The Washington Wizards are a franchise in complete disarray.* Without the talent on their roster to contend, the Wizards must start rebuilding this summer. Although they have room to sign one player to a max-contract this off-season, most importantly they must intelligently plan, draft, and spend. The Wizards may have an idea of certain players or types of players they want to draft, but they do not know what pick they have and thus can’t reasonably plan for the draft. However, ESPN has a list of 2010 free agents, and we can examine who the Wizards can/should pursue this offseason. The players to be discussed are all currently 25 or under and either have potential or address the team’s deficiencies. Without further adieu:
Tyrus Thomas (age 23) PF: Everyone knows Tyrus’ history of battling with coaches and on-court focus, and while those are areas in which the Wizards also need to improve, Tyrus does add much needed rebounding and defense. With Haywood, Jamison, and Butler gone, the Wizards’ front-court needs a boost on D and on the boards. Singleton and McGee are both alright at getting rebounds and defending, but Blatche cannot play defense and only occasionally will try for a rebound. Tyrus is a decent rebounder and a great defender (9.9rb, 2.5blk, 1.9stl per 36 minutes). Although he lacks offensive efficiency, he may become a good finisher and refine his shot selection with experience. With his youth and potential, Tyrus may be exactly what the Wizards need to rebuild, at least defensively.
Anthony Morrow (age 24) SG: Young Tony’s NBA life has been played in a skewed world for the Nellie Ball Warriors, but nonetheless, he’s young and he can do one thing that few Wizards can do: shoot the ball. On the roster, Mike Miller is the only other person that can be relied on to hit a jump shot–that’s pathetic for an NBA team. Morrow shoots 47.4% on FGs, which is great for an SG, especially when almost half his shots are threes. His 3pt% is 45.4 this year, and last season he lead the league at 46.7%. He shoots 88% from the stripe. He also is a low-turnover player. Simply put, Morrow is young and fills a major gap on the Wizards’ roster.
Kyle Lowry (Age 24) PG: Brace yourselves–The Wizards do not have a point guard on their roster. Gilbert is the closest thing, dishing out 7.1ast per 36 minutes, and he’s a shoot-first PG. Shaun Livingston gets 6.1ast per 36min, but he struggles rebounding despite being 6’7″. Lowry is a team player (6.4ast per 36min) who plays defense and rebounds (5.6rb per 36min). He may not be the best player around, but he’s hard-working, well-rounded, and plays beyond his years.
Dorell Wright (Age 24) SF: Wright is an long, tall, athletic, versatile defender. The Wizards don’t have one of those dudes. He can defend multiple positions and defends well both on and off the ball. He’s a low turnover player and has improved his passing and his shooting (38.1% from deep and 91.5% from the stripe!). He would be the Wizards’ “Kobe-Stopper” if we acquired him (and no, I don’t want him to emulate Ruben Patterson)
J.J. Redick (age 25) SG: Like with Morrow, Redick is filling the Wizards’ need for shooting (40.1 3Pt%). In addition, Redick has gained the reputation of a hard-working, strong perimeter defender. He has shown his ability to fit within a system and score in bursts when needed. Washington fans may not like Redick (Maryland fans still undoubtedly hate him from the Duke-UMD quasi-rivalry), but Redick provides perimeter toughness and shooting ability–two primary areas of need for Washington.
Travis Outlaw (age 25) SF: I haven’t watched Outlaw or Dorell Wright enough to properly compare the two, but suffice to say that they would be filling similar needs for the Wizards. Both are athletic, versatile perimeter defenders who protect the ball and shoot efficiently. Outlaw has struggled from the field this year (38.7 FG%), but that’s sure to be an aberration as he has a 44.1 career FG% (he’s been fine from deep at 38.4%). In addition, he’s more experienced than Wright, having played integral roles for the Blazers off the bench.
Ronnie Brewer (age 25) SG/SF: Ronnie cannot shoot the three like some of the previously mentioned players, but he locks down the perimeter like no one else mentioned (career 2.0stl per 36 min) and is efficient from the field (career 52.1 FG%). He doesn’t rebound particularly and he is merely an average passer, but he protects the ball. He thrives enough in FG% and defense alone to boost the Wiz core of swingmen.
Amir Johnson (Age 22) PF: A younger, less proven Tyrus Thomas. The man is playing 16.7 min/game this season, his career high. However, he gets 1.7blk, 1.2 stl, and 10.2rb per 36 minutes. He doesn’ score too much, but unlike Thomas he’s actually efficient (60 FG% this season). He could learn to protect the ball better, but the man is young and good.
Ian Mahinmi (Age 23) PF: Unlike Amir Johnson, Mahinmi can put up points in limited minutes (efficiently, too…career 23.6pts per 36min at 60.4 FG%). He is a very good rebounder, as well (12.1rb per 36min). The main knock on Mahinmi is that he has played only 139 career minutes in the NBA, not even the duration of 3 full NBA games.
Overall, the Wizards need to be smart going into the off-season. The big-name players aren’t looking to play for a rebuilding franchise. The Wizards’ only choice is to slowly rebuild by drafting well and signing efficient role players that address their needs.
-Their revered owner Abe Pollin died early in the season and the franchise has undergone ownership changes.
-Flip Saunders, in his first season with the Wizards, is struggling to relate to the players and implement his system.
-Gilbert Arenas, their $111 million-man, and teammate Javaris Crittenton, were suspended for the remainder of the season for bringing guns into the team locker room after either an altercation or prank gone wrong, depending on who you believe. Gilbert was sentenced to 30 days in a half-way house. Oh and both of these were point guards, to make matters more difficult for the team.
-The Wizards traded away Brendan Haywood (the longest tenured Wizard at the time) and Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison after the season’s hope had dissolved. They received very little beyond expiring contracts and bit players in return for their other two (former) all-stars and Haywood.
-Andray Blatche, the season’s lone bright spot, and Flip Saunders had a day-long fight after Andray reportedly refused to listen to coaches and re-enter the game. Andray also publicly stated he was underpaid.
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