Wednesday April 6, 2011 10:52 p.m.
By Frank Hanrahan
To start the "to-do list" series for the Wizards, I focused on who should return for 2011-12, and here I will take a look at the players I think should not be back next season. If Washington wants to continue to rebuild the right way and be a contender in the not-too-distant future, these names cannot be on the back of the new uniforms next season.
Andray Blatche: It is time for Blatche to move on. Perhaps he has played well enough in these final games of the season to get some teams interested in trading for him -- but his baggage is so hefty and contract so lengthy, the Wizards may be unable to deal the fifth-year forward.
Blatche had the best night of his career recently, 36 points and 19 rebounds in the win over Cleveland, and is apparently motivated to play now. It begs the question: What took so long? After breaking his leg over last summer, Blatche came into training camp woefully out of shape and was never in shape all season long, and that obviously hurt his play. Even coach Flip Saunders has said Blatche has to get in much better condition for next season, including losing a lot of weight.
Blatche, 6 feet 11, is averaging 16 points and eight rebounds, but his defense and shot selection are still subpar. Blatche has a reliable jump shot but tends to favor that over getting low on the block and posting up. When he does get the ball down low, Blatche struggles at times to finish because he can't match up physically with stronger defenders.
Blatche's overall focus on his job of playing basketball is still a huge question mark. He has had several off-court issues, including a run-in with teammate JaVale McGee at a club this season that got both of them suspended for a game. If Blatche hasn't figured out in five seasons what it takes to be an effective and productive professional, then I don't think he will ever get it.
The Wizards must do everything in their power to trade him this off-season. Going forward, this franchise must have players who have winning as their No. 1 priority, and from what we have seen from Blatche, that's not high on his list.
Yi Jianlian: It should be one and done for Yi in a Wizards uniform. Brought over in trade with New Jersey last summer, the 7-0 forward never found his groove with this team, and I think he will struggle to stick in the NBA next season. Yi is averaging 5.4 points and 3.6 rebounds, a huge drop-off from his numbers in Jersey, where he posted 12 and seven for the Nets.
Even though he has tremendous size, Yi has fallen in love with the jumper but shoots only 42 percent from the field. Yi is a decent defender and rebounder, but does nothing spectacular to stick around at this level.
Yi is a restricted free agent, so the Wizards will let him go and save roughly 5.4 million.
Josh Howard: The veteran forward could never could get back fully healthy from arthroscopic knee surgery and was slowed by a sore knee all season. He played in just 18 games for the Wizards, averaging eight points and four rebounds. For his career, the former All-Star averages 15 points, so his offensive production was way down in the few games he did play.
Howard brings a veteran presence to the team, effective when he was on the court, which was minimal for the Wizards. If his knee can hold up, Howard, 31, could help a contender next season, but it would make little sense for him to return to a rebuild like Washington.
Kevin Seraphin: As far as I am concerned, the verdict has already come back on the 6-8 rookie forward, who was a first-round draft pick last year for the Wizards -- he can't do it in the NBA. Brought in to be a physical presence with a banger mentality, Seraphin is a major work in progress, even in a rebuild. There will have to be marked improvement over the summer for Seraphin if he wants to stick on the team.
Seraphin must commit himself to a diet and workout regimen that will get him into top shape. Seraphin was clearly overweight all season, and he seemed to regress as the season moved on. Seraphin showed he has some muscle around the rim, but he has to develop low-post moves, because the dunk can't be your only shot down low.
If Seraphin does not get better, this will be a another disappointing first-round draft pick by president Ernie Grunfeld.
Rashard Lewis: There should be an asterisk next to his name, because he likely will return, but the Wizards should try to deal him if at all possible, which probably is unlikely given his age (32), health and enormous salary owed him the next few seasons. Lewis has about 45 million coming his way over two years.
Lewis has missed the last month of the season because of a sore knee, so his health is a concern going forward. Lewis was clearly bothered by the injury. His statistics were the lowest they have been in years. He averaged just 11.1 points, a far cry from his 16-point career average.
If Grunfeld were able to get Gilbert Arenas' contract off the books, than anything is possible. Perhaps Grunfeld could do it again and trade Lewis to a contender that needs a veteran who can defend and shoot three-pointers. Unlikely, but again anything is possible.
April 10: Ernie and Flip's fates