|We now come to the "Supplemental"
part of the draft. Since the Usenet draft only goes one round we allow teams with out a
first round pick to be heard. The first of these "2nd" round picks goes to the Washington Wizards. The Wizards lost their
first round pick in the Chris Webber trade. In the real second round, they would pick #43.
Their GM is:
Jim Nagle Who selects:
I. Washington Wizards team analysis -1997/1998 season
As in previous years, I have been grateful for the fine web pages offered especially by Doug Steele but also by Patricia Bender. Doug's site is particularly useful by providing team rankings for a variety of statistics and as complete a set of player statistics as any that I am aware of. The URLs for these site are:
Please refer to these sites for team and player stats. I will not include much of them in what follows.
The previous season ended with great expectations for the future of this franchise despite 3 straight losses to the eventual champion Bulls. Michael Jordan went as far as saying they were "team of the future". As everyone now knows, it did not turn out quite that way. Washington missed the playoffs by one game, a huge disappointment for everyone associated with the team from the owner to the fans. The strange thing about it was in some ways, they were actually a better team than the one that secured the 8th seed in the final game of the previous season even though they won 2 fewer games. They were better in that unlike last years version, they actually did win games against some of the toughest teams in the NBA including a sweep of UT, a road win in ChiTown, a blowout of SEA in the inaugural game at the new MCI aka the phone booth.
But when examined critically, the season can be summarized by the expression, one step forward, two steps back. In critical games especially in the last quarter of the season the Wizards failed to win games they should have won including home losses against DEN and DAL and a loss of the season series to both BOS and PHL, teams that with all due respect to their fans the Wizards had no business losing season series to. The Wizards ended up 2 games over .500, one game above vs playoff teams and one game above vs non- playoff teams. That they should have done better is not really debatable.
What went wrong? To quote myself quoting Brooks Robinson, it was a combination of factors. The loss of Gheorghe Muresan was among the most important but the Wizards got somewhat lucky by having Terry Davis (free agent) fall into their lap just a few games into the season. Davis quickly assumed the role of starting center but would have been better suited as a backup center or part of a three or four headed center by committee in an perfect world for the Wizards along with Muresan and Ben Wallace or Lorenzo Williams. This would have kept Webber at PF. So not having their projected C rotation for the entire season hurt. There were other injuries as well. At one time during the season, the Wizards had Muresan, Webber, Howard, Legler, Eackles, Lorezo Williams and Shammgod all on the IL /at the same time/. THe loss of Muresan removed their highest FG% low post threat and the loss of Legler took away from their long range threats. It's not surprising that team FG% fell to middle of the pack after being near the top for the last 2 years.
Another contributing factor was poor FT shooting. The outcome of a number of games could have been changed with better FT shooting. Webber and Cheaney were the worst culprits here although Webber actually improved somewhat this year and had a stretch of games just after the All-star break in which he shot FTs reasonably well. Cheaney simply should be a much better FT shooter. He does not /appear/ to concentrate on the line.
There was also a too frequent occurrence of situations where the flow of a game might be somewhat helter skelter and the Wizards would fail to make a critical finish when they had a great opportunity to do so, possibly make a TO instead, resulting in a 4 point swing against them. When combined with the poor FT shooting, these impact of these plays was magnified.
Finally there was the well publicized off court "distractions" starting last off season with Strickland's arrest on DUI (or DWI?) charge. The belief that Muresan's injury was caused by his work in the movie "My Giant" did not help team cohesion. Just when the team seemed to be coming together after the MCI Arena opened there was a fight between Rod Strickland and Tracy Murray which resulted in minor injuries to both players and just preceded a 3 game road trip in which the Wizards ended up losing all three games. Then Webber got pulled over and subsequently arrested for marijuana possession (among other charges) while driving on the way to practice. If that were not enough, Webber and Howard were named in a sexual assault complaint following a late night party at Howard's house. No charges were filed after a grand jury investigation but this was probably the straw that broke the camel's back for Wizard's management. When Wes Unseld stated in a press conference that he was disappointed that Wizard players had put themselves in this position Webber was prompted by a reporter to respond to Wes' statement. Webber reportedly said "..Wes wasn't there." In Washington, you simply don't respond to Wes Unseld that way. Wes and Wizard's owner Abe Pollin should be considered as speaking with one voice on these sorts of matters. Ever since his arrival in town, Washington has wanted to accept Chris Webber. He could have owned this town. Now he is in SAC.
Given that the Wizards felt they had to trade Webber, getting Mitch Richmond and Otis Thorpe in return is about as much as they could probably hope to receive. While the trade violates 2 rules of NBA trades by trading big for small and young for old, the cap implications are positive for the Wizards. Both Richmond and OT have just a single year remaining on their contracts. Also there were rumors that Strickland indicated to Wizards mgmt that either or both Howard and Webber should go in order to make re-signing with the Wizards more attractive to him. Getting Richmond should make re-signing with the Wizards attractive to Rod. Just before the Webber trade, Unseld stated that re-signing Strickland was WAS' top off season priority.
Trading Webber also allows Howard to play the PF position many feel him to be better suited for. Cheaney can move to SF to make room for Richmond at SG. If the Wizards can re-sign Rod, their 1-4 positions will be in reasonably good shape. Their backcourt would be among the very best in the league with both Rod and Rock among the top 2-3 players at their respective positions. Other rumors have Juwan being traded. Because of cap implications, a trade involving Juwan will not take place until August. One last benefit of the Richmond trade from my own personal perspective is that it put a stop to the advocates for acquiring Latrell Sprewell.
II. Position Analysis
2nd team All NBA guard Rod Strickland was the Wizard's best player this year. I don't think there is really much question about that. He led the league in assists and had 3 triple doubles. When he went down late in the season with a torn quad, much of the Wizard's chance of making the playoffs went down with him. Rod carried the team at a time when both Webber and Howard were injured. He had a great year in his contract year and will command top dollar as a free agent this off season. His strengths and weaknesses as a point guard have not changed since last season. He is a /great/ penetrate, passer and finisher. He is a pretty good jump shooter but has limited range and is not an especially good 3 point shooter. His defense is average or even below average except that he is a great rebounder for a PG. His free throw shooting is below average, especially for a PG.
Chris Whitney again backed up Strickland. He did not have a good year for much of the year while suffering some foot problems which along with lack of playing time (Strickland is a warrior and plays allot of minutes) may have had something to do with his inability to play better. Of note is Whitney's poor shooting. When he first came to WAS, he was a respectable spot up shooter with 3 pt range. He has really slumped in this area. But he is a fabulous FT shooter (over 90%). After Strickland went down and Whitney had a couple games to adjust to being a starter, he actually played decently which came as a surprise to many Wizard's fans who had watched him all year. Rookie God Shammgod spent much of the season on the IL but showed some promise along with allot of inexperience late in the year backing up Whitney after Strickland went down. Shammgod has good quickness and handles but needs serious work to develop his shooting and decision making. He only played 2 years at Providence before turning pro.
Calbert Cheaney was the Wizard's shooting guard (and sometimes SF) and he continues to attract what this writer feels is unfair criticism. His defense has improved and should now be considered above average or even good. CC showed that he could (occasionally) guard opposing PGs through PFs and was especially effective fronting PFs. His great jumping ability made it very difficult to lob over him. He is a very athletic player who historically seemed lackadaisical. This year his intensity was much better. Offensively, he did not shoot as well as he has shot in the past, but still finished the year over .45. My biggest complaint on CC is his pathetic (for a SG) FT shooting. He often did not appear to concentrate well at the FT line. When Webber and Howard were both injured, CC did step up his offense. With the acquisition of Richmond, CC may be switched to SF on more of a full time basis, a position he may be as well or better suited for. Tim Legler suffered through an injury filled season and the Wizards missed his 3 pt shooting and FT shooting. Tracy Murray backed up at both the SF and SG positions and is an explosive scorer, (as evidenced by his 50 point outburst vs GS) a good team defender but a poor 1-on-1 defender. Ledell Eackles returned and provided an occasional spark off the bench before suffering some knee problems. Ledell was in the best shape of his career and he can be explosive offensively and is good at drawing fouls.
Juwan Howard was the Wizards SF for most of the season when he was not injured. He missed 18 games, mostly during Jan and Feb with a ankle injury. Juwan had a solid but unspectacular season when healthy. It is interesting to think how things might have worked out id Juwan had accepted one the other many offers that he had as a FA 2 off seasons ago or if the league had not nullified his MIA contract. What would his production have been like on another team? Impossible to say. After Webber was traded, Abe Pollin stated that the Wizards would now build around Juwan. This seems a somewhat dubious proposition. Juwan is a very solid /complementary/ player but unless he regains the form of his (2nd year) 3rd team AllNBA season, it doesn't seem too smart. OTOH, maybe when moves back to PF and plays without Webber and with re-dedicating himself to be "the man", he can shine again like he did that one year. It seems so long ago it's hard to recall how good he was but he did average 22 ppg on 49% shooting with 8 reb/gm.
Backing up Juwan at SF the Wizards had a variety of possible choices. Harvey Grant, Tracey Murray, Darvin Ham or Eackles. Harvey Grant used to be a solid player with a reliable face up shot and a guy who could post up and shoot with either hand around the basket. Now he has bulked up more like his twin Horace but has lost his shooting touch. Harvey is a FA and will almost certainly not be back, especially at the salary he was making ($4+M). Darvin Ham, also a FA, played many positions for the Wizards. He has explosive hops and the athleticism and size to be an effective and versatile defender when he is not making overly aggressive fouls. He could be back for a relatively low bucks contract. Unfortunately, Grant is the only one of the bench players with decent size for a SF. Ham plays big but is only 6-6 or 6-7 as is Murray and CC. The Wizards are in danger of being a very small team if they don't get some more size, especially at C.
Chris Webber was the starter when healthy. On the court he had another good or even great year. Unfortunately, there was also off the court stuff covered above that made the news for Webber. On the court he was among the top ten player in the league by tendex and top 2-3 at PF. The scary thing is that he has not realized his full potential. The bad thing is that this raises the question as to whether he ever will. He could be one of the the top 3-5 players in the league if he ever put it all together. Either way, it will be someone else that he does or doesn't put it together for. It seems clear that the trade was made mostly for non-basketball reasons although the team mgmt would deny that with emphasis.
Juwan Howard now becomes the presumptive starter with Otis Thorpe his primary backup when he is not backing up at C.
It was a disappointing year for the Wizards at the C position. Their top 2 players at the C position made little or no contribution. Some people now believe that Muresan will never play again. Lorenzo Williams has played less than half a season in 2 years raising similar doubts about his future. Luckily for WAS, they had Terry Davis fall into their laps. Davis quickly became the starting C and provided a strong physical presence although he is undersized for a C. Few have a bigger heart than TD though. In many ways he did a fine job. WAS really would have been well serve if TD could have split time with Muresan and Lorenzo Williams. Davis was the second leading rebounder on the team in limited minutes before he got worn down towards the end of the season. WAS should try to re-sign him if possible.
Ben Wallace finished the year as the starting C for WAS. He is a bit also undersized at 6-8 but he has tremendous hops and is very active which sometimes leads to foul trouble. Ideally he might be better as a rebounding type PF a la Dale Davis. He has limited offensive skills and is dreadful FT shooter although later in the year when he began to get more attempts, his FT shooting improved dramatically from the approx. 20% level he maintained for much of the year. Ben should also be retained if at all possible.
The Wizards also have last years 2nd round draft pick stashed in Europe. He is a big 6-11 player. I don't really know anything more about him or even if he is planning to come over this year.
III. My Selection
Small height (for a C) but 1st class NBA body, Georgetown alum (they usually do better in pros than in college). Under-rated due to injuries.
IV. Others Considered
Nesterovic - skinny, poor FT, 5.4 rpg for a guy 7-2
McCoy - poor attitude
Henderson - mental toughness, relies on set shot
Bailey - SG, I like him but wrong position- could be a decent backup maybe
Miller - pf body but not skills/mindset, he was probably my second choice
VI. Who they should take
Probably the BPA but that will almost certainly depend on factors such as whether they think they can re-sign Strickland, deal Howard or whatever other potential moves they may be contemplating. Center is the most obvious need but there are potential FAs they might try to lure to WAS. I am not optimistic of them getting any of the better ones available such as Divac, Geiger and Austin as they will probably be constrained by the salary cap.
|Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner|