This season didn’t fare as well as Wizards fans were hoping when the team hired head coach Flip Saunders last season to oversee a squad led by The Big Three of point guard Gilbert Arenas and forwards Antawn Jamison. Rather than contend for a title, the Wiz drowned in mediocrity. Arenas was suspended for the year for bringing guns into the locker room. Jamison and Butler were given lift rafts off the sinking ship via one-sided trades to contenders like Cleveland and Dallas, respectively.
Tuesday night brought some good news to a franchise that hasn’t had much in quite some time. The Wizards won the NBA Draft lottery and will now spend the next month choosing between Kentucky freshman phenom John Wall or NCAA Player of the Year Evan Turner of Ohio St. In theory, this selection holds the future of the franchise. A home run here may turn the tides for the woe-begotten Wizards. Here are a couple steps the now-rebuilding Wizards should take to right the ship.
1. Draft John Wall: Let’s not overthink this one, fellas. While the trophy case may suggest otherwise, Wall is the better pick here over Turner. Turner may be versatile(at 6’7, he can play anywhere from point to small forward) and his jumper may be slightly better than Wall’s, but Wall makes up for his suspect jumper with a Dwayne Wade-like first step. Wall also is a couple years younger and has the advantage of never having to come back from a broken back(as Turner had to this season). The Magic took Dwight Howard with the top pick and never looked back. The same with the Bulls and Derrick Rose. Eventhough the Wizards can’t go wrong either way, Wall should be the first name called on June 25th.
That being said, Wall is only one man. The Wizards own Cleveland’s first rounder(30th overall) as well as the 4th pick in the 2nd round(34th overall). With their point guard of the future set, the Wizards could use the two picks to get some size up front and an athletic slasher on the wing or a Jason Kapono-type long-range shooter. A guy I like at #30 is UTEP power forward Derrick Caracter. At 6’9, 280lbs, Caracter’s a solid rebounder with a wide body and long arms. He’s also a pretty good passer and has solid dribbling skills for a big man. In Round 2, a couple of options would be Notre Dame forward Luke Harongody(a 6’7 scoring machine who lacks athleticism but makes up for it with good work ethic) or Washington’s Quincy Pondexter(a freakish athlete with a quick first step and a dubious jumper, like a poor man’s Bobby Simmons).
2. Sign Amare Stoudemire: The Wizards haven’t had a legit presence inside in years and, certianly, there’s nobody currently on the roster who can fill that void. Dominic McGuire? JaVale McGee? Audrey Blatche? Ummm….next please.
With Washington not on top free agent big man Chris Bosh’s short list of potential landing spots, the focus needs to shift to Amare Stoudemire. Reports are surfacing that Stoudemire is a long shot to re-sign with Phoenix after the season(though these reports are from the same people who practically guaranteed Amare was getting dealt the last two years). Stoudemire is going to get interest from the Knicks and the Heat(where he nearly landed at the deadline) but those teams will only consider Amare once Bosh is off the board.
Instead of making Amare wait on Bosh, the Wizards should put on the full court press and try to bring in the 27-year old big man. Sure, there’s been knocks on Amare’s defense(or lack there of) but keep in mind that Stoudemire averaged just over two blocks a game two seasons ago. He’s not completely allergic to defense. He just plays in an uptempo system that is more geared toward offense. With Wall at the point, Stoudemire can spend the next five or six years catching alley-oops or shooting wide open baby hooks from Wall’s driving dishes. The Wizards dealt away Jamison and Butler to clear up cap space to make a move or two in the most heralded free agent class in recent memory. The team also needs a big man. Failing to achieve one or both of those objectives will only add fuel to the fire being fanned by fans upset over the midseason moves. Go get Stoudemire. Then, let Saunders worry about turning him into Kenyon Martin.
3. Trade Gilbert Arenas: I know it’s easier said than done but before John Wall(or whomever) becomes the new face of this franchise, Gilbert Arenas has to go. Obviously, there are plenty of obstacles. For one, Arenas’ contract is harder to move than Gabourey Sidibe at Taco Bell. Second, there’s finding a suitor for an aging gunner(pun intended) with aching knees, a bad attitude and an even worse contract. The teams that do have cap room are going to focus on guys who aren’t waiting to be reinstated by the commissioner. That being said, not everybody is going to get LeBron James or Dwayne Wade. The team to look for is the New York Knicks. If the Knicks can’t get one of the marquee free agents, they’ll need to make a move to satisfy a fan base that waiting patiently as the team cut payroll over the last two years in an effort to be players in the summer of 2010. Coach Mike D’Antoni has also always favored a scoring point guard for his offense. Is Arenas a perfect fit? Maybe not, but it’s better than getting nothing, right? The Knicks have shown they aren’t afraid of bad contracts(looking at you, Jerome James!), and if they strike out swinging on Plan A(LeBron), Plan B(Wade) or Plan C(Joe Johnson) than why not go with Arenas? Could the Wizards get by with Arenas at the 2 and Wall running point? Sure, but Wizards fans have already built up enough hatred toward Agent Zero…and that was before his suspension. The Wizards can’t afford to have a loon like Arenas tainting their new franchise. If a team gets desperate, the Wizards must pounce on putting Arenas on the first thing smoking out of town.
So, there you have it. Now, is this a fool-proof plan? Of course not. However, it’s a start and after this dreadful season, I think Wizards fans can live with that.
About the Author
Written by Dave Leonardis
Born and raised in New Jersey, I've been writing since I was 10 and blogging since I was 18. I'm a huge sports nerd, following football, baseball and basketball in particular in close detail. My style is very upfront. I don't pull punches and I'm not shy about criticizing anything I feel deserves a proper tongue-lashing. If you're looking for someone who says what he wants, when he wants, then look no further than this guy right here.