My NBA South East Division preview continues with the Washington Wizards:
2007-08 Standings 43 – 39, 5th Eastern Conference
2008-09 Predicted Record 35 – 47, 4th South East Division, 12th Eastern Conference
Projected Starting Five: Etan Thomas, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, Antonio Daniels
Sixth Man: Nick Young
At the beginning of the offseason the Washington Wizards looked to have a good, playoff quality team. They had three All Stars: Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas, a centre in Brendan Haywood who was coming off a career year and in Eddie Jordan one of the better coaches in the league. But before the season even begins they have lost Haywood for at least six months (which almost definitely means the season) and Arenas until after Christmas. To say they have been struck hard by injury is an understatement.
At least they still have Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. Both are All Star calibre players albeit on differing slopes. Butler is an up and comer. Last season he averaged career highs in numerous categories including points, assists and steals. While part of that can be attributed to the absence for most of the season of Gilbert Arenas, Butler has proven to be a young stud for the Wizards. The big question is whether he can stay healthy considering he missed 24 games last year.
Jamison on the other hand is on the downward slope of his career, not that you can tell from his numbers. He proved to be the engine around which the Wizards run last season but after ten years in the league can he continue playing at such a high level.
Then of course there is Agent Zero Gilbert Arenas. Arenas is an explosive shoot first point guard with a larger than the game personality. The problem is he missed 69 games last season then returned for the playoffs against Cleveland but looked out of sorts. He signed a massive extension in July then had further surgery and will be out until probably the new year. When he is fit Arenas is capable of leading the league in scoring but is that what is best for the Wizards? After all he missed most of last season and the Wizards finished 5th in the East.
The remainder of the roster has a journeyman quality about it, especially with the injury to Haywood. In Arenas’ absence Antonio Daniels is the point guard and he is a solid veteran. His backcourt partner will be DeShawn Stevenson although eventually that role will fall to Nick Young.
The front court behind Butler and Jamison feels fragile. Etan Thomas will be the centre, however he is better suited to be a backup big man.
Eddie Jordan will need to do the coaching job of his life to keep the Wizards competitive while they wait for Arenas to heal and then adjust to the lineup. If they suffer an injury to Butler or Jamison watch out.
The Wizard’s bench is journeyman quality. Probably the best of the bunch is Nick Young and he will be expected to come in and provide a spark off the bench.
When he is healthy Gilbert Arenas is the undoubted star of the Washington Wizards. In his injury absence that role falls to Caron Butler.
For how long can Antawn Jamison continue to produce at a high level? Sooner or later his age and the years he has spent in the league will tell and he will begin to slip. The Wizards are hoping it won’t be this year.
The Wizards will be ecstatic to match last year’s win total however I don’t see it. They have suffered injuries to two key players already and the season hasn’t even started. It’s going to be a painful year in Wizards land.
You can find an index of past Previews here.