Seeing as how college football is just around the corner, we here at Sparty and Friends thought it would be great to get an interview with a well-known college football writer. We feel as though we hit the jackpot when Tony Barnhart agreed to speak with us. Barnhart...
Despite the logo above, this is actually a post about the Washington Wizards. That logo was the logo for only one season: 1973-1974. Why did I use it? Because I wish they were still called the Bullets and that logo was significantly obscure. So there.
Before we get this thing going, I should point out what is going on. This specific preview is for the 5th Annual NBA Blog Previews run by Jeff Clark over at Celtics Blog. The reason that it is not in my typical format is because part of agreeing to be part of this thing is following a specific format. I one of three NBA bloggers representing the Wizards. The others are my good pals Kyle Weidie from Truth About It and Mike Prada from SB Nation and Bullets Forever. I will link to their previews when they post them. (Here is SB Nation.) As for what we are going to be doing here at SnF, here’s the story. I’ll be previewing each of the six NBA divisions between next Monday and the Monday after that. When those are done, I’ll do a post based on all the SnF authors’ predictions on the Tuesday that the season starts. Ok? Now on to the preview…
Team Name: Washington Wizards
Last Year’s Record: 26-56 (5th in Southeast, 14th in the East, 25th in the NBA
Key Losses: This is slightly subjective. If we are talking about losses since the beginning of last season, the answers are Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. Both players were cornerstones of the team and are now gone to places so they can play for contenders. What’s that? Oh. LeBron left Cleveland and Jamison got screwed over for the 27th time in his career. Well, at least he can leave when he’s a free agent. Oh. He has two whole years left in Cleveland with no possibility of being competitive. Well, at least he’s getting paid. Let’s stick with that. And they could trade him to a contender. Hopefully. For his sake.
The Wiz also lost Mike Miller who signed with the Heat because he wanted to win championship games and never have to take a shot with a hand in his face ever again.
Not a terrible career move. Brendan Haywood was traded to the Mavs and subsequently signed a crazy contract (6 years, 55 million) that he was essentially given because it’s unlikely he will stop being seven feet tall any time soon. The only other real loss in Randy Foye (signed with Clippers), though that hardly matters because of some other guy we will get to later.
So the Wizards have lost a lot of players. Fans were obviously fond of both Jamison and Tuff Juice. Mike Miller was only in town for a year and nobody really got all that attached. I am happy that he has moved up to the Heat if only for the promise of making the Heat more fun to watch. Very few will miss Haywood as many fans referred to him as
Key Additions: You may have heard of the John Wall fellow. He is the Wizards new point guard due to the victory of some number of numbers over some other numbers of numbers in a battle of ping pong balls that was revealed in a ceremony of comically large envelopes and semi-unaware team representatives. Confused? It doesn’t matter because nobody cares if you are. The Wiz got the #1 pick and he’s not going to be Kwame Brown-like this time… Please. No more Kwame Brown-like players. Seriously. That last time wasn’t funny. Not even a little.
The addition of Kirk Hinrich is interesting because the Wiz are toying with using a three guard line up consisting of Wall at point, and Arenas and Hinrich both playing shooting guard. This sounds like a way to utilize all of your best players. And it is. But Kirk Hinrich can’t guard small forwards. He may be a great defender (clearly his best skill), but he is only 6″3 in high heels. There are tons of wing players in the league that are 6″9. The simple solution is to rotate the three of them and have Josh Howard play small forward. We’ll have to wait and see when Howard returns from injury.
The rotation of the three makes sense because Wall has to get used to a much longer season, Arenas doesn’t want to risk injury, and Hinrich is the worst of the three. They all have reasons to have reduced playing time.
Yi Jianlian has been a very pleasant surprise in training camp and in preseason games. He looks like he could have been drafted #6 overall. The Chairman could be a huge help for this team off the bench, backing up the rising star Andray Blatche. (Yes, “rising star” was slightly facetious.) His diverse set of skills is impressive
and could make him more valuable because of the number of positions he can play. If only Chairman Yi could actually defend somebody, he’d be a really great player.
Both Yi and Hinrich were acquired for essentially nothing so whatever help it is that they can add to the team will be greatly appreciated to help with the loss of Jamison and Butler. The biggest offseason addition however, might be Ted Leonsis. Never heard of him? Well, he doesn’t play basketball. I mean, he might… but I doubt he’s very good. Anyway, he’s the new owner following the long expected death of long time owner Abe Pollin. While Pollin will be extremely missed, Leonsis has proven that he can raise the popularity of a team from what he has shown during his tenure as owner of the Washington
Capitals (NHL… you know, hockey…. sticks and ice…. no?). Capitals fans are now visible in DC and the marketing of the team, friendliness with the blogosphere, and many other aspects are incredible compared to other franchises. Since he took over, Leonsis added a “Alumni Association” for old players of the team that will hopefully help connect the former stars with the players of today. He also instituted a “Midnight Madness” practice for the team that was open free of charge to fans. I look forward to his great ideas helping the team.
What are the team’s biggest strengths?
The obvious answer here is the speed of the backcourt. Wall and Arenas are probably the fastest set of starting guards in the NBA. If they use that speed to run the ball in transition, the offense could really put up some points. Andray Blatche is also great on the break and could help with that kind of style from the starting power forward position. Josh Howard’s contribution is yet to be determined, but could be useful in this style as well. JaVale McGee is also very mobile, especially for a center, and is well suited for a running offense.
The Wizards second biggest strength is… I’m not entirely sure there is one. Thanks to Gilbert Arenas I can’t even make up some stupid intangible answer. This sucks.
What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
You want weaknesses? No problem. How about this… defense
I know it’s half of the game and it seems a little broad. But the defense is not going to be good. Sure, there are as few bright spots. Hinrich is a really good on ball defender against guards that don’t have more than three inches on him. JaVale McGee led the league in blocks per minute last season at a rate of more than 5 per 48 minutes. But his on ball defense in the post isn’t really that great. Wall is going to create some steals because of his athleticism and vision, but he’s going to be facing guys that have played in the league and know what it takes.
Hilton Armstrong should not be on an NBA rosterThe next weakness is probably the depth. Kirk Hinrich and Yi Jianlian are good bench players. After that, the second unit is Nick Young (an NBA player, but shouldn’t be in a real rotation), Al Thornton (see: Young, Nick), and Hilton Armstrong (can’t figure out why he’s even allowed to play in the NBA, he’s terrible). If somebody actually gets injured, there is going to be a very serious problem. Even without an injury, there’s a pretty serious problem.
Last but not least is the unity. Agent Zero / The Black President / The Hibatchi / Whatever is no more. It’s just Gilbert. He’s wearing #9. His interviews suck. He brought a gun to the locker room last season.
season. He pooped in shoes. But it’s not just Gil. Last season, Andray Blatche was benched by Flip Saunders for refusing to go back into a game. Blatche disputed it but Flip said it was the worst thing he’d ever seen a player do. Naturally, Blatche was back playing very soon thereby completely undermining Flip’s authority. Good times. Could this group jell? Sure. Will they? I think we know the answer to that.
What are the goals for this team?
The goal is a playoff spot. It is a possibility, but I think it depends more on other teams than it does on the Wiz. They’ll probably finish somewhere around 35 wins or so. If the conference gets very top heavy with the Heat, Celts, and ‘Gic, then they might make it. Just in time to face LeBron in the playoffs? Not again. You know what, I hope they suck and end up with some decent picks in next season’s draft and continue to build a young core of players.
So I’m changing the goal. The goal is to not get hurt, not go nuclear, not have another Gilbert incident, and to get good picks in next year’s draft. Goal: changed.
Can John Wall and Gilbert Arenas coexist?
I feel like the answer to this question is a definite maybe. Sure Gilbert seems like he really trying to cooperate with this being Wall’s team. But in the end he is still The Black President. I find it hard to believe that Gil could contain himself for an entire season. Combine that with a coach whose authority has already been undermined, some other players with personality issues, and a team that won’t be winning all that much? I don’t think the result is going to be all that great.
Speaking of results… The Wiz might have the widest range of predicted records I’ve seen. NBA GM’s think they will be vastly improved and Basketball Prospectus has them at the worst team in the league. I’m not sure which will be true but I’ll take something decently close to the middle. Since I’m at about 2,000 words, I’m thinking I should probably wrap this thing up and make a damn prediction already.
Prediction: 33-49 (4th in Southeast, 10th in East, 21st in NBA)
Finally, here is the full list of previews so far.
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