Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Offseason Overview: Washington Wizards

What looked like it could be a disastrous off-season for (our beloved) Wizards actually turned out quite nicely, thank you very much. The departure of Larry Hughes stings, no doubt, but that sure was just too much money to give him, and the three-headed monster of Caron Butler, Antonio Daniels and Chucky Atkins should adequately replace him. The team didn’t address its need for a big man (Calvin Booth doesn’t count), but the Wiz should be able to maintain their gains they made last year, if not necessarily improve.

The Stud: Gilbert Arenas, PG
I’ll admit off the bat to throwing objectivity out the window when talking about Gil. He’s my favorite player in the league and I’ve got a brand new throwback jersey that I’m ready to sport at home games this year. Even so, we can all agree that he’s a fantasy stud. After an injury-marred first season in Washington, Gilbert took it to another level last year and should be entering an extended prime. He finished the season at #7 on the player rater, and with Hughes gone, it’s his team now. Check out Gilbert’s numbers when Hughes missed 20 games with a broken wrist last year: 29.2/6.0/6.0 with 2.8 3s and 2.4 steals. There are more talented players to pick up the slack this time, but expect a very pre-PG Iverson type year for Gil, with a few more 3s and a few less steals. Count on him to average at least 40 mpg, which will keep his numbers up. He’s not a top-5 pick, but anything after that would be reasonable.

The Support: Antawn Jamison, F
After four straight seasons of not missing a game, Jamison missed 14 last year with knee problems. He had surgery to correct it, but this is the type of injury that can linger and should make you wary of drafting someone who’s strengths are points and rebounds. He shot just 44% last year, the lowest of his career, but he did have his best year in terms of 3s. Jamison is the perfect example of a player with name recognition that doesn’t match his fantasy value. If he’s healthy, he’s as steady as they come, but he’s just a mid-round pick.

The Supporting Support: Caron Butler, SF
Those numbers over the last 16 games of the season were quite nice: 21.8/7.1/2.9. But the big number was the 2.4 steals over that span. In his impressive rookie season, Butler averaged 1.8 spg, and if he could match that number, he will be a very valuable fantasy contributor even if he doesn’t score 20 ppg. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to his third team in four seasons, as we saw that it took him a while to hit his stride last year in L.A. There’s a very good chance that he will end up being more valuable than Jamison.

The Sleeper: Brendan Haywood, C
It’s been slow going, but Haywood may be ready to be a legit fantasy option this year. He’s shown steady improvement each season, but actually looked like he belonged much of last year. The big question is how much playing time he’ll receive. Even if he stays at last year’s pace, but ups his PT from 27.4 mpg to 33.5 mpg, you’re looking at a line of 11.6 and 8.4 with 2.1 bpg. Combine that with the fact that he shot 56% and you have a perfectly serviceable center. But if he has mental lapses, Calvin Booth, Etan Thomas and Michael Ruffin will be there to take his time.

The Slacker: Jarvis Hayes, SF
Hayes looks to be the likely starter along with Butler at the 2 and the 3, but that doesn’t mean you want any part of him. In his two years in the league, Hayes has yet to show the ability to stay healthy or be a worthy fantasy player. For a player whose main strength is supposed to be shooting, his 39.5% career FG% is wholly unimpressive, and he’s more of a long-twos guy (like Rip Hamilton) than a long-range guy.


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