After watching 27 games of Eddie Jordan basketball in Philly, I can actually tell why the Wizards over-achieved under him. The Wizards are a jumper-happy crew with very little care for the defensive side of the ball, either because Jordan made them that way, or because that's how he demanded the roster be structured. Now Flip Saunders has inherited this flawed roster and he's trying to get them to play sane basketball. Tonight, old and new will collide in Washington. Preview & game thread after the jump.
The Wizards had three very talented players in Antawn Jamison (an undersized, perimeter minded four), Caron Butler (an unassuming wing who can shoot a little bit) and Gilbert Arenas. The key was Arenas. If you think about it, Arenas is absolutely the perfect player for Jodan's system. The guy loves nothing more than to take quick jumpers and when he's at his best, he hits them.
It's funny in a tragic sort of way. Eddie Jordan was fired from what was nearly the perfect roster for his coaching style. Flip Saunders was brought in, but found the pieces simply don't fit together if you try to play any kind of sane system in this league. I'm fairly certain if you switched coaches and kept each roster the same, both teams would be hovering somewhere around .500 right now, at worst. Instead, the Sixers are 7-20 and Washington is 8-17. Each team was projected to make the playoffs, or at least challenge for a spot, by the vast majority of industry experts.
On the floor tonight, the Wizards are expected to shake up their starting lineup. DeShawn Stevenson will head back to the bench with either Randy Foye or Nick Young taking his SG spot. Neither Foye nor Young is a particularly good shooter, but the choice Saunders makes could have a big impact on the game. If it's Foye, that gives Lou Williams a pretty easy cover. If it's Young, Lou is going to be a distinct disadvantage no matter who he covers. Here's the breakdown of the matchups (based on how I believe Jordan will make his choices):
- Jrue on Arenas
- Lou on Foye
- Iguodala on Butler (good matchup)
- Thad on Jamison (ditto)
- Sam on Haywood
- Lou on Arenas
- Jrue on Nick Young
- Iguodala on Butler
- Thad on Jamison
- Sam on Haywood
A couple of interesting parallels on these teams. Brendan Haywood was once Eddie Jordan's "hated big." Haywood is enjoying a career year under Saunders, finally getting a chance to play for a coach who likes big guys who rebound and play defense. Also, DeShawn Stevenson and Willie Green had a running battle for the title of "worst starter in the NBA" for a couple years. Unfortunately, they'll both be coming off the bench for their respective teams tonight.
Jamison is a guy the Sixers could punish if they used a big lineup. He cannot handle Brand on the blocks, not that the Sixers use Brand on the blocks, though. Haywood will probably have trouble chasing Speights out on the perimeter when the second unit comes in.
Iguodala has a tough defender on him, and Thad's quickness advantage will be less than usual with Jamison on him. I doubt points will be that hard to come by against this Washington unit, however. This game will probably come down to two things, (1) Will Arenas go off? (2) Which team's bad defense will play worse tonight?
Key to the Game: Don't make a bad three-point shooting team look good.
If ______________ the Sixers will win: I'm going to say if Thad an offset Jamison's points the Sixers will be alright.
This is your game thread, I'll be here throughout. Hope you guys can join me.