What can we conclude from the Wizards stats in the first two Summer League games?

I know it is only the Summer League and we have only seen two Wizards games. However, tonight the ESPYs were on and I have refused to watch that mess since its inception. So as I was watching the Clippers and Sofoklis “Big Boy Schorts” Schortsanitis take on the Bulls, the thought hit me… what conclusions, if any, could we draw from the Wizards Summer Leagues stats so far? I know this sounds crazy, but hell I had some time on my hands.

  • To no great surprise the Wizards staff has stuck to its goal of getting John Wall, JaVale McGee and Trevor Booker better prepared for the season by getting them as many minutes as possible. And through the first two games, John is averaging a team high 30.5 MPG, JaVale is second on the team with 27.5 MPG and Trevor is close by with 26.0 MPG. All three players, who the team expects to be in the rotation this season, have been on the floor for more than 60% of the game.

Read the rest of this post here.

Early Summer League Observations of the Wizards and John Wall

It is important to note that many of the players who are currently occupying roster spots on Summer League teams will never play on a NBA team. Any analysis of a player’s Summer League performance has to take the level of competition, or lack thereof, into consideration before attempting to make any judgments. However, there are a number of items that can be taken into consideration, such as a players focus, their attention to detail, how hard they appear to be working, improvement made on identified deficiencies in their game, etc.

Source:TruthAboutIt.Net

After two games in the Summer League, I have been most impressed by the leadership skills that John Wall is exhibiting. In part, I am impressed by this because he is currently the youngest player on the team and yet players appear to be accepting of his leadership.

The Wizards have long needed a “floor general.” And many hoped that Gilbert Arenas would evolve into a vocal floor leader on the team but it never materialized. Just because a person is your most talented player, does not mean they have the mental makeup to be the team leader. Some people are just not suited for or comfortable in that role.

So instead Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler took more active roles in team leadership. However, I believe there is a significant difference between being a vocal voice in the locker room and being a “floor general.” That job of floor general needs to belong to the point guard or other player who is responsible for initiating the offense. Conversely, I do not believe that it should belong to your best scorer.

Antawn and Caron did not initiate offense, there job was to score. Those two players players passed the ball if and when they did not have a shot. And it was rare when they did not believe they had a shot. An initiator will make others better by getting them shots in places in which they can be most successful.

I can not remember an occasion during the tenure of the “Big 3” in which they corrected a teammate during a game for a less than fundamental play. Consider this exchange between Wall and McGee which was captured by Mike Prada at Bullets Forever:

…Wall and JaVale McGee ran a typical pick and roll that resulted in Wall throwing McGee a lob pass that should have been a dunk. Instead, McGee came down with the ball, took one dribble toward the other side, pivoted back to the same side he caught the pass, leaned away from the hoop and hit a fadeaway jump hook while drawing the foul. As McGee started his typical post-move celebration, Wall immediately ran over to him and shouted “COME ON! DUNK THAT S*** MAN!” A high-five soon followed, but the message was clear – just because the shot went in doesn’t mean the shot was the right one.

I was thrilled to see John Wall get in McGee’s ear. Too often in recent years the young Wizards have passed up the easy, more fundamental play for the less fundamental and much more difficult one. They have long needed someone who was willing, able and best positioned to point these issues out to his teammates. And what is probably most encouraging is that the other players appear to be listening.

I also feel compelled to contrast Wall’s behavior against players like McGee and Blatche.  Flash back to last season, there were occasions when Coach Flip Saunders would pull Andray Blatche or JaVale McGee out of a game, typically for some breakdown in fundamentals. Both of these players have either walked past Flip (in the case of Blatche) or looked uninterested (in the case of McGee) when Flip was trying to provide them with instructions on what he wanted to see from them. Through two games in the Summer League, when Wall is not in the game, or during stoppages in play, he is with the coaches receiving whatever instruction the coaches are providing. Again, extremely refreshing behavior particularly for a team leader.

Some other random observations:

  • While JaVale has made some progress – bulked up a bit and his wind appears to be a little better. He still has additional work to do in both of those areas. However, he still is biting on head fakes much too often. This was particularly evident in the Clippers game, when on one play, Nick Caner-Medley got him to bite on pump fakes twice making JaVale look as if he was on a pogo stick.
  • While JaVale could use all the time he can get in order to work on his conditioning, I would like to see Hamady N’Diaye get more playing time. The lack of playing time makes me wonder if the Wiz will assign N’Diaye to the DLeague for a bit this season.
  • While this is only Summer League, Trevor Booker is beginning to prove those Wiz fans, who complained about his selection, wrong. While his stats will not jump off the stat sheet he is proving to be what the Wiz thought he would be – a big body who rebounds, aggressively defends, can hit an open 12-18 foot shot, easily runs the floor and most importantly has some “dog” in him. They have long needed a big who has a bit of a nasty streak in him.
  • The Clippers’ Sofoklis “Baby Shaq” Schortsanitis appears to be the Oliver Miller of Greece, except he bulkier at 340+ lbs and is less gifted offensively. He sets a hell of a screen though.
  • NBA TV should consider using anyone other than Kevin McHale for color commentary, they can save him for studio work.
  • Can’t the NBA afford better Summer League uniforms? Or at a minimum can’t they find a vendor that produces tag-less, reversible jerseys? It looks cheap to see those little white tags sticking out from the top of the white-side of the jerseys. Hell, hire an intern to cut the darn tags.

Will LeBron James be to Cleveland what Barry Bonds was to Pittsburgh?

Tonight might just be the night in which the Cavaliers fall off the cliff.  Why?  Let’s consider the Pittsburgh Pirates following the 1992 season.

Barry Bonds spent his first 7 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and during that time he amassed a very impressive list of personal achievements.  The list includes:

  • Voted an NL All-Star – 1990 & 1992
  • NL Golden Glove – 1990, 1991 & 1992
  • NL Silver Slugger – 1990, 1991 & 1992
  • NL MVP – Finished 1st in 1990 & 1992 and 2nd in 1991

This was also before the team became the laughing stock that it is now.  It was a team with a proud history.  It had won 5 World Series since 1903 – the last in 1979.  The team had been to the post season many more times throughout its history.  Ok, enough of a trip down memory lane.

So while Bonds was hitting his stride as a player, he was also playing on a very solid team.  It was a team that made it to, but ultimately lost, three consecutive NLCS (1990, 1991 and 1992).  Following the 92 season, Bonds left the Pirates for the San Francisco Giants, a team that had just finished two back-to-back sub-500 seasons.  However, the issue here is not where he ultimately went to play.  The issue is what happened to his previous team after he decided to leave.

In the case of the Pirates, the team went into the toilet.  The very next season the Pirates began a streak of 17 consecutive losing seasons – which they have yet to break.  Now, to be fair, I will not blame all of that on Bonds departure.  Bonds left at a time when all of the Pirates talent departed (players and management) and the team has yet to figure out how to build a successful team.  It is clear though, that a small market team, like the Pirates, can easily fall off a cliff when its biggest star leaves.

LeBron James has spent his first seven seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  And much like Barry Bonds, James has amassed some great personal honors.  He and his team have also had some post season success – making it to one NBA finals and two Eastern Conference finals during this period.  James and Bonds careers, in two completely different sports, seem to parallel.

If LeBron James leaves the Cavaliers, as many experts suspect, is it not reasonable to expect that the Cavaliers would fall into a multi-year funk?  If they do, I doubt that it would be nearly a generation like the Pirates – as the Cavaliers appear to have better management and ownership than the Pirates.  However, a departure of a player of his stature, much like Barry Bonds, appears very likely to have a devastating, multi-season impact on his former team.  And as a smaller market city, that no longer can offer the draw of “playing with LeBron,” nor does it present the opportunities of the larger cities, nor is it a destination city – it will be increasingly more difficult to attract free agent talent.  This could easily create a situation in which the Cavaliers become a (best case) middle of the pack team or (worst case) routinely in the draft lottery for the next three to four seasons.

So here we are only a few hours from 9:00 EDT on July 8, 2010, it will be interesting to see if today marks the day that the “Pirates-like” downward spiral began for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Unofficial Wizards 2010 Summer League Roster

Slowly a few teams are beginning to publish their 2010 Summer League rosters.  As I am writing this, the Wizards are not yet one of those teams.  However, unofficially, the roster seems to be taking shape.

Please note that the majority of this list was compiled by Scott Schroeder @ Ridiculous Upside.  As this is an unofficial list it is subject to change.  [Updated on 7/7/10 based on reporting by the Post’s Gene Wang]

PG – John Wall, Jerome Randle, Sun Yue, Cedric Jackson Abdulai Jalloh

SG – Cartier Martin, Eric Hayes, Jon Scheyer (via @draftexpress) Lester Hudson

SF – Raymar Morgan, Kyle Spain, Kevin Palmer, J.P. Prince

PF – Trevor Booker, James “Boo” Jackson, Michael Sweetney

C – JaVale McGee, Hamady N’Diaye, Aaron Pettway

According to the Post’s Michael Lee, the Wizards Summer League squad will be without PF Kevin Seraphin who continues to recover from a knee injury.

As it stands this team has a nice mix with JaVale McGee getting some work during the summer; a couple of 2009/10 Wizards trying to earn a spot on the team (Cedric Jackson and Cartier martin), newly drafted Wizards (Wall, Booker and N’Diaye), DLeaguers looking for a shot (Michael Sweetney and Boo Jackson) and finally undrafted free agents.

Clearly, I like everyone else is looking forward to our first chance of seeing John Wall, Trevor Booker and Hamady N’Diaye play for the Wiz – even if it is only the Summer League.  So setting that aside, I am probably most intrigued by Sun Yue.  Since my days growing up idolizing Magic Johnson, I have been fascinated by big Point Guards.  And while the only thing that I will claim that Sun Yue has in common with the greatest Point Guard ever (IMHO), is his height 6’9”.  Nevertheless I am intrigued.  In 2007, he was drafted in the second round by the Lakers but was left overseas until 2008.

During an interview, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said the following about Yue:

“I spoke to Kobe last week, because Team USA played against China and Kobe said that he knew who the guy was. He said he was competitive and feisty and he did not back down. I know that he’s athletic enough. I like his size, I like his skill level. I think he’s a ball handling guard at 6’8″. Those are all positives, but he hasn’t played at this level and I think he’ll show well, but the NBA is a different game. He’ll face challenges he hasn’t faced before, but I don’t think he’ll back down. I think he’ll embrace the challenge and at the end of the day if the guy is good enough after 28 days of training camp (and pre-season), we’ll know it and he’ll make the team. It’s not something that will be ferreted out in a week or 2, maybe some guys will know in a week if they’re good enough, but if you’re with the team for 28 days, we’ll know and he’ll know too (if he’s good enough).”

Ultimately, the Lakers waived him in 2009.  When the Lakers waived him, Mitch Kupchak said that given the talent currently on his team, he did not feel that Yue would get any playing time.  He was picked up very briefly by the Knicks in 2009.  Sun Yue has played for his national team, and in both the ABA and NBDL.

Yue strikes me as a perfectly intriguing player, one that a team should provide with an opportunity during the Summer League.  It is not very often that you can take a peek at a 6’9” 212 lbs true PG, who can also potentially play SG or SF.  However, Yue’s overall athletic ability, strength and outside shooting touch were his main drawbacks when he first tried to break into the league – all very substantial concerns.  This is the perfect place to attempt to get a feel for how hard he has been working on those deficiencies.  If he has, then this could be his opportunity to earn an invitation to the Wizards (or some other team’s) training camp.

When looking at the undrafted free agents, I am probably most intrigued by the competition that will likely develop between Maryland’s Eric Hayes and Duke’s Jon Scheyer.  In many respects they are identical players and while the Wizards will need players who can hit open threes, I don’t think that either will ultimately make the team.  It will be interesting to see them both battle to earn an invitation to training camp this fall.

Wizards play the “tortoise” and let others play the “hare”

A few teams (Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Miami) decided to clear all of their available cap room in order to make a run at one or more of the most significant free agents in the 2010 class (which includes LeBron James, Dewayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson).  The Wizards to the dismay of some of its fans decided to take a decidedly different approach – avoid the big names and try to capitalize on those desperate to make moves to target the big names.

While this is clearly an extremely talented free agent class, one that has not been seen since 1996, a GM must not overreact.  The management of a team has to realize that there are a number of forces at play that must be taken into account:

  • There are four teams with enough cap room to sign two or more max free agents – CHI, NY, NJ and MIA
  • Teams with little (or no) available cap space, still want to improve their teams, have owners who are unafraid to spend money, and are willing (and possibly able) to use current assets to swing sign and trades for one of the power free agents – DAL, HOU and LAC
  • The power free agents’ existing teams are still best positioned to offer more money than any potential suitor.  In nearly all cases these players can make an additional $30 million, over the course of the new contract, by remaining with their existing team
  • Even if all free agents leave their existing teams, there aren’t enough power free agents for each team that wants them – plenty of teams will be left out in the cold
  • Desperation increases as power free agents begin to fall off the table
  • If your team is able to sign two or three of the best free agents, will you have enough money to surround them with enough talented roll players?

Any GM worth their weight in salt is going to weigh these factors, and many others, as they formulate their strategy for building their team.  We can only hope that the strategy is flexible enough to adapt as the environment changes.

Off-season

From the trade deadline until about June 24, the Wizards had enough money available under the cap that many fans hoped that they would make a serious run at one of the major free agents.  That was purely wishful thinking, as all of the power free agents have “talked” about winning championships now – which would mean that they don’t want to play for a rebuilding team.  (We will soon see if money or championships is the primary driving force.)

NBA Draft

The Wizards started June 24 with three picks (#1, #30 and #35).  In the hours leading up to and during the draft they made a couple moves that were generally killed on the Internet and the blogosphere.  In part, I believe this was due to some who still had dreams of max free agents still clouding their minds.  Just prior to the start of the draft, the Wizards accepted Chicago’s offer of Kirk Hinrich, Kevin Seraphin (17th pick) and $3M in cash for essentially nothing (a future 2nd round pick).  Later in the evening the Wizards swapped their 30th and 35th picks to trade up to get Trevor Booker (#23) and back to pick up Hamady N’Diaye (#56) from Minnesota.  At the conclusion of the draft, the Wizards finished with 5 players that they feel best fit their needs.

Some of the criticism about these moves revolved around the typical quibbles over one player versus another, to whether or not the Wizards trade was as good as Oklahoma City’s deal, to whether Hinrich’s contract prevents the team from being a player in Free Agency.  All of those are legitimate concerns to have during and following the draft.  Those of us that consider ourselves fans aren’t privy to the team’s strategy so it is normal for us to criticize based on what we believe the strategy is (or should be) and the moves we feel best compliment our strategy for the team.  Ultimately, we know that you can’t judge how successful the draft truly was for you team for about three to five years.

Just prior to the start of free agency, the Wizards traded a back up guard, Quinton Ross, to the New Jersey Nets for Yi Jianlian – a starter for the Nets and likely a back up for the Wiz and $3M in cash.  This was a trade that did not immediately make every Wizard fan happy – some in Nets nation even laughed.  Clearly Yi has been inconsistent in his relatively short career.  He has both struggled and showed flashes with both the Bucks and Nets.  He has also had injuries which have affected his performance so far.  But for essentially nothing, the Wizards picked up a big (7 ft 250lb Forward) who was talented enough to be a lottery pick, just a few years ago.  And while he may never develop into Chris Bosh, it is nice to have someone who will push Andray Blatche to start.  And if his role is to come off the bench, he offers the Wizards a skilled 7 footer coming off the bench who has a mid-range jumper.

New players
Name Position Height Weight Yrs pro
John Wall PG 6’4″ 195 R
Trevor Booker F 6’7″ 240 R
Hamady N’Diaye C 7’0″ 235 R
Kevin Seraphin C-F 6’9″ 264 R
Kirk Hinrich G 6’3″ 190 6
Yi Jianlian F 7’0″ 250 3
Existing Players
Gilbert Arenas G 6’4″ 215 8
Andray Blatche C-F 6’11” 248 5
JaVale McGee C 7’0″ 252 2
Al Thornton F 6’8″ 220 3
Nick Young G 6’6″ 200 3

Start of Free Agency

Once12:01 on July 1 rolled around, the Wizards had eaten into the cap room that some thought would be available for a power free agent.  Entering this phase of the off-season the Wizards still need a 3rd PG, 3rd SG, veteran Center and a starting SF.  Given their needs, the Wizards could afford to sit out the initial flurry of free agent activity.

With teams going after the power free agents and others like Atlanta, Memphis, etc offering max deals to lock up their prized free agents, which will mean that there will be solid players available after the initial flurry of activity.  Some teams, due to max deals that they offer their stars, will likely have to cut players for salary cap reasons that they, under normal circumstances, would like to keep (i.e. Marvin Williams in Atlanta).  This type of activity will add to the pool of players that will be available for teams like the Wizards.

And while I am not in the Gilbert Arenas must go crowd – actually I am in the camp that wants him to stay – the Wizards would be fools to not listen to offers.  About a month ago, most “experts” laughed that no one would want any part of Gilbert.  Well as we pass the first 24 hours of free agency, that tone is changing.  It already is beginning to look like New York and New Jersey could very likely get shut out in the power free agent bidding war.  The teams that get shut out will need players to show for their efforts.  As a result, Gilbert’s name is beginning to come up much more frequently.

In addition, if teams like Chicago or Miami are able to get one or more of the power free agents, then teams like Orlando need to make changes to its roster in order to keep up.  The point is that all of a sudden Gilbert is beginning to look like a potential trade asset within the first 24 hours of free agency.

Teams like Miami, Chicago, New Jersey and New York sprinted out in an effort to land LeBron and company.  There is the very real possibility that two or more of these teams will be disappointed by the end of free agency.  Most of the power free agents will remain with their current teams, leaving Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer as the most likely candidates to move to a new team.  The Wizards should continue to look for the best opportunities that are presented to them based on the harried pace created by the “hares” who begin to scramble to fill their roster once most power free agents don’t change teams.  Let’s hope that taking a measured approach will continue to pay dividends for the Wizards.