#WizardsRank: Ranking Washington Wizards from the Last Five Seasons (Nos. 41 to 37)
Truth About It.net will turn a whole five years old at the end of this October.
Hard to believe/interesting. Nonetheless, over the life of the site from the 2007-08 season to 2011-12, we’ve seen/lived/suffered through 131 wins, 263 losses, four coaches, two owners, one GM/team president, one Phil Chenier mustache removal, and 56 total players (amazingly, 48 players over the last three seasons).
TAI anonymously polled 27 members of the Wizards pixel establishment — from mainstream media to new media, TAI staffers included, to a few pixel consumers (readers of the site) — and got 17 responses.
Participants were given the full list of 56 in alphabetical order, and included for each player were total games, minutes, PER (player efficiency rating), and WS/48 (win-shares per 48 minutes) only from the last five seasons. Participants were asked to rate each player on the scale of 1-to-10 according to this criteria: on court performance; off court performance; intangibles; and own personal memory. Yes, this is totally subjective, but relatively collective. So let’s get it started…
No. 56: Cedric Jackson; No. 55: Mike Bibby; No. 54: Paul Davis; No. 53: Edwin Ubiles; No. 52: Quinton Ross.
No. 51: Mike Wilks; No. 50: Mike Harris; No. 49: Javaris Crittenton; No. 48: Dee Brown; No. 47: Morris Almond.
No. 46: Larry Owens; No. 45: Mustafa Shakur; No. 44: Brian Cook; No. 43: Hamady N’diaye; No. 42: Rashard Lewis.
NOTE: this post will contain players ranked 41 to 37, and we will update one player at a time periodically.
2.65 out of 10
(41 games, 412 minutes, 8.6 PER, .043 WS/48)
At the 2010 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, the skinny, lanky, 6-foot-11 Hilton Armstrong was hard to miss, especially because he was standing next to Flip Saunders and other Wizards brass when I first noticed him. News soon made it’s way around the gym that Armstrong had signed with the Wizards for just under $1 million (the veteran’s minimum) for one year. Armstrong, a lottery pick in 2006, was brought in to be filler behind JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, Trevor Booker, and Kevin Seraphin. And fill space he did, technically.
Hilton appeared in 41 out of a possible 55 games before being traded to the Atlanta Hawks, along with Kirk Hinrich, on February 23, 2011 in a package that brought Jordan Crawford, Mike Bibby, and a 2011 first round draft pick (Chris Singleton) to Washington. With the Wizards, Armstrong averaged 10 minutes per game (playing 20 or more minutes just three times), and 1.9 points (.484 from the field), 2.8 rebounds, and 0.4 blocks. He scored in double-figures just once (Nov. 16, 2010 against the Raptors), and notched double-figures in rebounding twice (10 on Nov. 16 against the Chicago Bulls; 13 on Dec. 26 against the San Antonio Spurs). Armstrong even started two games, one of them being that December 26 game at San Antonio because McGee was suspended for fighting with Blatche outside of a D.C. nightclub.
None of it really mattered much anyway. Armstrong was just a body, in basketball terms. He was a nice guy, a great teammate — he got along very well with the Wizards rooks — but he was incapable of creating space in the paint and didn’t really do what he was supposed to be somewhat good at: blocking shots. Armstrong averaged 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes, the 6-foot-7 rookie Trevor Booker picked up swats at the same rate. Post-trade, Hilton played 12 regular season games with Atlanta, as well as eight games (35 total minutes) in the playoffs. Last season Armstrong kicked around France and Greece playing pro ball, and he recently had a workout with the Brooklyn Nets, but otherwise is concretely on the outside of the NBA looking in.
Kyle Weidie ][ @Truth_About_It
2.76 out of 10
(67 games, 597 minutes, 11.9 PER, .036 WS/48)
Oleksiy Pecherov is the code word for when your scouting department does not do its job properly. Pecherov is remembered fondly in Wizards circles, mostly because of his butchering of the English language, his evening out with Harvey Grant and the fact that you knew you could turn off the game if you saw him on the court. To say that Pecherov was a wasted pick (18th overall in 2006) would be understating the matter; Pecherov was a historically bad pick for a franchise that needed a contributor to step in right away and take some time away from the increasingly fragile Big 3 (Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison). Instead, the Wizards ended up with what most biased draftniks would call a "typical Euro" player -- a guy with an outside shot but not much else, unable to utilize his height, and a historic assist per 138.5 minute rate. He also got blocked by Boobie Gibson of all people.
In 2008, Kyle Weidie made the proper argument that, as angry as people were (and still are to a degree) with Wizards player development, "the fact remains that if Pecherov gave more reasons for increased run, the minutes would have found him, especially in such an injury plagued year." But Pecherov didn't get better, his game actually deteriorated further. Originally, during his rookie year and the early portions of the 2008-09 season, "Pech" demonstrated an increased drive to rebound. That all but disappeared in the latter part of his final season with the Wizards, where he became infatuated with putting the ball up every time it mysteriously entered his hands. Oleksiy was, in short, Nick Young without any of the ability.
Pecherov was eventually shipped out to Minnesota in the ill-fated Mike Miller/Randy Foye trade of June 2009 and managed to start five games for the T-Pups that year (out of 44 total games). He recorded one incredibly bizarre (by his standards) stat line of a career-high 24 points to go with eight rebounds, but for the most part, it was more of the same in Minny. The latest news is that Pech is killing it in the Ukrainian league, but nonetheless, it looks like a return to the NBA is unlikely for Big Oily. For a draft bust, he was charming, but perhaps we have become used to giving our European players a bit more slack than those homegrown in the good ol' USA. Just look at how far we are willing to reach to put up a defense of Jan Vesely. I get buckets son, indeed.
Sean Fagan ][ @McCarrick
2.76 out of 10
(57 games, 1,621 minutes, 9.7 PER, -0.007 WS/48)
Understatement: Mike James was a character (hell, he still is). James had jokes... for reporters, for teammates, for whomever ("had jokes" means he tended to bust people's chops). He knew how to keep things light, he's a fun-loving man of faith; he also knew how to rub people the wrong way, subtly and not so subtly. James was brought in via the same trade that netted the Wizards Javaris Crittenton in December 2008; the idea was to supplant the absence of Gilbert Arenas due to knee injury-related flakiness digressions and regressions. But by the time he arrived in D.C., the Wizards were already 4-15 and two weeks into the tenure of interim coach Ed Tapscott, who took over for Eddie Jordan. James came off the bench his first three games, but then replaced Juan Dixon and ended up starting 50 games. Crittenton started some games at the end of the year, and Arenas randomly started two, his only games that season. Otherwise, mostly alongside a beginning unit of Caron Butler, Dominic McGuire, Antawn Jamison, and Andray Blatche (sometimes Darius Songaila instead of Blatche), the Wizards finished 19-63. James averaged 29.7 minutes, 9.6 points (.387 FG%), 3.6 assists, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.7 turnovers. Next year: new beginnings (you could call it that).
Ernie Grunfeld brought in Flip Saunders and the new head coach brought in Randy Wittman to be on his staff. Uh oh, for Mike James (and the Wizards, as it were). After James' historically statistically ridiculous 2005-06 season with the Toronto Raptors, the Minnesota Timberwolves signed the 31-year old to a four-year, $24 million contract. James, along with rookie draft pick Randy Foye, was supposed to help propel Kevin Garnett to playoff success. But head coach Dwane Casey was fired after a 20-20 start and replaced by none other than Randy Wittman. Things then changed for Mike James and his playing time -- under Wittman the Timberwolves finished 12-30, and James was traded to the Houston Rockets (for Juwan Howard, no less) not 12 months after he was signed. So with the reunion happening in D.C. prior to the 2009-10 season, one can only imagine what went on behind the scenes with James, Saunders, and Wittman (in addition to the rest of the combustible mix -- Arenas and Crittenton, DeShawn Stevenson talking shit about Mike Miller wearing LeBron's shoes in practice, Caron Butler's contract jealousy, Brendan Haywood's lack of leadership, et al.). James played four games that season (46 total minutes), once openly expressed his discontent, and not long after that, he expressed surprise when Saunders did actually play him. James was asked to quietly go away via a contract buyout and waivers on March 1, 2010.
He held court with media (myself included). He encouraged teammates (especially Andray Blatche) to go to chapel services before the game. He was an NBA journeyman (10 NBA seasons, 10 different teams, one championship ring ... so far). He was a pain in the ass to certain NBA coaches (not all personalities get along). He was Mike James, one of 56 Washington Wizards over the last five seasons.
Kyle Weidie ][ @Truth_About_It
2.88 out of 10
(57 games, 650 minutes, 5.7 PER, .047 WS/48)
Fabricio Oberto... NBA Champion, Fabricio Oberto. One of the worst moves of the celebrated San Antonio Spurs over the last decade was trading Oberto, Bruce Bowen and Kurt Thomas to the Milwaukee Bucks for Richard Jefferson in June 2009. Not so much "worst" for who the Spurs got rid of (key components of past champions), but for the contract-ineffectiveness ratio of who they got in return. The Bucks, on that same June 23rd day, then flipped Oberto to the Detroit Pistons for Amir Johnson. The Pistons waived Oberto about a week later. This chain of events allowed Oberto -- that dear Argentine man -- to become part of the unfortunate, ill-fated veteran ship, the S.S. Grunfeld and the 2009-10 Wizards.
Aside from those happenings, Oberto was signed into 2009 Wizards training camp having only been able to workout in the 10 days prior because he had heart surgery earlier that summer. Nonetheless, he was a welcome sign. Oberto was thought to be a glue guy vet who could help facilitate unity amongst many different weapons on the court. Instead, he ended up having to meet with authorities because of a court case. No way the gamesmanship of the 34-year old from Argentina could have helped the situation amongst Gilbert Arenas, Javaris Crittenton, and a dispute over a game of Bourré.
Oberto played in 57 games and started 20 that season. He averaged 11.4 minutes, 1.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, and 2.1 fouls. His season-high in points was eight. He appeared in 25 games (about 200 total minutes) where he didn't even attempt a field goal. Oberto was the over-passer on a team infested with prima donnas who could not work with a new coach and each other to run a new offensive system. His 'deer in headlights' tendencies on offense were partially due to the environment, but mostly because that's just who Oberto was -- forgiving, in a basketball sense. He wore No. 21 to honor Tim Duncan. His teammates affectionately called him, "Fab." He looked people in the eye, shook their hand, and was polite. He closed out the worst season in franchise history by saying, "Sometimes talent is not enough." Exactly, Fab, exactly.
Kyle Weidie ][ @Truth_About_It
3.12 out of 10
(4 games, 58 minutes, 10.8 PER, .057 WS/48)
After the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Dwight Howard, Ethan Sherwood Strauss of HoopSpeak.com wrote an article trying to explain the phenomenon of the Lakers only being good "on paper." One particular quote from article struck me as the perfect way to describe Ronny Turiaf's brief tenure with the Washington Wizards. It came via a contribution of Nate Drexler of Magic Basketball to Strauss' piece: "To me [on paper] it means they have all the pieces in the right place, so they only thing that could cause them to fail is themselves and/or intangibles.”
When the Wizards took on the salary of Turiaf from the Knicks (so they, in turn, could acquire Tyson Chandler in a sign-and-trade from the Dallas Mavericks), the Wizards thought they were acquiring a player with a special set of skills, essentially for free (Washington also netted two second round picks for their troubles without having to give up anything). Turiaf was a big man, he played with attitude, he played with high-energy, he possessed the kind of toughness and passion that JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche lacked. He was also an above average passer, but his offensive game left much to be desired (not as much as Fabricio Oberto, however). Still, on paper, the native of Martinique looked like a highly beneficial addition to the Wizards — specifically, to their young front line; Turiaf immediately bonded with fellow French national team member Kevin Seraphin, as well as Jan Vesely. In the first game of the 2011-12 season, he took timely charges and showed his gift for interior passing; in the next two games, he basically did nothing. In his fourth game against the Celtics on New Year’s Day, Turiaf was in the midst of yet another energetic performance on the defensive boards when he fractured his left hand, never to be seen in a Wizards uniform again, despite stories of how close he was to returning. The “intangibles” — more specifically, the injuries – kept Turiaf from fulfilling on-paper promise, but it didn’t stop him from shooting 100 percent from the field as a Wizard.
So why is Turiaf ranked so high? I’m not exactly sure, but his departure turned into the Wizards’ gain. The involvement of his salary in a three-team trade between the Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets allowed Washington to get rid of JaVale McGee (and Nick Young) and acquire Nene. The second round pick the Wizards received from Dallas in the trade for Turiaf? That allowed the Wizards to get rid of Rashard Lewis and acquire both Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor from New Orleans (who also quenched their desire to clear money; the Hornets amnestied Lewis). The gifts that Turiaf’s exit brought to Washington are almost enough to erase the fact that he “won” a title with LeBron James and the Miami Heat.