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Getting Ready For The Off-Season (Part Two)

This is a continuation of the column from two days ago.

Predicting The Future

This is always the tough part, trying to get the future right. But it's also the most fun. So, without further ado, a quick look at the off-season probabilities (as I see them).

The Wizards bring back their starting 5 players (Muresan, CWebb, Howard, Strickland and Cheaney), as well as Murray off the bench. (For the time being, we're going to assume that Wes is not stupid and does not deal Muresan and Cheaney for Jayson Williams and Don MacLean.) All of these players should get major minutes, at least 30 minutes per game (Muresan maybe slightly less, depending on the situation and his foul count).

The major holes are a backup center to provide significant minutes, more 3-point shooting at the shooting guard and small forward slots, and a backup point guard to provide 10-15 minutes per game backup to Rod. We'd also like to avoid making Howard, CWebb and Strickland play 40+ minutes per game on a regular basis. When needed, maybe. But consistent averages that high just wears them out.

Guards And Swingmen

Unfortunately, I don't think Chris Whitney will be re-signed. The Wizards have God Shammgod as a backup, but he is not an outside shooting threat. When/if he is on the floor (he has to prove he deserves to be on an NBA roster first), the Wizards have to play up-tempo basketball to take advantage of his skills.

Further, it will be difficult to find a backup point guard with NBA experience who is a 3-point threat in this current free agent market (the only one I've seen might be Eldridge Recasner). There are other more important needs on this team, and they'll just have to live with a lack of outside shooting from the point guard spot. That doesn't mean they may not find a CBA point guard who can shoot from the outside, but he'd only be signed for the minimum.

Tim Legler will be re-signed, but don't expect major minutes out of him. He should be the 3-point threat of old, but his lateral quickness will be even further compromised by the knee injury. Still, it's good to have him coming off the bench.

The Wizards could still use another outside threat. The problem then becomes: where do you find the minutes for him to play? That'll be the tough part of selling a veteran shooter to come and play here.

Posssble players include Willie Anderson, Michael Curry, Todd Day, Eddie Johnson, Voshon Lenard, and Byron Scott. (And to restart the Fab Five rumors, there's also Jimmy King. *grin*) Not exactly a long list (at least, what I gathered at first glance as being players the Wizards could likely sign for less dollars). And not great pickings, either.

The Front Court

The Wizards are pretty well stocked at the forward positions. CWebb and Howard are the starters, with Murray and Cheaney getting major minutes behind them. And that doesn't include Harvey Grant, who may not get much playing time if Murray is healthy and/or Wizards sign a veteran swingman who can score.

But what about the backup center? Lorenzo Williams was a disappointment there, being injured most of the season. The Wizards cannot afford that this year; unfortunately, he's got a guaranteed multi-year deal, so he's unlikely to be cut (but his cap figure is friendly, at under $1M per year, so he could be tradeable in a package deal).

Possible targets for backup center include Greg Anderson, Kevin Duckworth (sorry, that's a joke, though he is a FA), Dean Garrett, Joe Kleine, Jon Koncak, Danny Schayes, and Bill Wennington. (I left out the few that I thought would be out othe price range.) Again, not at pickings.

It'll Be A Slow Market For The Wizards

Don't expect the Wizards to move soon on any free agents, except maybe their own. The primary market (largely during the month of July) will result in overpriced signings, so the Wizards are best to avoid it. But when players reach August and reallize that their large cash dreams aren't worth anything, they'll be more amenable to contracts that the Wizards can write in their $1M exception (1 or 2 players, up to $1M, every other year).

Personally, I think the Wizards will only sign one player with their elligible exception, and it will probably be a decent backup center. I think they'll rely on Murray and Legler to be the outside shooting threats during the season, but they need to remove the backup center duties (except in spot emergencies) from CWebb and let him concentrate on being a great PF.

Then again, I could be wrong. I thought they'd keep Rasheed Wallace last year.

wtf 1 July 1997

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