance to select Wall. The Kentucky product has all the makings of a future star point guard and will be given the keys to the team right away. He is lightning-quick and an excellent passer who should infuse some positive energy into a franchise that sorely needs it.
Gilbert Arenas: Before Arenas was suspended last season, he was beginning to show signs of his old self as he was averaging 22 points and seven assists in just over 30 games played. This offseason Arenas has been working out once again under the guidance of famous NBA star trainer Tim Grover in Chicago, as well as working out in D.C. It will be interesting to see how Arenas handles no longer being the star of the team, along with his position change to shooting guard. Arenasí scoring could go up a bit in 2011-11, but his assists will go down, as he will no longer be the primary ball handler.
Kirk Hinrich: Acquired via trade from the Bulls in the offseason, Hinrich will provide leadership and a steady hand who can play both guard positions off the bench. He is a good defender and ball handler and a decent shooter who the Wizards will look to as a mentor to Wall, much like the role he played for the Bulls with Derrick Rose.
Nick Young: Young is a talented but inconsistent young swingman who again showed some flashes of offensive firepower last year but also was prone to disappear for long stretches. He is purely a scorer at this point in his career and really does not bring much else to the table, but his instant offense off the bench will earn him some playing time. He may compete for the starting small forward spot as well as backing up Arenas at shooting guard.
JaVale McGee: McGee is an electric talent at center who should finally see consistent minutes for an entire season in 2010-11. He has tremendous leaping ability for a 7-footer, which enables him to throw down vicious dunks and leap high in the air for blocks and rebounds. If McGee continues to develop and learns to stay out of foul trouble and play smart on the floor, he is a candidate to average a double-double along with a ton of blocks.
Al Thornton: While Thornton will be handed the starting small forward job to begin the 2010-11 season, it may be difficult for him to put up consistent fantasy numbers over the entire year. Thornton will be pushed for playing time initially by the likes of Nick Young, Andray Blatche, Yi Jianlian and Trevor Booker. Once late November hits, Josh Howard should be recovered from his offseason knee surgery and could wrestle the starting job away from Thornton.