Washington Wizards (2008/2009 Record: 19-63 )
Key Additions: Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Fabricio Oberto
Key Losses: None.
Struck hard by the injury bug last season, the Wizards are predicted by many to make a startling comeback in the 2009/2010 season with some prognosticators going so far as to use the “C” word in their estimates of how far Washington stands to improve. The C-word I’d use to describe this Wizard team’s chances of having an impact in the Eastern Conference is cruddy.
Washington fans sky high expectations rest primarily on the healthy return of all-star guard Gilbert Arenas after missing all but two games last season. While Arenas is a dynamic scorer who is one of the few NBA players that can win a game single-handedly, he is also a black hole on defence and the Wizards have never won more than a respectable 45 games in his six seasons with Washington. Add to that the fact that he’s coming off a major knee and ankle injury that has forced him to sit out 149 of a possible 164 games in the past two seasons while contending with a stronger Eastern Conference and it isn’t hard to see that Agent Zero won’t be leading the Wizards on a deep playoff run come Spring 2010.
A similar issue exists with multi-skilled forward Caron Butler, who has missed a fifth of each of the last three seasons. In fact, the Wizard’s most dependable player is Antawn Jamison who is good for a consistent 20 points and 9 rebounds per game but is also below average defending the four spot.
The Wizards have, however, added to their depth for 2009/10. Joining the team are former Minnesota Timberwolve starters Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Miller has proven himself a solid small-forward throughout his career, though he clearly lost a step last year playing for the Wolves, scoring a career low in points. He remains a good shooter and should thrive off of the opportunities his teammates create for him. Randy Foye is another scoring point guard who’ll be an upgrade over the Mike James-Javaris Crittenton platoon should Arenas go down with an injury.
Even with Washington’s increased depth I do not believe it will carry the team too far. The Wizard’s have ranked near dead last in defensive efficiency throughout the Arenas-Jamison-Butler era and though new coach Flip Saunders has a reputation of being an excellent offensive coach, he’s also someone that in the past has been quickly tuned out by his players. Coming to a Wizard’s team that rarely played within any diagrammed offensive structure under former coach Eddie Jordan and lacking accountability on the defensive end, Saunders is in for a frustrating season of one-on-five play and injuries.
Predicted Season Record: 33-49