State of the Cap: Washington Wizards

Wed, 05/23/2007 - 8:10am

By Josh Redetzke

2007/08 Washington Wizards Payroll: $58.6 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $3.6 million over cap

[img_assist|nid=3865|title=Gilbert Arenas|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=324]The Good: The Wizard’s three-headed monster provided headaches to opposing teams this season. Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison, and Caron Butler are one of the top trios you’ll find on any team in the NBA. After some unfortunate injuries derailed their season, this group will all be back next year to try again.

Arenas was his usual star-studded self. His 28.5 points per game was good for third in the league and he led the team in assists with 6 a night. Not only that, Arenas added numerous buzzer-beating heroics to win games, living up to the nickname “Agent Zero”. He’ll be paid $11.9 and $12.8 million the next two years, more than earning his dough. Arenas is the engine that makes Washington go and as we saw towards the end of the season, the team is lost without him.

Antawn Jamison will make the most money on the team by far ($16.3 million) and some think that’s a high price to pay for a #2 scoring option. However, Jamison showed his worth towards the end of the season when he stepped up for an injured Arenas and Caron Butler. He averaged 32 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game in their series against Cleveland and helped keep the games close in what could have been a major blowout. That kind of leadership will be important next year.

Finally, the best reason to be optimistic about the Wizards could be forward Caron Butler. After coming over from L.A. in the Kwame Brown deal, Butler has excelled every year, to the point where he earned his first all-star berth this season. He set career highs in practically every statistical category, including points (19.1), rebounds (7.4), and shooting (46.3%). The four years and $37.3 million left on his contract looks pretty good right about now.

The Bad: Washington has committed $37 million dollars over the next three seasons to Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood, hoping one of them would emerge as a legitimate frontline starter. Unfortunately, neither has risen to the occasion. Their numbers are almost identical at about 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 block per game on 55% shooting. That’s not bad, but it doesn’t really scare anyone either. The Wizards need good frontcourt play to go far in the playoffs so they better hope Thomas and Haywood can improve.

The Future: The injuries sustained by Washington’s players this year couldn’t have come at a worse time. Trying to improve their playoff positioning towards the end of the season, the Wizards lost both Butler and Arenas for the rest of the year, including the playoffs. What was once a promising season was reduced to nothing but a quick first-round exit. All this team can do is get healthy this summer and try to pick up where they left off.

How far can this team really go? Their trio of stars has incredible talent, but it takes a deep team to go far in the playoffs. DeShawn Stevenson’s play certainly helped this season. Washington picked him up for a cheap, short-term contract and he managed to be fourth on the team in scoring at 11.2 per game and shot 40% from downtown. They only have him for one more season, but that’s the kind of efficient performance that Washington needs from their supporting players. As long as they can keep the games close, Agent Zero will be there to save the day.

Free Throw: Here are some interesting statistics about Gilbert Arenas, our favorite Wizard. Gilbert’s 41.8% shooting was the lowest percentage of the top thirty-five scorers in the league. It’s also well below fellow scoring leaders Kobe Bryant (46.3%), Carmelo Anthony (47.6%), and LeBron James (47.6%). The low percentage probably has something to do with the fact that he attempted the second most three-pointers per game, averaging nearly 8 every night. Arenas definitely hasn’t met a shot he didn’t like.

*Includes player-option on Antawn Jamison for $16.3 million.

Grade: B-

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