Five Key Questions for the Washington Wizards Heading Into Training Camp
Injuries, a coaching change and some not-ready-for-prime-time players contributed to the Wizards plummeting from recent playoff contender to a 19-win team last season. But after an offseason makeover that included hiring Coach Flip Saunders, trading for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, and the return of Gilbert Arenas, expectations are high in the locker room. Co-captains Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler are using the C-word -- championship.
1. Is Arenas Back?
Ever since Charlotte's Gerald Wallace crashed into Arenas's left knee on April 4, 2007, the Wizards have been waiting for their franchise player to regain the form that made him a three-time all-star. Limited to just 15 games the past two seasons, Arenas sought out renowned trainer Tim Grover to restore his once promising career. Saunders has asked Arenas to be more of a leader, but Wizards fans will settle for him being close to what he once was.
2. Who Is Going to Start at Shooting Guard?
The Wizards added Miller and Foye this summer, but DeShawn Stevenson is also returning from a back injury that cost him 50 games last season. Miller provides size and perimeter shooting, Foye provides scoring and versatility and Stevenson provides solid perimeter defense. Saunders joked about creating a reality TV series to decide, but it will really come down to which player best complements Arenas.
3. Can Saunders Teach These Guys to Play Defense?
The Wizards finished in the bottom third in points allowed every season since the 2003-04 season. Saunders has a reputation for being an innovative offensive coach, but he claims that 60 percent of his playbook is defense. He also has written a book about the match-up zone defense. In Saunders's three years in Detroit, the Pistons finished third, second and first in the league in points allowed.
4. Who Will Make The Rotation?
The Wizards have perhaps their deepest roster this decade, but not all of them can expect substantial playing time. Saunders has utilized an eight- to nine-man rotation at every stop of his coaching career, believing that if he uses too many players, too few players can find a rhythm. Competition for playing time will be especially intense, with several players on the roster accustomed to being NBA starters.
5. Do They Have Enough Up Front?
The Wizards will rely on some unproven talent to back up Brendan Haywood and Jamison. The team is expecting fifth-year forward Andray Blatche to be more than the occasional tease and second-year center JaVale McGee to turn his potential into production. Fabricio Oberto was signed to add a veteran big man with championship experience, but he isn't expected to get more than spot duty off the bench.