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WEEKEND PICKS: IN THROUGH THE 'OUT' DOOR

Highs and Lows: Washington Wizards

By 10.03.08
Caron ButlerCaron Butler, Dime #36

NBA training camps are underway. While we wait for the games to start, we’re going team-by-team, from 1 to 30, exploring what each team’s ceiling is for the upcoming season and where their basement is. In other words, what are the realistic best-case and worst-case scenarios for each squad?

Additions: C JaVale McGee, SG Juan Dixon, PG Dee Brown, SF Linton Johnson, SG DerMarr Johnson.

Losses: SG Roger Mason Jr.

Ceiling: Conference semifinals
I’m sure somewhere out there exists a Wizards season preview that doesn’t include the phrase “If they stay healthy.” But this isn’t it. Talent-wise, everyone knows Washington has the goods to be a serious contender in the East — or at least a tough playoff out for the real serious contenders. But that is, of course, If They Stay Healthy. And while Caron Butler did miss the ’07 postseason with a broken thumb, and Antawn Jamison has been nicked up here and there, “they” more specifically means “Gilbert Arenas.” With a new six-year, $111 million contract in hand, Arenas will miss at least the first month of the season following yet another knee surgery. Butler and Jamison have shown they can carry the team to a decent record without Arenas, so if Agent Zero can just stay intact upon his return — whenever that is — the Wizards go from a playoff team to a truly dangerous playoff team. Butler is arguably the second-best small forward in the League, Jamison is a 20-and-10 threat every night, DeShawn Stevenson is actually good for them when you don’t focus on his blatant attempts at getting attention, and the Wizards added some depth in the middle with first-round draft pick McGee and the returning Etan Thomas, who missed all of last year with a heart condition. The second round of the playoffs, which Washington hasn’t seen since ’05, is a realistic goal. But that’s only if … Well, you already know.

Basement: Another first-round exit
Let’s assume everyone is healthy and ready to go come playoff time. Even then, if you put the Wizards up against the top four teams in the East — Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, Orlando — would they prevail in a seven-game series where they don’t have home court advantage? Arenas, Butler and Jamison are good for 60 points a night between them, and defensively the Wizards are better than they get credit for (middle-of-the-pack compared to the rest of the NBA), but after the Big Three, this squad isn’t very deep. Even with the additions of McGee and Thomas, their center situation is one of the worst in the East considering Brendan Haywood is the headliner. A lot depends on the continued development of youngsters Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Andray Blatche, Oleksiy Pecherov and McGee, and they’re just not ready yet (or mature enough) to be the kind of supporting cast you need for a contending team.

’08-09 NBA preview archives
10/2 — Utah Jazz
10/1 — Charlotte Bobcats
9/30 — Memphis Grizzlies
9/26 — Toronto Raptors
9/25 — New Orleans Hornets
9/24 — Atlanta Hawks
9/23 — Sacramento Kings
9/22 — Miami Heat
9/19 — Portland Trail Blazers
9/18 — New Jersey Nets
9/17 — Minnesota Timberwolves
9/16 — Cleveland Cavaliers
9/15 — Phoenix Suns
9/12 — Milwaukee Bucks
9/11 — L.A. Clippers
9/10 — Orlando Magic


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