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Washington Wizards

2009-10 NBA Preview

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Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas -- seen playing at Madison Square Garden in 2006, several knee surgeries ago. After missing most of the last two seasons, "Agent Zero" might be the biggest question mark in the NBA this year.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images
The story of the Washington Wizards over the last few seasons can be read on the injury report. Top scorer Gilbert Arenas has played just 15 games in the last two seasons combined, and last season starters Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood joined Agent Zero in street clothes for extended stretches. This year they'll have a new look, with Flip Saunders taking over the coaching reins... but the injury problems persist.

2008-09 Recap

Record: 19-63 (.439)
  • Fifth in Southeast Division
  • Last in Eastern Conference
What Went Right: Not much. Antawn Jamison had his usual good season, and a couple of the Wizards' younger players -- most notably center JaVale McGee and guard Nick Young -- showed good potential.

What Went Wrong: Washington stumbled out of the gate and never got up. Coach Eddie Jordan was fired with the team at 1-10, with Ed Tapscott taking over on an interim basis. But with no Arenas, no Haywood (just five games played all year) and with Stevenson and Butler missing extended stretches, the Wizards just didn't have the talent to compete most nights.

Adding insult to injury -- despite having the NBA's second-worst record (their 19-63 tied the Clippers for next-to-last in the league; only Sacramento, at 17-65, was worse), the Wizards fell to fifth in the Draft Lottery.

Offseason Moves

Key Additions: Mike Miller, Randy Foye (trade - Timberwolves), Fabricio Oberto (free agent)
Key Subtractions: Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila, Oleksiy Pecherov (trade - Timberwolves)

The Wizards took a calculated risk in the offseason, trading away the fifth overall pick in the draft and some dead weight in return for some quality depth. For now, it seems like a solid gamble -- Minnesota used the pick on Ricky Rubio, who will be playing in Spain for the next two seasons, while the Wizards got backcourt depth and one of the NBA's top long-range shooters in the form of Foye and Miller.

2009-10 Outlook

When all their key players are healthy, this team will be a nightmare to guard. Arenas was one of the top scorers in the league, but repeated knee surgeries have sidelined him for the bulk of the last two seasons. Butler is one of the better all-around wings in the league, but is injury prone; in the last three seasons he's played 63, 58 and 67 games. Jamison is a near-automatic 20-and-9, and has played 68 or more games every year of his career -- including four seasons when he played all 82. Next to his teammates, he's Lou Gehrig.

But as they say in all the financial commercials, past performance does not guarantee future results. Jamison will miss the remainder of the postseason after partially dislocating his shoulder; at this point it's unclear if he'll miss any regular-season time.

Not that the preseason is unimportant -- for a team adjusting to a new coach and several new players, time on the practice court is crucial. Veteran coach Flip Saunders -- best known as Kevin Garnett's coach in Minnesota and for his run with the Pistons -- takes over in Washington this season. Saunders isn't the type to try and make his players fit into his system -- he's expected to play to the strength of his roster, and that will mean a high-powered offense.

The new arrivals -- particularly Foye and Miller -- give Saunders something the Wizards haven't had much of in recent years: depth. Assuming everyone's healthy, the two ex-Wolves could be used to give some real scoring punch to the second unit.

Fantasy Notes

Where do you draft Gilbert Arenas? That's perhaps the biggest question facing fantasy NBA players this season. Do you treat him as a potential 30-point scorer, or as one of the league's biggest injury risks?

In the preseason we ranked Arenas 50th in our Top 100 Fantasy Players list, and 13th among point guards. Make adjustments based on your own risk tolerance.

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