Before the season, I made a pretty bold declaration by writing that the Washington Wizards could win the championship this year. And on paper, I still stand behind that statement. But when your whole starting five from the beginning of the season is gone by the trade deadline – something that I bet has never happened before – all expectations are thrown out the window.
Think about it. Gilbert Arenas (suspension), DeShawn Stevenson (Dallas), Caron Butler (Dallas), Antawn Jamison (Cleveland) and Brendan Haywood (Dallas) are all gone. Looking at what’s left of their roster, the only other guys that have started a game this season – other than Andray Blatche and Nick Young – are in their first year with the Wizards. Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Fabricio Oberto and even Earl Boykins have all started at least one game and are all new to D.C. – and none of these guys have All-Star Games in their past or their future.
So where to from here? Well, let’s start with the guys coming to Washington from the Wizards/Cavs/Clippers deal. All signs point to Zydrunas Ilgauskas never playing a game for the Wizards. With a huge expiring deal, Big Z will most likely be bought out and return to Cleveland (or another contender that can coax him). Also, Al Thornton, probably the only reason the Wizards made this deal, should step in right away and backup Josh Howard.
That leaves Washington with a projected starting lineup of Foye, Miller, Howard, Blatche and Oberto, and a bench consisting of Boykins, Young, Thornton, Mike James, Dominic McGuire, Quinton Ross, James Singleton and JaVale McGee. I could think of a few D-League teams that could field a better squad.
So why blow it all up? With all these trades, the Wizards put themselves in a position to start fresh – and in the hunt for Summer of 2010 free agents. Boykins, Ilgauskas, James, Miller, Oberto, Singleton and suspended Javaris Crittenton are all unrestricted free agents, and the team will most likely not exercise Howard’s $11,835,000 option for next season. Foye and McGuire are both restricted free agents, so depending on their production, they too could not be back. That leaves only Thornton, Blatche, Young, McGee and Ross (who has a $1,146,337 player option) on the roster past this year. Oh yeah, and that Arenas character who is owed another $80+ million over the next four seasons (but somehow I doubt that he’ll ever play another game in D.C.).
It is definitely sad to see Washington’s Big Three no longer in tact, but that squad was given all the chances in the world to win, and nothing ever materialized. Now, the Wizards will finish out the season, grab a Top 5 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and look to start over. It won’t be easy, but like the Trail Blazers trying to shed the Jail Blazer image, something had to be done.
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