The Washington Bullets lost their first round pick when they resigned J. Howard. However it is the Wizards who have to suffer. In the Usenet draft, the Wizard pick 30th, in the real draft they would pick at #46.
Jim Nagle

who selects:
Jason Lawson


My pick is Jason Lawson, C Villanova. I initially shied away from him as 235 lb sounded light to play C but Lorenzo Williams is who he is insurance for isn't any heavier. My pick had been Lorenzo Coleman C- Tennesee Tech. I liked his size and realized he is very much a project but had chosen him as insurance that the Wizard's current Lorenzo (Williams) fails to recover from his knee problems. Upon receining additional info from our commish on how poorly he played in the pre-draft camps, I changed my pick to Lawson. Coleman was also reported to have a work ethic problem. So Lawson it is. I chose to go with a backup C rather than a backup PG but it was close. As PGs, I considered Kiwane Garris, DeJuan Wheat (Louisville, Wes may have his eye on this guy as a 2nd rd choice) but my first choice as a PG would have been Anthony Johnson (Col of Charleston was for real last year). Many thanks to Craig, Owen and everyone who helped in the scouting as I'm not a close follower of the college game and would have been totally clueless without the resources Craig has placed on the Usenet Draft webpage.

Bullets analysis-97

First let me publicly thank Doug Steele for his great NBA stats web page. I've used it for a couple of years in writing these analysis so let me praise him here and now for this great resource. I should have given him credit in previous years of my GMship. I also made use of Patricia Bender's fine webpage for salary and FA info.

Review of the previous year

This was something of a breakthrough year for the Bullets (who will be the Wizards next year) having ended the longest playoff drought in the league even though they got swept by CHI in the first round of the playoffs. For much of the year, the team was heavily criticized on this NG and elsewhere for underacheiving. To the extent that that is a valid criticism, let me provide some reasons why. The year started out with some of WAS' key players either on the IL or playing at less than 100%. Large among these reasons was that Muresan started the year on the IL with a problem with his hip flexor. This was after finishing the previous year with a knee injury so 77 was both injurred and rusty having been unable to play during the offseason. So the season began with Webber playing center. Muresan's projected backup, Lorenzo Williams also started and spent most of the year on the IL so WAS was not particularly deep at the center position. Juwan Howard returned to WAS after the MIA saga about which different people have their own strongly held opinions. Bottom line is that Juwan signed with WAS for 7 years at just over $100 M. But he started the year with both physical and mental distractions. On the physical side, he had shin splints. On the mental side there was a paternity suit for a child that was fathered while Juwan was still in college and a well publicized arrest for DUI. Both matters are now settled, Juwan attended a program for DUI offenders after making a public apology and admitting poor judgement and settled the paternity suit. These factors may well have played a role in Juwan getting off to somewhat of a slow start. Strickland played quite well all year but especially flourished after the firing of Jim Lynam just after the AS break when new coach Bickerstaff made it clear he wanted the ball in Rod's hands. Tracey Murray started the year shooting very poorly due in considerable part to a sprained wrist. By the end of the season he was shooting much better. He has or will undergo off-season surgery on his wrist. Lorenzo Williams was a major disappointment for WAS this year. He was signed after McIlvaine was lost to major $$ in SEA. For the money, he appeared to be a great bargain considering the times but spent most of the year trying to get a knee into the playing condition. He ended up playing less than 20 games. So at the start of the season, CWebb was the only C was had and he's not a true C. WAS also missed the outside shooting of Tim Legler who was a key bench player for the Bullets the prior year. With Murray struggling early in the year, the Bullets went from being one of the best 3 pt shooting teams the previous year to one of the worst early in the season. Legler will be a FA this off season, one that WAS should try to retain. That they did not play as well as many expected could largely be due first to injuries and losing some close games at the start of the season. This led to some discouragement, loss of confidence and simply uninspired play which finally led to Lynam's dismissal. While not having the immediate impact in the W-L department as Adubato's hiring had in ORL, Bickerstaff's arrival eventually led to better play and a playoff spot. In fairness it should be noted that WAS late season schedule was relatively easy. At one point WAS had not won a game against a team in 1st or 2nd place in any division. They were beating the weaker teams on a pretty regular basis but had a lot of trouble with teams like CHI, NY, UT, SEA, LAL, DET and MIA winning only 2 games all year against these teams although many of the games were competitive. WAS added Rod Strickland, Tracy Murray, Ashraf Amaya and Jaren Jackson and Lorenzo Williams in the off-season. Notable departures were Pack, BPrice, MPrice, and McIlvaine. Team stat summary (again, all stats courtesy of Doug Steele's fantastic web page) Good shooting team from the floor finshing 2nd in the league in FG% 10th in scoring avg; 18th in def scoring avg; 13th in pt dif; very poor FT shooting team 28th; poor 3 pt % 26th; avg def FG% team (14th) but good FG% dif 6th rebound dif ended up decent (9th) after spending much of the season ranked poorly with a neg reb dif; TOs mediocre at 19th (Doug's page did not explicitly have TO differential but WAS reportedly ranked well in this area); Blocks and fouls average at 13th/15th respectively

Position by position breakdown

Point guard- Rod Strickland came via the often maligned Rasheed Wallace trade. This was a good trade for WAS! All of WAS' PGs were FAs and Rod was/is better than any of them. Given that Rod is signed through the coming season, WAS got far more bang for the buck with Strickland than they would have had in any other reasonable scenario. Rod is one of the best at penetrate and dish (half- court) and transition (open court) PGs in the league. He is also a very capable PG at posting up when the opposing PG is of the smaller (more typical PG size) variety. However, he does have his weaknesses. These include shooting range (terrible 3 pt%), FT% and he is only average at best defensively and that may be being generous. But overall, Strickland is quite satisfactory for WAS. Chris Whitney is Strickland's backup and fills that role quite well. Whitney is a FA. WAS should try to retain Whitney even though he suffered a shooting slump towards the of the year provided they can do so at a reasonable price. There are a number of other possibilities which might be considered as well IE Wesley. Overall, Whitney plays well and is often more effective defensively against quick PGs than Rod is/was. Shooting guard- Calbert Cheaney, Jaren Jackson, Tim Legler, Tracy Murray (some of these also slide over to SF at times specifically CC and/or Murray). Cheaney has been consistently criticized for not playing up to expectations. I do not completely share that view although I understand where it's coming from. CC has shot well during most of his career reaching a high this year of .505. His problem has been that his talent is so obvious, people can't understand why he doesn't put up better numbers plus his demeanor is pretty casual. He does need to be more focused and more intense (he improved in this aspect this year) but that he keeps cool is fine by me. This year he finally began to more consistently use his athleticism at the defensive end of the floor. Other than MJ, few opposing SGs had big games against WAS, especially down the stretch of the reg season. Early in the season, CC struggled to establish his role on the team and his stats suffered as a result of the lack of shot attempts. One of Cheaney's biggest deficiencies as a SG continues to be his lack of 3 pt range which was more of a problem this year in the absence of Legler and the early season shooting woes of Murray. Jaren Jackson, a FA, often provided an offensive lift early in the season before eventually tailing off as CC's role became more solidified under Bickerstaff. Jaren is a reasonably decent defender with appropriate size to play and defend at SG. He was also the team's emergency backup PG but the Bullets were fortunate they did not have to rely on him in this role except for very limited periods. That Strickland and Whitney played without injury was key in this regard. Murray was in a lengthy shooting slump at the start of the season due to a wrist injury. Murray is having off-season surgery to fix this problem. As mentioned above, I was under the impression that Murray was another Don MacLean, good offense, no defense SF type. While his 1 on 1 skills are average at best, he played with hustle and made numerous key steals and rebounds. That he is signed for a number of years in WAS should benefit this team. He *could be* (as in might be) an ideal 6th man as he showed during the CHI playoff series when he was the team's leading scorer and totally abused the defensively hapless Kucoc and moreso than he has been abused since in the 97 playoffs. An improvement in the area of consistency is what separates Murray from being one of the better 6th men inthe league. Both Murray and Cheaney are capable (at 6-7) of playing SF as well as SG. Tim Legler basically missed the entire year recovering from the dreaded ACL blowout late in the previous season. WAS sorely missed his league leading 3 pt shooting. He is a FA and should be resigned provided his knee is truly healthy which was not entirely clear based on limited appearences late in the season. Re-signing Jackson is a lessor priority. Forwards WAS plays with what many would consider to be a forward line that includes 2 PFs rather than the more traditional and common PF/SF alignment. That is when their Cs are all healthy which they were not for much of the past year. In that case, Webber shifts over to C (and he did so quite willingly knowing the team needed him there) and Howard played the PF. Harvey Grant was normally either the 5th starter or the 1st forward off the bench. Webber had a great year finishing among the top ten in tendex and with a 20/10 avg in pts/reb. As former coach Lynam said, Webber is a box filler by which he meant he gets alot of stats (mostly positive ones) in many categories. Howard had a somewhat off year after his stunning 2nd year performance and subsequent huge contract but still finished with very respectable numbers, 19 pts/ 8 reb /.486 FG%. In the years to come I would predict he will do somewhere between these 2 numbers ie maybe 20 pts/ 8 reb/ 49-50% FG. Harvey Grant is something of an enigma to me. As a rookie with the Bullets, he was skinny kid with a respectable standstill "jumper" who had little strength but was still an adequate defender due to long arms. Now he more closely resembles his twin bro Horace having bulked up considerably, he can guard almost any position on the floor but no longer is a very good shooter either from the floor or the stripe. Apparently the added muscle throws off his shot. Too bad. If he could still shoot the way he used to be able to, his rather large $4M salary would be (more easily) justified. As is he is still a useful player especially given his defensive versatility since WAS generally does not need much offense from him. Now I read from our esteemed commish that Harv is a FA. I had not realized this. He is a useful player but the question of cap management comes into play here. I would see how he feels about playing for approximately half of what he was getting previously. Ben Wallace was a very raw rookie who showed some promise as a rebounder and shotblocker but saw little playing time. He is a FA. Depending on other moves WAS makes, it might be worthwhile to re-sign him. He reminds me a bit of Dale Davis. Ashraf Amaya, along with Wallace, spent much of the year languishing on the end of the bench and showed little reason why he should get more PT given who those minutes would be coming from (Webber/Howard/Grant). Amaya was cut late in the season so Lorenzo WIlliams could be on the playoff roster. Center Big Gheorghe Muresan started the year on the injurred list and finished the year with an injury although he still played in the playoffs. As is well known he is huge and slow. Injuries limited Gheorghe's effectiveness this year although he once again finished near or at the top in FG%. He injuries cut down more on his rebounding and blocks which may have partly been due to lesser minutes due to foul trouble caused by (more than his usual) immobility. Still you can't help but like a guy who shoots over 60% (and does great commercials). Interestingly, his FT% has gone down somewhat since he came into the league finshing this year at .618. One major disappointment for WAS was the lack of a meaningful contribution from Lorenzo Williams who was signed when it became clear that McIlvaine was leaving for greener pastures. Williams appeared to be a much better bang for the buck with better stats across the board except for blocks per minute where Jimmy Mc led the league the previous year. Unfortunately for WAS, Williams only played in 19 games and did not have the hoped for impact when he did play. He is signed for several more years I believe so hopefully he can make a contribution in years to come.

Team needs

Depth at PG and C With Whitney being a FA and Lorenzo Williams coming off an injury riddled season, WAS needs to evaluate Whitney vs other available PGs or the relative health of Lorenzo Williams. In most other respects, the team simply needs time to mature and develop and most importantly, how to beat good teams. On a local basketball talk sports TV show, Ricky Mahorn (who broke in with the Bullets) was a guest and indicated an interest in coming back to Washington. He could be useful in a teaching role for the young Wizards to be. In making my draft selection, I will look at possible projects at the 1 and 5 positions.

Back to 1997 Usenet draft page