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NBA Team Previews: 2009 Washington Wizards Preview

Brian Fraze

Brain has covered fantasy football and basketball for RotoWire since 2009. He's particularly good at Daily Basketball and lives in Washington DC.

By Brian Fraze
RotoWire Writer


After being able to stay afloat enough to make the playoffs in the previous two seasons when key players went down with injuries, it all came crashing down in 2008-09 as the Wizards had a terrible season. On top of Caron Butler missing his usual 10-15 games, former All-Star Gilbert Arenas played only two games all year, and starting center Brendon Haywood missed most of the season, as did fellow starter shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson. The Wizards just had too many injuries and upheaval to overcome last season, and they wound up tying the record for fewest wins (19) in franchise history. Eddie Jordan lost his job after a 1-10 start and Ed Tapscott, who replaced Jordan as interim coach, was not asked back.

The Wizards essentially had two choices entering this season - either rebuild or hope they could finally get healthy. Given the Wizards' offseason moves, they clearly want to give the Big Three of Arenas, Butler, and Antawn Jamison at least one more chance. The Wizards brought in a new high-profile coach in former Timberwolves and Pistons head man, Flip Saunders. Then the Wizards shipped the fifth pick in the 2009 draft and Darius Songaila, Olexi Pecherov and Etan Thomas to the Timberwolves for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. The Wizards also added depth along their front line by signing center Fabricio Oberto. If the Wizards can stay healthy - the biggest question surrounding the team in the last 2 1/2 years - then they will be one of the deepest teams in the conference and should be able to get back to the playoffs.


Assuming everyone can stay healthy, here's how the minutes should shake out: After a possible ramp-up period to begin the season, Arenas should log about 38 mpg at the point. Expect Butler and Jamison to play about 38 mpg at small forward/power forward. Haywood will play 30 mpg as the starting center and projected starting shooting guard Foye should get around 34 minutes a game. Miller will probably be the first man off the bench if does not end up starting, and he should average about 24 minutes a game at both small forward and shooting guard. JaVale McGee should be the primary backup center and should get about 15-20 mpg. Andray Blatche will be the primary backup at power forward but he also may see some time at center and small forward, which should get him around 15-20 mpg. Nick Young will be the primary backup shooting guard and should see about 10-15 mpg. Javaris Crittenton will most likely be the primary backup point guard and may see about 10 minutes per game. Dominic McGuire may get about 10 minutes per game in a defensive stopper/utility-type role as he can back up both forward positions as well as shooting guard. Finally, Stevenson and Mike James will fight for spot duty minutes at both guard positions, while Oberto may occasionally see a few minutes at center.



Brendon Haywood: Even though Haywood played only six games last season due to wrist surgery, his per game averages of 9.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 2.5 bpg were fairly in line with his career-best season in 2007-08, where in 80 games he averaged 10.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and 1.7 bpg. As long as he can stay healthy, Haywood should put up numbers similar to his last two seasons, with perhaps a slight downgrade in ppg. The exception should be the 73.5 percent he shot from the free throw line, as Haywood, like most centers, is not a terrific free throw shooter (61.9% for his career). All in all, Haywood makes for a solid if unspectacular center that's important to the Wizards defense, as he's the team's best post defender.

JaVale McGee: McGee was not projected to play much as a rookie, but injuries forced him into minutes last season. He actually showed a fair amount of promise and some flashes of brilliance, along with some usual rookie ups and downs. McGee will probably post similar numbers to last season's unless Saunders prefers to give more backup-center minutes to Blatche and the less talented but steady Oberto.

Fabricio Oberto: Oberto is a solid role-player type who should get spot minutes at center for the Wizards as necessary.


Caron Butler: Butler, who had his usual share of nagging injuries in 2008-09, did not have quite as strong of a year as he did in 2007-08. That being said, Butler did still average over 20 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and 4.0 apg for the second straight season. Butler is also generally among the league leaders in steals (1.7 spg for his career) and is a good shooter from the field and the free throw line. Butler has also added the three-point shot to his arsenal in recent seasons. The only downside with Butler is his ability to stay healthy for a full season; the past three years he has missed an average of 19 games per season.

Antawn Jamison: If Jamison wasn't his usual consistent self last season, the Wizards might not have cracked double-digits in victories. Jamison has been a model of consistency for the Wizards over the years at power forward as he is generally able to stay healthy, play heavy minutes, and average around 20 ppg and about 8-9 rpg. Jamison is also a very good three-point shooter, and though he is not a great defensive player he still manages to get a fair amount of steals (1.1 spg for his career) to go along with his rebounding prowess. Jamison will be 33 at the start of the 2009-10 seasons but he still looks as though he has a couple more good years left.

Mike Miller: Miller's one year in Minnesota after several in Memphis did not fit with the rest of his career in that he just stopped shooting - which is odd considering he is known as one of the NBA's best shooters, even if he shot a sub-par (for him) 38 percent from three in 2008-09. Apparently he and the Wolves decided he would best serve the team if he focused more on setting up his teammates (he averaged a career high 4.5 apg last year) and rebounding. But Miller only averaged 9.9 ppg in 2008-09, easily the worst scoring average in his career. Chances are the Wizards will ask Miller to shoot more this season.

Andray Blatche: Although he has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his short career, he has never quite lived up to expectations, in part because of his questionable work ethic and decision-making on the court. Apparently Blatche has been training hard this offseason, but unless injuries strike the team again it is doubtful he will be able to play 24 mpg again this season. Blatche is very versatile as he can play all three forward positions and is a decent scorer, rebounder and shot blocker.

Dominic McGuire: McGuire, a versatile player who can play power forward, small forward and even shooting guard, was another one of the young Wizards players that benefited greatly from the team's injuries in 2008-09, as he wound up taking over as the team's small forward when the Wizards moved Butler to shooting guard when Stevenson was lost for the season. McGuire is a very good defensive player that will contribute in hustle categories, but not in terms of scoring. McGuire will most likely go back to the bench in a much more limited role as a spot defensive stopper this season.


Gilbert Arenas: Once one of the premier scoring guards in the NBA, Arenas has only played in 15 games the last two seasons as he has multiple knee injuries and surgeries. This offseason Arenas has been working out under the guidance of famous NBA star trainer Tim Grover in Chicago, as well as working out and playing pickup basketball on his own. Everyone who has seen Arenas feels he's back, but only time will tell. Assuming Arenas is back and healthy, he should put up some gaudy numbers for Saunders, who is just as much of an offensive guru as prior coach Jordan was. Arenas' scoring could slip a bit in 2009-10, but perhaps his assists and percentages will go up.

Randy Foye: There is a chance Miller, and not Foye will end up in the Wizards' starting lineup but likely it will be Foye. Foye is coming off his best season as a pro and is certainly an upgrade over the incumbent starting shooting guard Stevenson as he is a better scorer and just as good defensively. Starting Foye would allow the Wizards to have two backcourt starters that are interchangeable between point and shooting guard.

Nick Young: Young is a talented but inconsistent young swingman who showed some flashes of offensive firepower last year. Young is purely a scorer at this point in his career - he really does not bring much else to the table - but he is the type of player who can bring instant offense off the bench, so he will see some time in 2008-09, but less minutes than last year.

Javaris Crittenton: Crittenton is a young and developing player at point guard. He is quick and a good defender and ball handler. He is a bit raw, but as the team's only true point guard, he should carve out a role for himself.

DeShawn Stevenson: Stevenson will be affected significantly by the trade for Foye and Miller. He should no longer be the Wizards' starting shooting guard and will struggle to get minutes. He'll see occasional run as a hustle and energy guy, and he'll also be out there for three-point shooting.

Mike James: James, who started 50 games out of necessity for the Wizards in 2008-09, is a scoring point guard who doesn't even do that very efficiently these days. He is a decent long-range shooter and can at times be a pesky defender, so he can bring some occasional offense and energy off the bench.


JaVale McGee: It would take an injury to Haywood and/or Jamison to open up enough minutes for him to shine, but McGee is an electric talent at center - and you don't normally associate the words "electric" and "center" in the same sentence. McGee has tremendous leaping ability for a 7-footer, which enables him to throw down vicious dunks and sky high for blocks and rebounds. With enough minutes, and continued development, McGee could double his numbers from his rookie campaign.


Randy Foye: Technically you could throw all the young Wizards who received major minutes in 2008-09 into the "bust" category. But assuming everyone is healthy in 2009-10, Foye is probably going to be the closest thing to a bust, only because it will be hard for him to sustain his opportunities from 2008-09. Foye is a young, up-and-coming talent, and while he certainly will have some good games while in Washington, there are just not enough basketballs to go around when the Big Three is healthy.

Article first appeared on 9/21/09