2002-2003 Season Recap
There are not too many Wizards fans, or Michael Jordan fans, who can look back at the past two seasons and see anything other than a failure. Yes, the team gained some much needed national and international exposure but even that might be tarnished after the team's abysmal and shocking dismissal of MJ. A franchise that two years ago had lots of wind in its sails now looks like the Bismarck, sinking to the bottom of the cold, danky, Atlantic Ocean. Jordan is gone as a player and as an executive,
Doug Collins is gone as coach and the worst of all,
Kwame Brown is still here. The last two seasons are a failure because when it is all said and done, the team is no better off than when Jordan came aboard as a player 2 seasons ago (although many of you will argue that the team has good young talent and to that I would say they have young talent).
The hope for the Wizards when MJ decided to play again must have been threefold:
- The Wizards would make the playoffs for 2 seasons, or at the least 1 season and gain some momentum for the moribund franchise
- Use MJ to lure some good free agents to Washington and as a result, lay a strong foundation for the years to come
- Get the young guys some excellent game experience playing next to the world's greatest basketball player
None of these things were accomplished by the time Jordan was shoved out the door. The team never made the playoffs, no real good free agents came to Washington and the young guys, namely Kwame Brown, made no real progress as a result of Jordan's presence. Instead, Brown seems to have regressed to a point where at times this season he was worse than last season. Yes Jordan brought fame and money to the franchise, but the basketball team that is left in Jordan's wake is one of the worst in the NBA. When viewed from this perspective can the last 2 seasons be viewed as anything other than a total failure?
I can tell you the exact moment this whole past season blew up in Jordan's face. Trading
Richard Hamilton for Jerry
Stackhouse. The best basketball the Wizards played last year was the string of game in December 2001 when they won like 9 in a row. After that streak Hamilton got hurt and the team never played that well again. season. Hamilton was a perfect 2nd option for Jordan because a) he didn't need the ball in his hands a lot b) his mid range game was 2nd to none c) he didn't mind being 2nd fiddle to Jordan. Hamilton was all the things that Stackhouse has never been. Why do you think that a team like Detroit with little to none offensive power was willing to trade its offensive star to Washington for Rip Hamilton? Stackhouse has always been a player who dominates the ball and he has never been able to fit in as a second option (see Philly with AI and first 2 seasons in Detroit with Grant Hill). Hamilton was as good for Jordan as Jordan was for Hamilton and they up and traded him for Jerry Freaking Stackhouse. But that wasn't the only horrible move the Wizards made last year:
- Trading Chris Whitney. Was there any worse moment last season than when Whitney, who had toiled for the Wizards for so long and who had played with so much heart was traded to DENVER before the season started! Seriously, Whitney was huge for the Wizards last year, especially when it came to hitting 3's. The Wizards were the best team in the NBA last year hitting 3's and this year they were 27th. Why they traded all their good veterans and then went out and signed crappy veterans I will never know.
- Trading Hubert Davis. Was a 45% 3 point shooter last year and so they traded him. See above for all other comments.
- Not re-signing Popeye Jones. Jones was the teams unsung hero last year. He rebounded well, hit 15 foot jumpers and he was a good influence on the young guys. Who did Jordan bring in to replace him? Charles Oakley? Puhleeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzeeeeeeee.
So what was the result of the 2002-2003 season? Well, the Wizards didn't make the playoffs and I can guarantee you they won't make the playoffs next year either, or the next year after that, or...... But really what happened? Well, Kwame Brown didn't improve enough (it didn't help that he was taken out of the starting line-up in December, where he had been playing very well),
Brendan Haywood and Jahidi White battled injuries all year,
Tyronne Lue wished he was back in LA, Larry Hughes could not play the point, Stackhouse didn't fit in well,
Charles Oakley was too old and Bryon Russell is done as a basketball player. Jordan had a good season, but the team chemistry was terrible leading to run ins between Jordan and Stackhouse, as well as Brown and Collins. Brown became the coach's and Jordan's whipping boy and that was just too much for the young kid. It is obvious now that something happened in that locker room this year and the result was that both Collins and Jordan got the heave ho and Kwame Brown might never recover enough to be a decent basketball player (just like Joe Smith will never recover from what he did to the Minnesota franchise and just like Lebron James might never recover from his first season in Cleveland). The result of this weird and tumultuous year was no playoff spot for the Wizards and lots of questions about their future. What happens from this point on and to try and understand how much damage the Jordan debacle has cost this franchise is pretty much beyond anyone. All I can say is that it should be an interesting off-season.
2002-2003 Personnel Changes
- Traded SG Courtney Alexander to New Orleans for 17th overall pick in 2002 Draft (used to select G Juan Dixon).
- Traded SG Richard Hamliton, SG Hubert Davis and SF Bobby Simmons to Detroit for SG Jerry Stackhouse, F Brian Cardinal and C Ratko Varda
- Traded PG Chris Whitney to Denver for SF George McLeod and cash
- Drafted F Jared Jeffries with the 11th pick overall
- Drafted G Juan Dixon with the 17th pick overall
Players Signed as Free Agents:
- Signed F Bryon Russell to a 2 year contract
- Signed G Rod Gizzard to a 2 year contract
- Signed F Bobby Simmons to a 1 year contract (Simmons was re-signed by Washington after being traded to Detroit, released and then re-signed for a second time)
- Signed F Charles Oakley to a 1 year contract
- Signed G Anthony Goldwire to 2, 10 day contracts
- Ratko Varda, Brian Cardinal, George McCloud, Bobby Simmons, Rod Gizzard and Anthony Goldwire
Roster and Key Stats
- C - Brendan Haywood - 73 GP, 6.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 51.6% FG
- C - Jahidi White - 10 GP, 3.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 48.4% FG
- C/PF - Christian Laettner - 67 GP, 8.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 48.8% FG
- PF - Kwame Brown - 71 GP, 7.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 44.5% FG
- PF - Etan Thomas - 38 GP, 4.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 49.2% FG
- PF - Charles Oakley (Free Agent) - 42 GP, 1.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.0 apg
- SF/PF - Jared Jeffries - 20 GP, 4.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, .8 apg, 47.9% FG
- PF - Brian Cardinal (Released) - 5 GP, .8 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 25.0% FG
- SF - Michael Jordan (Retired) - 73 GP, 19.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.5 spg, 44.4% FG
- SF - Bryon Russell - 66 GP, 4.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 36.1% FG
- SF - Bobby Simmons (Free Agent) - 27 GP, 2.1 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 38.5% FG
- SG - Jerry Stackhouse (Player Option for Free Agency) - 64 GP, 21.9 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.6 rpg, .8 spg, 41.2% FG, 29.0% 3pt%
- SG/PG - Larry Hughes 63 GP, 12.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.3 spg, 2.0 topg, 46.6% FG, 36.7% 3pt%
- SG/PG Juan Dixon - 33 GP, 6.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.0 apg, 37.9% FG
- PG - Tyronne Lue (Free Agent) - 66 GP, 8.3 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1.8 rpg, 42.9% FG, 34.1% 3pt%
- PG - Anthony Goldwire - 5 GP, 2.6 ppg, .6 rpg, 57.1% FG
Offence - 91.5 ppg (24th in league), 44.0 FG% (18th in league), 31.2 % 3pt (27th in NBA), and 77.9% FT% (4th in league)
Defense - 92.5 Points Allowed Per Game (10th in league), 44.2% Field Goal % Against (16th in league), 36.2% 3Pt Field Goal % Against (22nd in league)
Salaries and Contracts
Player signed years salary misc FA
Tyronne Lue 7/18/01 2 $3,570,000 '03
Charles Oakley 10/12/02 1 minimum '03
Bobby Simmons 12/27/02 1 minimum '03
Jerry Stackhouse 1/22/99 7 $37 million p-opt '03
Bryon Russell 9/10/02 2 ??? '04
Etan Thomas 7/7/00 4 $6,680,062 rc t-opt '04
Kwame Brown 7/13/01 4 $17,286,153 rc t-opt '05
Brendan Haywood 8/3/01 4 $4,891,185 rc t-opt '05
Larry Hughes 7/18/02 3 $14.7 million '05
Christian Laettner 7/19/01 4 $21,375,000 '05
Jahidi White 8/11/00 5 $25 million '05
Juan Dixon 7/11/02 4 $5,851,795 rc t-opt '06
Jared Jeffries 7/10/02 4 $7,577,264 rc t-opt '06
- Jerry Stackhouse (player option), Charles Oakley, Tyronne Lue and Bobby Simmons.
Brendan Haywood played all right this season but he did not progress much over his rookie season. Haywood's number's were slightly better this season but his numbers are not what a starting Center's should be. Haywood has great length and is a good defender and shot blocker who gets most of his points off of offensive rebounds. He should be able to develop into a reliable 15 foot jump shooter and as his jump hook progresses, he will become more dangerous in the post. Haywood will be given another chance to be the Wizards starting Center and with his upside and size, hopefully Haywood will step up to the plate.
Jahidi White only played 10 games due to injuries this season which is too bad considering the progress he made during the 2001-2002 season. White is a decent rebounder, defender and shot blocker, but he lacks any sort of offensive game. While White's ability to catch the ball has improved over the past couple of seasons, he still needs to avoid early foul trouble. This will be an important season for White and he will need to stay healthy and put up some numbers or else he will find himself buried on the bench behind the more talented Haywood.
Christian Laettner is such a great passer and such good shooter, yet he is the most tentative and passive player I have ever seen. Sometimes you have to wonder if Laetnner likes to even play the game. Still, he is the best passer on the Wizards and his contract makes him pretty untradeable, so he should see plenty of minutes next year especially if Brown struggles again.
The question of whether Kwame Brown is a bust has been asked time and time again these past two seasons. When you look at his numbers as a #1 pick, 71 GP, 7.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 44.5% FG, it would be easy to say yes, Brown is one of the worst #1 picks overall in draft history. The case for Brown gets even worse when you see the success that another High School Power Forward had in Phoenix this year. But in today's NBA game you need to be patient with young players, especially high schoolers who obviously couldn't handle MJ's harshness. How have other straight to high school players fared in their second season?
Kevin Garnett (96/97) - 77 GP, 17.0 ppg, 3.1 apg, 2.1 bpg, 49.9% FG, 38.9 mins
Kobe Bryant (97/98) - 79 GP, 15.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, .9 spg, 42.8% FG, 26.0 mins
Eddy Curry (02/03) - 81 GP, 10.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, .8 bpg, 58.5% FG, 19.4 mins
Darius Miles (01/02) - 82 GP, 9.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 48.1% FG, 27.2 mins
Tracy McGrady (98/99) - 49 GP, 9.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 1.1 spg, 43.6 FG, 22.6 mins
Tyson Chandler (02/03) - 75 GP, 9.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 53.1% FG, 24.4 mins
Rashard Lewis (99/00) - 82 GP, 8.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, .8 spg, 48.6% FG, 19.2 mins
Kwame Brown (02/03) - 71 GP, 7.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 44.5% FG, 22.2 mins
Al Harrington (99/00) - 50 GP, 6.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, .5 spg, 45.8% FG, 17.1 mins
Deshawn Stevenson (01/02) - 67 GP, 4.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 38.5% FG, 16.9 mins
Jermaine O'Neal (97/98) - 60 GP, 4.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 48.5% FG, 13.5 mins
Johnathen Bender (00/01) - 59 GP, 3.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg, .5 bpg, 35.5% FG, 9.7 mins
Even in comparison to the other straight to pro high schoolers, Brown just doesn't measure up. Yes he had an inordinate amount of scrutiny and pressure because he was the first high schooler picked #1 overall. He also faced the pressure of being Jordan's #1 pick and the pressure of trying to help Jordan to his last playoff spot. Perhaps the pressure was just too much for a kid from Georgia and maybe with Jordan gone, the spotlight off Washington and absolutely no expectations for this franchise next year, Brown will start to play well.
It is clear that Brown has a lot of skill, he just needs to gain some confidence that he can succeed at the NBA level. Brown has a decent high post game (read: he can shoot the ball pretty well from 18 feet) but he has no low post game whatsoever. He is also a horrid defensive player mostly because he is timid. If Brown plays terrible again this year look for him to be moved by the deadline for $5, or
if his stock is lower, Vin Baker.
Etan Thomas is a tough kid in a tough situation. Thomas is a good defender, very aggressive and a good rebounder, but he will be hard pressed to see any time next year with both Jeffries and Brown playing ahead of him. I think Thomas would be best served going to play somewhere else after next season.
Jared Jeffries was having a nice season until he tore his ACL in December. Jeffries was playing some SF and some PF before his injury. Jeffries bulked up quite a bit after the draft and that helped him in the post against some of the bigger power forwards. Jeffries has some nice size for a SF and he is quicker than most PF and he also has a nice shooting touch. Look for him to come off the bench next season and backup both Brown and Stackhouse.
Charles Oakley is more done than Byron Russell. Time to hang 'em up Charles.
Bryon Russell is done. He once so-so jumper has turned into a no-no jumper. His once adequate
defense (how many times did Jordan, and the rest of the NBA, burn this guy?) is now not so adequate. Russell was terrible this year and he will play out his contract or be had by any team looking for an aging never has been. Possibly the worst free agent signing last summer.
Bobby Simmons plays hard but he has been released by the team 3 times in the last 2 seasons. I think that says enough.
I have never been a Jerry Stackhouse fan and as you could see in my opening, I am a huge Rip Hamilton fan. Yes Jerry Stackhouse gets to the line a lot. Yes Jerry Stackhouse is a great penetrator and finisher. Yes Jerry Stackhouse is an exciting player. Yes Stackhouse is a great one on one player. But Stackhouse is also selfish, a bad defender and a below average jump shooter (29% from 3 as a starting 2 guard? Please). I thought Stackhouse had turned the corner in Detroit, but they traded him for a reason I guess - old habits die hard. Stackhouse wants to come back because he knows he would never get what is remaining on his contract on the open market and it would be in the Wizards best interest to bring him back or else the teams offence will be horrible. The Wizards could also trade Stackhouse, as his trade value must still be something. If Stackhouse is still here next year he will probably play SF and he will be the focus of the offence and get all the wing isolations he can handle. Expect him to put up a lot of numbers next season.
Note to NBA General Managers - Larry Hughes is not a point guard. I repeat, Larry Hughes is not an NBA point guard. I like Larry Hughes and I still think that he can be a good NBA pro but he needs to play the 2 and he needs to stay at the 2. Hughes, who is only 23 year despite playing on 3 NBA teams, had a good shooting year which was made even more impressive when you consider he was playing out of position almost all year. Hughes is also an excellent rebounder for a backcourt player as was high-lighted when he had 4 straight double digit rebounding games in December. This could be a big year for Hughes as he, along with Stackhouse if he is still here, will be the focal point of the offence. He could put up some big numbers this year for the Wizards - remember, after he was traded to the Warriors by the 76ers in 99/00, he averaged 22.7 ppg in 32 games.
It is really hard to look into the future and see where Juan Dixon fits in. I don't think he will ever be a true 1 and he is too small to be a true 2, but Dixon is a tough kid who played hard all year and hit some big shots down the stretch for the Wizards. I can see Dixon turning into a poor man's Bobby Jackson in a couple years - a combo guard who comes off the bench and gives a team some instant offence and energy.
Tyronne Lue is only a backup point guard in this league. Yes he is fast and yes he can sometimes get hot and hit lots of 3's, but he just isn't good enough yet to be a starting point guard. Word has it that he wants to be back in LA and they want him back. Bye Bye Tyronne!
What a mess. Jordan is gone. Collins is gone and as of press time, no one has been hired to replace them. The best thing for this franchise would be to hire a coach like
Rick Carlisle so that at least the team would play hard and be prepared for games. Carlisle is a teacher and a motivator and he would be good for this young team. Carlisle has also coached Stackhouse before and maybe he could get Stackhouse to play the way he did in 2001-2002. Another good candidate might be
Eddie Jordan, a guy who plays a nice up tempo offence and who could utilize the athleticism of the Wizards. They would need to get a decent point guard however to run Jordan's Princeton offence.
Owner Abe Pollin also needs to hire someone to replace Jordan and Wes Unseld, who was sitting in for Jordan while he played Maybe the team should do what the Nets did a couple years ago and plunder the NBA front office for their next Head of Basketball Operations/GM and look at Stu Jackson. I liked some of the moves Jackson made in Vancouver (anyone would have given Bryant Reeves that contract after the season Reeves had just had), except drafting Steve Francis in '99. Rod Thorn seemed to learn a lot working in the NBA office, maybe Jackson has as well.
Whatever the case, Pollin left many people with a bad taste in their mouth after his very firing of Jordan after all Jordan had done for the franchise. Will Pollin be able to lure top of the line talent to his front office after he so overtly screwed Jordan? Remember, Jordan put a curse on the Bulls and they have never recovered from that.
Past Draft Picks
- 2002 - Jared Jeffries - 10th overall, Indiana
- Juan Dixon - 17th overall, Maryland
- 2001 - Kwame Brown - 1st overall, Glenwood Academy High School (Georgia)
- 2000 - Mike Smith - 35th overall, Louisiana Monroe (out of league)
- 1999 - Richard Hamilton - 7th overall, Connecticut (currently with Detroit)
- Calvin Booth - 35th overall, Penn, St. (currently with Seattle)
- 1998 - Jahidi White - 43rd overall, Georgetown
- 1997 - God Shammgod - 46th overall, Providence (out of league)
- 1996 - Ronnie Henderson - 55th overall, LSU (out of league)
- 1995 - Rasheed Wallace - 4th overall, North Carolina (currently with Portland, traded for Rod Strickland)
- Terrence Rencher - 32nd overall, Texas (out of league)
- 1994 - Juwan Howard - 5th overall, Michigan (currently with Denver)
- Jim McIlvane - 32nd overall, Marquette (out of league)
- 1993 - Calbert Cheaney - 6th overall, Indiana (currently with Utah)
- Gheorghe Muresan - 30th overall, Romania (out of league)
- Conrad McRae - 38th overall, Syracuse (out of league)
- 1992 - Tom Gugliotta - 6th overall, NC State (currently with Phoenix)
- Brent Price - 32nd overall, Oklahoma (currently with Sacremento)
- 1991 - LaBradford Smith - 19th overall, Louisville (out of league)
- 1990 - Greg Foster - 35th overall, Texas El-Paso (out of league)
Past Draft History
I have always thought that the Wizards have drafted pretty well in the past. Players like
Rasheed Wallace, Juwan
Howard, Richard Hamilton and Tom Gugilotta have been drafted in the past 10 years, but those same players have also all been traded. The team might have drafted well, but they have never traded well so many of those draft picks were simply wasted. The jury is still out on the picks from the last 2 years, Jeffries, Dixon and Brown, but I can't foresee any of those guys achieving greatness, or goodness, just averageness. Of the 21 players drafted by the Wizards since 1990, 12 of them played in the NBA last year - that is not a bad percentage. The problem is that these players either fulfill their promise with another team (Webber, Gugliotta, Hamilton) or simply become mediocre players (Cheaney, Price, White, Booth). The Wizards better hope that their luck changes and they begin to draft good players who will actually play for Washington.
- What doesn't this team need? The most immediate need is a point guard since it is clear that Larry Hughes is not the answer there and it doesn't look like Tyronne Lue will be back, so the team needs someone to run the show.
- Post Scoring. Neither Brown or Haywood has developed into a consistent scoring option. Brown has little to none post moves and Haywood gets most of his points from offensive rebounds. A big guy with post scoring ability would free up some of the perimeter guys and make like easier for Hughes and Dixon.
- Small Forward. The Wiz don't really have a natural SF (no, I don't even consider Russell an option), but both Stackhouse and Jeffries can play there. A real small forward would be nice please.
- A reason for the fans to watch. This team will be pretty bad next year and after two years of Jordan, the Wizards are going to draft someone or bring someone in who can put butts in the seats.
Dwayne Wade - SG - Marquette, 6'5.
Knowing my luck, Wade's stock will drop like a rock the week before the draft (like Eddie Griffin and Qyntel Woods the last two years) and the Wiz will go with Kirk Hnrich. I went with Wade because he is a dynamic scorer and a known commodity/ Wade will be able to come in and make an immediate impact and people know who he is after his terrific NCAA tournament. People are knocking Wade because of his height, but he can jump and his wing span is a reported 6'11. Wade can also handle the ball well and he might be able to play the 1. Now people will criticize this pick because the team already has Stackhouse, Hughes and Dixon in the backcourt and they really need a point guard to run the show - they don't need another under-sized combo guard a al Dixon. But Wade is the best player left and the Wizards are so far off from being competitive that they just need to draft the best player available.
If the Wizards can address their point guard needs in the off-season, then Wade will be able to come off the bench and back-up both Hughes and the point guard. If they can't find a new point guard, then maybe Wade will be able to run the show. Wade might not get taken this high, but teams will not pass on him too long - remember, people knocked Gilbert Arenas about the same things they knock Wade about and Arenas turned out to be pretty good.
Other Players Considered
Kirk Hnrich is another guy who is a known commodity. With Hnrich you are going to get a guy who competes everyday, who can pass and shoot. Hnrich is also a very cerebral player. I would not be surprised if Hnrich is taken by the Wizards, if he is not taken by the Bucks with the #8 pick. I really struggled with this pick, but I just like Wade better after his impressive tournament. Saying that, I would be happy if the Wizards took Hnrich.
Marcel Lampe would also fit in with the Wizards. Lampe is big and talented like most Euro's. Lampe is projected as playing SF in the NBA but his impact might not be felt right away because he is still young and skinny (see Nikoloz Tskitishvilli). Lampe however could be a big time player in a few years. Lampe will probably be gone by this point, but if he is around do the Wizards want to take a risk on Lampe after the Kwame Brown disaster?
Others I looked at - Jarvis Hayes (good size and good shooter),
Michael Sweetney (might be small, but he is tough),
Mikael Pietrus (Euro Jordan? I don't think so, but still very athletic and a good shooter),
Luke Ridnour (exciting player, great court vision, but he seems to be dropping pretty quickly and I don't know why).
Other moves team should make
- Free Agents - Stackhouse has said that he would like to come back to Washington, but does the team need Stackhouse if they are re-building? I think the Wiz should look into dealing him if he takes the option on his contract. Andre Miller would be a great fit for the team. He is young and a great passer and he might fit in nice with either Wade or Hughes in the backcourt. This team needs lots of help, so look at them to make a lot of moves this off-season.
- Possible trades - You have to believe that Kwame Brown is on the market. Brown was terrible last year and the team might try to trade him when he has a little value left. Another season like the last one and the Wizards might not get God Shammgod for Brown. Bryon Russell is also available, but who would want him other than New York (hahahahaha)? White's and Laetnner's deals make them pretty untradeable, but I bet you they would trade them in a heartbeat if someone was willing to take them. I see the Wiz being very active this off-season and they have some trade bait so look for them to make a few moves.
Next Years Forecasted Starting Lineup
- C - Brendan Haywood/Christian Laettner/ Jahidi White
- PF - Kwame Brown/Etan Thomas
- SF - Jerry Stackhouse/Jared Jeffries
- SG - Larry Hughes/Dwayne Wade
- PG - ?????????????/Dwayne Wade