Team Preview #14: Washington Wizards
by Eric Wong AKA Roto EvilAugust 22nd, 2008
LAST SEASONDespite losing Etan Thomas for the entire year, Gilbert Arenas for 69 games, and Caron Butler for 24 games, the Wizards still went 43-39, good enough for the 5th-best record in the East.
Unfortunately, they lost to Cleveland in the 1st Round of the Playoffs for the 3rd year in a row (ouch!).
OFFSEASON MOVESKey Additions: JaVale McGee
Key Losses: Roger Mason
Roger Mason played very well for Washington last season, making 1.6 threes per game at a nearly 40% clip. The Spurs recognized his efforts and signed him to replace Brent Barry, hurting the Wizards backcourt depth. In the draft, the Wiz picked 7-foot center JaVale McGee out of Nevada. He blocked an impressive 2.8 shots in just 27.3 minutes per game last season, but he's still quite raw and has "high bust potential" according to DraftExpress (the next Patrick O'Bryant?).
ROTATION / PLAYING TIMEAs you all know, Washington is led by their big three of Arenas (32.6 mpg, but 39.8 the year before), Butler (39.9 mpg), and Antawn Jamison (38.8 mpg). If healthy, you can except all three to receive 38-40 minutes per game. At shooting guard, DeShawn Stevenson played 31.2 mpg, and he should see 30-32 minutes of action once again. Antonio Daniels averaged 30.4 minutes and started 63 games at PG last season, but his PT will likely fall to 20 or less if Arenas is healthy. Nick Young (15.4 mpg) and Dominic McGuire (10.0 mpg) are the backup swingmen, but both are still unproven and may not be ready to contribute big minutes just yet.
In the middle, Brendan Haywood played a career-high 27.8 minutes, mainly because his teammate/nemesis Etan Thomas sat out the whole year after undergoing open heart surgery. Thankfully, Thomas is back, which means that Haywood will go back to playing 22-26 mpg. In addition to Thomas (19.2 mpg in '06-07), the Wizards have several other capable big men that they can turn to. Andray Blatche (20.4 mpg) is a talented youngster who averaged 11.5 points, 8.1 boards, 1.2 steals, and 1.9 blocks in 15 starts last season. I'd like to see what he can do with more minutes, but that probably won't happen this season unless Jamison goes down. Darius Songaila (19.4 mpg) is a proven veteran, but his minutes may drop to 16-18 this season. Washington also has the intriguing Oleksiy Pecherov (a 7-footer from Ukraine who likes to shoot threes), which simply means the rookie McGee will likely spend the season in the D-League.
DON'T SLEEP ON: Gilbert ArenasCan you really sleep on someone who was a Top 7 pick in nearly every single league last season? If people are drafting based on last year's statistics, then yes. Arenas played the first 8 games of '07-08 before experiencing soreness in his left knee and sitting out most of the season. He tried to come back before the Playoffs, but he clearly wasn't 100% and his team suffered. His individual stats suffered too, as his 19.4 points, 5.1 assists, 1.7 threes, 39.8% FG, and 77.1% FT are very mediocre looking.
Yes, his surgically repaired knee is still a major cause for concern, but you can't ignore the stats that Agent Zero put up in the seasons prior. In '06-07, Arenas finished 3rd in points per game, 3rd in threes, 3rd in FT attempts, 7th in steals, 16th in assists, and 24th in FT%. Gilbert was a Top 5 player in both '06-07 and '05-06, but based on last year's numbers, he could very well fall past pick #20 in some leagues. If he does, I highly recommend gambling on him.
BE CAREFUL OF: Caron ButlerUsing per game stats, Butler was a Top 5 fantasy player last season. Unfortunately, he missed 24 games in '07-08 and 19 games in '06-07. In fact, in his 6-year career, Caron has NEVER played 80+ games in a season, which means that he'll get a very poor injury rating in my value rankings. But that's just one reason to be careful of him.
"Tough Juice" set career-highs in points, assists, steals, threes made, FG%, 3P%, and FT% last season, so it's unreasonable to think that he'll improve on all of those numbers. Don't forget that Arenas missed most of last year, which gave Butler a larger role on offense and especially pumped up his assists (4.9 vs. previous high of 3.7) and 3-point attempts (3.2 vs. previous high of 1.6). Based on last year's numbers, Butler will likely be a late 1st or early 2nd round pick in most drafts this season. I still like the guy, but late 2nd or early 3rd sounds much better to be.
ROUND BY ROUND TARGETS(Where you should draft these guys in an 8-cat Roto league with 12 teams and 14 man rosters)