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2008-09 NBA Draft Kit: Washington Wizards Preview

October 27, 2008 | By Alex Hardin | comment on this post

As we continue the 2008-09 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit, we’re back with another team preview, this time with Alex making his basketball debut with a look at the Wizards.

The Washington Wizards enter the 2008-09 campaign with more questions than answers. Once again, their franchise star, Gilbert Arenas, will be out an extended period of time as he underwent another knee surgery. In his absence, the ball will be in good hands with Antonio Daniels. He is always among the league leaders in assist-to turnover ratio, but on the downside, he hardly the star and shot maker that Agent Zero has become over the past few years.

In addition to Arenas’s injury, starting centre Brendan Haywood will be out virtually for the entire season thanks to a wrist injury. It’s awful timing as he was starting to show signs of consistency when he was given consistent minutes last year. This injury is far more important than it seems as Haywood is a long seven-footer that fills up the lane on defense and can block shots. Etan Thomas will fill in as starter, but I am not sure how many minutes he will be getting as he is coming off heart surgery. The Haywood injury most likely will leave a revolving door at the centre spot, with Andray Blatche and, to a lesser extent, Javale McGee factoring into this mix.

If Coach Eddie Jordan does not get the Wizards past the second round of the playoffs, and more importantly the Cavs (who have knocked them out in the first round three straight years), there will be questions about whether he is the guy to lead this team. You can only blame injuries for so long, right? It just seems the Wizards can never catch a break, as injuries to their big three have been commonplace. The last time Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, and Arenas were all healthy, they were No. 1 in the East at the All-Star break the season before last.

Another huge question will be how the young talent on the team (Nick Young, McGee, Dominic McGuire, Blatche) continues to be integrated into the rotation. All four have outstanding potential as Young can be a deadly scorer, Blatche is a very versatile big man, and McGuire could be a great energy guy off the bench. I think Blatche is finally taking his job seriously, so I look for him to continue to develop.

Fantasy wise, the only guys worth a starting spot on a standard league will be Butler and Jamison. Daniels could be a nice bench player if you need assists and want to keep your turnovers down. Jamison is a perennial 20-10 guy, so you know what you will get with him. Butler, on the other hand, fills up all the categories as he covers points, assists, rebounds, and steals.

Projected Starting Lineup

PG: Antonio Daniels
SG: DeShawn Stevenson
SF: Caron Butler
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: Etan Thomas

Key Bench Players: Andray Blatche, Nick Young, JaVale McGee, Darius Songalia, Dominic McGuire, Dee Brown.

Position Battles

While there is a constant battle for bench minutes on the team, the only starting gig being contested is at centre. With Haywood out basically for the season, it is Thomas’s job to lose, with McGee, Blatche, and Songalia looking to push him for starts. With Arenas out, Brown steps in as the back-up point guard to Daniels. Also look for Young to seriously push for Stevenson’s starter minutes within the first 20 games of the year.

Stud: Caron Butler is an absolute fixture for the Wizards. He is not called “Tough Juice” for nothing. He plays hard and consistent and is the stud on the team. You could argue for Jamison, but he is sometimes soft and usually hides when there’s an opportunity for a big shot.

Dud: As good as Gilbert Arenas is when he is healthy, he is the fantasy dud on the squad. He has not played on a regular basis for a very long time. His injuries will always be a concern ever since he went down with the meniscus injury. As much as Wizard fans would love to see Agent Zero in full effect this year, that very well may never come to pass.

Sleeper: I will go with Andray Blatche as the sleeper on the Wizards. He has the skill set and size to be a valuable fantasy player. He can handle the ball, get assists, and his size allows him to get easy rebounds. He also is a decent shot blocker who is getting better on the defensive side. His scoring and jump shooting has improved each year, which is promising. Draft him late, and you could be rewarded. He should end up getting more minutes than starting centre Etan Thomas.

Rookies to Watch The only rookie on the squad is centre JaVale McGee. This ultra-athletic seven-footer will compete for minutes this year. Coach Eddie Jordan did not expect him to be in the rotation before the preseason started, but it will be hard to keep him on the bench if he continues to work and play as hard as he has in the last few exhibition games. McGee will not make a major fantasy impact, but if you are in a keeper league, you may want to keep an eye on him.

Fantasy Stories to Watch

I think the biggest fantasy story to watch will be if those who draft Gilbert Arenas get any returns. He is slated to come back by January, but recent reports say he could make it back as early as November. If you want a potential stud in round six or seven, he may be worth a shot. After his previous complications, Arenas won’t be rushing back to the court. Are you willing to take the risk and pull the trigger on Arenas?

Another interesting story to follow is the scoring ability of Nick Young. I think he is a legit NBA scorer would could very soon be averaging 16 to 20 points a game. The problem is that he will be just that, a scorer. I do not see him putting up enough assists and boards to become a fantasy stud. Basically, he will just be taking points away from Jamison and Butler, making them slightly less valuable.

All in all, the Wizards are ready for another playoff year. I am sure they will do just enough to allow LeBron to eliminate them again as he takes his three steps down the lane for game winners. Long live the King…

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