The Washington Wizards are terrible.
That’s no secret. Everybody knows this.
The franchise has been struggling to get back to the playoffs since their last appearance in the 2007-2008 season where they lost at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.
Since that time the Wizards have fired coach Eddie Jordan, traded away All-Stars Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison, drafted young up-and-comers John Wall and Javale McGee and fired another coach in Flip Saunders.
What are they left with?
Ten players with less than five years of NBA experience and no All-Star appearances with their only All-Star being former Orlando Magic forward Rashard Lewis.
This roster, as is, has been a recipe for disaster as the Wizards sit currently as the worst team in the NBA at 3-15 with all three wins coming at home.
Flip Saunders was recently fired for leading the Wizards to such a terrible start but the blame should not be placed on Saunders for this team’s inability to win games. Saunders was the former coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves (1995-2005) and Detroit Pistons (2005-2008) leading each team to the playoffs all but one of his 13 seasons coaching the two organizations.
The difference that arises between these two teams and the Wizards is that the Wolves and Pistons actually had talented players on their rosters who were dedicated to the game of basketball.
When Saunders took over as the Wolves’ head coach, he inherited a rookie Kevin Garnett who would be mentored by the likes of Sam Mitchell (who would go on to become the 2006-2007 NBA Coach of the Year) and Terry Porter (former Trailblazers’ teammate of Clyde Drexler).
The next season, the team drafted young stud Stephon Marbury out of Georgia Tech to take over the offense at point guard.
With the Pistons, Saunders was placed into an environment historically equipped with championship experience and aspirations. The Eastern Conference powerhouse that won the title in 2004 maintained their core group of All-Stars (Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and Ben Wallace) and was set to proceed with business as usual.
My point is, Saunders is a good NBA coach. Some may even go as far as to call him a great coach. While he has no championship rings, he has shown his ability to coach teams to successful NBA seasons.
The Wolves had young potential but they coupled that with older veterans who were experienced enough to show their younger counterparts the ropes in the NBA and help them progress. The Pistons roster was run by a core group of veterans who knew what it took to win.
The Wizards roster has none of that. The older players on the roster with six or more years of experience include team captain Andray Blatche, Rashard Lewis and Ronny Turiaf. Where is the leadership in the locker room? Who do players like Nick Young, John Wall, and Javale McGee have to look up to?
The last “mentor” on the roster (Gilbert Arenas) was charged with illegal gun possession during the 2009-2010 season. Now, we see who took the most from Arenas’ time spent in Washington in shoot-first two-guard Nick Young.
As much as scoring is necessary in the game of basketball, being able to stop the other team from scoring is just as important and Young hasn’t seemed to grasp this concept just yet. The same could be said for several other Wizards on the roster as the team currently sits 26th in the league in opponents points per game.
Rashard Lewis is currently the second-highest paid player in the league (that’s right SECOND) behind Kobe Bryant and right above Tim Duncan at $22.15M. That’s ridiculous. Next year is the last one of his contract and once it’s up, the Wizards should drop him immediately.
His production has dropped since joining the Wizards last season averaging 10.2 points per game and 5.4 rebounds. At 33, his career is winding down and he should be released to open up more space on the roster for more talented players.
Aside from Wall and McGee, no one else on the roster is necessary and can easily be replaced–including Young. According to Washington Post and ESPN columnist Michael Wilbon, the locker room environment has been terrible as of late and John Wall has expressed that he is “not having fun” this season. McGee has proven himself as a solid post presence this season sitting second in blocks per game (2.94).
The only way the Wizards can legitimately rebuild and progress moving forward is to clean house and cleanse the locker room of all the negative influences.
Getting a new coach in former assistant Randy Wittman may be a good start towards changing team environment but the Wizards still have a long way to go before they can become a consistent playoff team once again.