OK, so the Wizards didn't win any games in their first round matchup with LeBron and the Cavs. Big surprise, right? But that doesn't mean there aren't a few things that the team and front office can take away from those four games.
1) Even though the Wizards failed to win any games in the playoffs this year, they still played hard. Three of the four games came down to important clutch plays in the 4th quarter, even though it was mainly the Cavs who made them. Antawn Jamison, Darius Songalia, and Antonio Daniels gave everything they had every game and were all part of the Wizards keeping the games close and keeping the Wizards in the game. I was also impressed by Jamison's ability to almost turn into the incredible hulk in game three after he kept hitting shot after shot. He kept staring at his hands like he was being possessed; it was great. Also, there were flashes of good play by Jarvis Hayes, Donell Taylor, Andray Blatche.
2) Unfortunately, the Wizards got very little from their big men. Etan Thomas always plays hard, as do Ruffin and Booth when they get minutes, but they just aren't good enough to stop other great post players on defense. Ilgauskus absolutely fried the Wizards during the series and grabbed a ton of rebounds. Booth and Ruffin are definitely good players to have on the bench to provide some hustle plays and help out with rebounding, so the Wizards should look to keep them on the bench. It's hard to place a limit on the numer of good bench/role players.
3) DeShawn Stevenson played hard as well, but there was no other player on the court for either team who seemed more out of rhythm than Stevenson did. Basically, he was exposed without the ability of Arenas and Butler to open up the court for him. Stevenson is definitely a good player, but he's not a player who's the best at creating his own shot. However, with a full Wizards team, he provides a few key defensive plays and can knock down shots when he's not one of the primary offensive weapons. He becomes a free agent now, but it would be smart for the Wizards to bring him back if the price isn't too high. After being frustrated during the series with the Cavs, he probably realizes how he fits into the team and hopefully will want to return.
4) The most disappointing situation for the Wizards has to be the current issue with Brendan Haywood. And to be honest, I'm frustrated with the problem as well because I've never seen a team get so upset about a slightly above average player who just happens to be 7 feet tall. I never like to criticize players to a point where I root for them to leave my favorite team, but Haywood has to go. There's no way that Eddie Jordan doesn't return next season, and Jordan and Haywood just don't see eye to eye. And quite frankly, why should they? Haywood pouts just about every other game. All anyone has to do is read the great feedback from the Washington Post online from Ivan Carter. Carter always has some information about what's going on with Haywood, and it never seems like good news.
I have definitely wanted Haywood to play better over the last few seasons, but he hasn't earned more minutes. Haywood has been upset with splitting time with Etan Thomas, but neither deserves the bulk of the minutes over the other. And after Haywood's recent action, leaving the court before the Wiz's fourth playoff game was over, it might be best for the Wizards to try and trade him. Ernie Grunfeld really likes Haywood, though, so the whole dilemma definitely isn't over with yet. It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.
After considering some of these points, the Wizards have some important personnel decisions to make that may directly effect the team for the next few seasons. Here's a few of those as well:
-- Should they re-sign Stevenson or not? I say they should if the price is right. He fits in well with a fully healthy team.
-- Should they re-sign Hayes? This may be the toughest question out of all of them. Hayes provides a lot of versatility for the lineup because he can play the 2, yet he can guard bigger players because he's almost always in the post. If he can improve his jump shot, since that's mostly all he takes anyway, then he could really add something to this team. If not, they might be better off letting him walk.
-- Obviously, Blatche needs to be re-signed. But his situation is different because he's a restricted free agent, meaning the Wizards can match any offer he receives from another team. A ton of people like this guy and believe he can develop into something special. Given the Wizards recent ability to judge talent, it would be worth it to hold onto Blatche for a little while longer and see how he handles the full potential he possesses.
-- How should they handle Oleksiy Pecherov and Juan Carlos Navarro? I've seen very little of these guys playing, but I've heard great things of both of them. Ivan Carter belives that Pecherov will be on the Wizards' roster next season, but the Navarro situation is very confusing. Hopefully Pecherov turns into a solid player who can help bolster the front court. And maybe one day Navarro will come to the U.S. to play for the Wizards as well. The way in which the Wiz handle these two guys could be pretty important for the future of the team.
There may be other little issues, but none are as significant as getting a healthy Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas back. But fans know what they'll get from these two and Jamison, but the role players that surround them will either help push them over the top or keep them from ever being a real power in the NBA. Depending on how free agency and the next NBA Draft pan out for the Wizards during the offseason, things could either be looking up for the Wizards or remaining the same.
Hopefully Eddie Jordan and Ernie Grunfeld know what they're doing. So far, they have.
Also, I'd just like to give a special thanks note to the Orioles. Thank you for giving the annual season meltdown to us fans in May this year instead of August. Maybe that's a good sign, meaning they'll play better at the end of the season. OK, maybe not.