Thursday , Oct , 20 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Washington Wizards 2005-06 Season Preview

=== Washington Wizards 2005-06 Season Preview ===

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

2004-05 FINISH: 45-37

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Chucky Atkins (G) – Trade with LA Lakers; Calvin Booth
(C) – Free Agent; Caron Butler (F) – Trade with LA Lakers; Antonio Daniels (G)
– Free Agent.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Kwame Brown (F) – Traded to LA Lakers; Steve Blake
(G) – Signed with Portland; Juan Dixon (G) – Signed with Portland; Larry
Hughes (G) – Signed with Cleveland; Laron Profit (G) – Traded to LA Lakers.

2005 DRAFT PICKS: 2. (49) Andray Blatche (F, South Kent Prep).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Gilbert Arenas, SG Antonio Daniels, SF Antawn
Jamison, PF Jared Jeffries, C Brendan Haywood

COACH: Eddie Jordan

(Sports Network) – Can the Washington Wizards make the postseason for a second
straight year?

Washington returned to the playoffs last season for the first time since the
1996-97 campaign, when it was known as the Bullets. The Wizards won 45 games
and earned a seven-game series win over the Chicago Bulls in the first round.
They ran into a buzzsaw in round two, as the Miami Heat swept them in four
games.

It was a great season for the club. For the first time since 1987, Washington
had two players represent the franchise in the All-Star Game. In 1987, the
Bullets, who became the Wizards for the 1997-98 regular season, were
represented in the All-Star Game by center Moses Malone and guard Jeff Malone.

In the 2005 All-Star Game, guard Gilbert Arenas and forward Antawn Jamison
were on the Eastern Conference squad. Arenas and Jamison have developed into
one of the most potent one-two punches in the league, and they are the
cornerstones on this franchise.

The 23-year-old Arenas played in 80 contests during the 2004-05 regular
season. He led the team in scoring (25.5 ppg) and assists (5.1 apg). Arenas
also had a strong showing in the playoffs, as he averaged a team-best 23.6
points to go along with a club-leading 6.2 assists. He drained clutch shots
and was a big reason that Washington advanced to the second round for the
first time since 1982.

Jamison averaged 19.6 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds in 68 games during
the 2004-05 campaign, which was his first with the Wizards. He gave the
Wizards the scoring that they had lacked up front in the previous season.

Arenas and Jamison did get a lot of help from guard Larry Hughes, who posted
22.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 61 contests last season. There is
some bad news, as Hughes was an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and
decided to sign a lucrative, multi-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Hughes’ offensive production and defensive ability will be missed.

Washington also lost guards Steve Blake and Juan Dixon. The pair of Maryland
products signed on with the Portland Trail Blazers. Blake was a restricted
free agent and the team decided not to match Portland’s offer, while Dixon was
unrestricted.

Antonio Daniels, who averaged 11.2 points and 4.1 assists in 75 games for
Seattle in 2004-05, was signed by the Wizards. The 6-4 guard will take Hughes’
spot in the lineup. He won’t score as much as Hughes did, but he is a solid
defender who can play both guard spots and can even fill in at small forward
if needed. His versatility will be a big bonus for coach Eddie Jordan, who
will be starting his third season with the club.

The Wizards did part ways with forward Kwame Brown, who was dealt along with
guard Laron Profit to the Los Angeles Lakers for guard Chucky Atkins and
swingman Caron Butler. Brown, a restricted free agent, did not live up to
expectations after being selected out of high school by the Wizards with the
No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft.

In four years with Washington the 6-foot-11 Brown, who was the first high
school player ever taken with the top pick, had averaged just 7.7 points with
5.5 rebounds and 0.7 blocks. His best season came in 2003-04 when he scored
10.9 points and grabbed 7.4 boards in 74 games.

BACKCOURT

Arenas is one of the top point guards in the NBA. He is explosive offensively
and has continued to get better every year during his four-year career. The
6-3 lead guard will team with Daniels to give the Wizards a solid backcourt
duo.

With Hughes gone, Arenas will see more shots and will have the burden of
having to increase his already impressive scoring average. Daniels is good on
the break and will help Washington’s transition game stay in tack, but the
void in scoring that was created when Hughes left for Cleveland will
definitely be felt.

Atkins, Butler and Jarvis Hayes are nice trio of guards for Jordan to have
coming off the bench. The 31-year-old Atkins, who averaged 13.6 pints and 4.4
assists for the Lakers last season will back up Arenas and could also see some
time alongside him, while Hayes and Butler can both play shooting guard and
small forward and will allow Jordan to shuffle his lineup and create matchup
headaches for the opposition.

FRONTCOURT

Jamison will once again carry a heavy load for the Wizards’ frontcourt. The
6-9 North Carolina product will play both forward spots and must continue to
be efficient in all aspects of the game if Washington hopes to return to the
playoffs.

The 29-year-old Jamison is primarily a scorer. He does bang down low and pulls
down quite a few rebounds, however he is Washington’s only real threat up
front.

Butler, Hayes and Jared Jeffries will play next to Jamison. There should be
plenty of time for Butler and Hayes since they will also get minutes in the
backcourt. Jeffries, who will turn 24 on November 25, averaged 6.8 points and
4.9 rebounds in 77 games in 2004-05 and seems to be improving into a decent
power forward.

Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas will share the responsibilities in the middle.
Neither player is a dominant force, but they are big bodies who can rebound
and are able to score occasionally.

The fact is that the Wizards lack scoring in the frontcourt. Jamison must stay
healthy and continue to put up big numbers in the scoring column if Washington
hopes to make it back to the postseason in 2005-06.

OUTLOOK

The loss of Hughes is going to hurt a lot more than the Wizards think. Arenas
and Jamison are excellent, but their former teammate helped in a big way to
get them over the hump.

Washington will have a tough time duplicating its performance in 2004-05. The
Wizards win total will fall to between 35-38, which should put them back into
the lottery.

WAS