The Washington Wizards, as proven last season, can manage to survive without Gilbert Arenas. They obviously had enough talent and depth, along with a coach who is able to make the necessary adjustments, to be a playoff caliber team in the Eastern Conference.
So, when the news of losing Arenas until 2009 hit, some where frustrated, but for the most part, Wizards fans did not press the panic button. However, now that Brendan Haywood is out, the absence of Arenas is compounded and the team outlook for ’08-’09 appears very bleak.
Not all is lost for the Wizards to possibly keep their head above water and hope for a timely recovery in the health department for a playoff push. But subtracting Haywood from the remainder sans Gilbert Arenas hurts the team more than losing Arenas by himself.
As I wrote in Haywood’s evaluation, during the course of last season, BTH displayed significant and noticeable improvement in the areas of maturity, hand strength, shooting ability, concentration and leadership. Aside from shooting percentage, it’s hard to measure those other intangibles. So, we much turn to stats to assist with the story of Brendan Haywood’s value to the Washington Wizards.
A new site, Basketball-Statistics.com, and blog, attempts to compile an all encompassing stat which incorporates a player’s value on offense and defense. You can read the explanation of ‘Composite Score’ here…..essentially, it combines a number of statistical measurements from other statisticians, along with various tweaks from the site’s creator, Jon Nichols. Nichols is the first to admit that Composite Score is a work in progress, as one can always find ways to tinker with a system. However, in its current version, the results pertaining to the Wizards, specifically Brendan Haywood, are interesting nonetheless.
Brendan Haywood 5-Year Composite Score
As you can see, not only is Haywood valuable to the Wizards, but he brings significant contribution on both ends of the court relative to the all NBA players. The lost difference is even more glaring when looking at the Composite Score numbers of Etan Thomas, the man primed to be Haywood’s replacement in the starting lineup.
Etan Thomas 5-Year Composite Score
Now, judging from the preseason to date, and the fact that Thomas missed all of the 07-08 season with a heart problem, Eddie Jordan will be more diverse in his replacement options at center. Andray Blatche and the undersized, but tough, Darius Songaila will surely see time at the five. I’m not exactly sure how rookie JaVale McGee and Oleksiy Pecherov fit into the plan, but they will be around. In any case, the Composite Score numbers for Blatche (-46.6 in 07-08 and -67.1 in 06-07) and Songaila (-29.8 in 07-08 and -36.6 in 06-07) aren’t exactly jumping off the screen.
The Pradamaster wrote an excellent piece on Bullets Forever outlining that losing Haywood won’t hurt as much (as it would have in the past), mostly thanks to the modified defensive system implemented by Randy Ayers last season.
While I will agree that the team defensive philosophy better allows for the Wizards to depend on each other as a cohesive unit, the difference (at least in terms of Composite Score numbers) between Haywood any his potential replacements is glaring. Basketball wise, Haywood has more length than both Songaila and Thomas, and he has the veteran know-how to keep himself out of foul trouble much better than Blatche.
Basketball-Statistics.com even dedicated a blog entry to the loss of Haywood and the trouble it might mean for the Wizards. Right now, the best hope for the franchise is a speedy recovery for BTH (meaning closer to the four month time-table putting him back on the court around the All-Star break) and that Blatche, Thomas, Songaila, et al. exceed expectations in stepping up.
For Blatche, that means improving upon his 5.5 fouls committed per 36 minutes last year. Andray’s preseason numbers in this department don’t look good. Blatche only committed one foul in 26+ minutes of action against Dallas, but committed 11 fouls in 47+ total minutes of action against Memphis and Detroit. For Thomas, it means getting his confidence back after missing a year. So far in the preseason, he’s been aggressive, a definite good sign. And for Songaila, it means limiting mistakes, securing rebounds and making the smart passes.
Wizards fans are concerned…..Tar Heels fans are concerned, and rightly so. What really makes me nervous is when Antonio Daniels, who had a similar injury to his non-shooting hand, but opted not to have surgery, says things like this, “They say it is the most unpredictable hand surgery you can have. They cast you up for four to six months, and you do all the rehab, do all the physical therapy, but there’s no guarantee you can come back healthy. You may be worse than what you were. You may be the same.”
Get well soon Haywood, it just won’t be the same without you.