Hollinger's Team Forecast: Washington Wizards

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For a team thrown off guard by the departure of one of its best players, the Washington Wizards took the punch awfully well. The Wizards didn't win as many games as the year before or advance as far in the postseason, but were a much better team in terms of expected wins and arguably gave a stronger performance in the playoffs too.

When Larry Hughes left for Cleveland as a free agent, it seemed the Wizards would have a tough time filling the breach. But fortunately another team was mesmerized by Kwame Brown's alleged potential and gifted the Wizards Caron Butler, enabling Washington to replace most of the scoring punch. Throw in the acquisition of Antonio Daniels in free agency, and Washington came out ahead on the exchange in the backcourt.

Not that it seemed that way early on. Daniels was horrid in the season's first two months, and another acquisition, Chucky Atkins, struggled so much as the backup point guard that Washington ended up waiving him. The backcourt had another setback when Jarvis Hayes' knee problems resurfaced and knocked him out for the season, leaving the team dangerously thin. Fortunately, undrafted rookie Donell Taylor played well enough to at least stem the bleeding, and Daniels recovered sharply over the season's final months.

That put the Wizards in good enough position for their two best players, Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison, to take care of the rest. Arenas broke through with the best season of his young career, finishing fourth in scoring at 29.3 points per game, while Jamison poured in 20.5.

Those two combined with Butler to become the league's highest-scoring trio at 67.4 per game. It helped that all three were healthy, too, missing only nine games between them.