Is Flip Saunders the right guy for the job?
This is as tough of a question as they come and depends on who you ask because Saunders has been an outstanding coach in the NBA for a long time. You don't coach a team to sixty-plus wins and repeat Eastern Conference finals appearances the way he did in Detroit by being a schmuck.
That said, coaching a team of veterans who understand the game versus keeping up with a team full of young guys with their own agendas are two completely separate jobs. I have no doubt that Flip will find success as a coach in the NBA. None. But I don't know if he is right person for the rebuilding project that the Wizards are undergoing. To his credit, he hasn't run from the challenge and has embraced it. At the same time, it doesn't take a psychiatrist to look at Saunders and tell that he's getting tired.
If not Saunders, then who should coach this team?
There are several ways to go. The Wizards can bring in a veteran coach with a world of experience - but isn't that what they already have in Saunders?
I think the direction and trend of coaches being hired is to aim for the up-and-coming assistants who have had the time to develop under veteran head coaches. Case in point, Thom Thibodeau in Chicago, Erik Spoelstra in Miami, and Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City. These guys are fairly young, highly motivated, and have the energy to control young guys with egos bigger than their respective games. Brian Shaw of the Lakers comes to mind as a possible candidate. Again, the search would have to be extensive, but following in the trend of Chicago, OKC, and Miami may not be such a bad idea.
Will Andray Blatche be with the Wizards at the end of the 2011-12 season?
Blatche's future with the franchise is in his own hands. If he wants to continue to live up to the reputation he has built of being selfish or being immature, then the status quo for how he has been all season will ultimately lead to him being traded.
If he wants to become what Joakim Noah is to Derrick Rose and really become the second star alongside John Wall, all he has to do is make the commitment. Unfortunately, he's in the early years of his guaranteed contract and the motivation won't be financial - it can only come from within him.
I don't think he will be in Washington at this point next season.
What is the future direction of the franchise?
Ultimately, only Ted Leonsis knows the answer to this question as it is his team.
With that said, it is clear that the movement is that of youth and potential. The Wizards knew that they would flounder at the bottom of the league once they got rid of Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and Gilbert Arenas. However, the move was done for the future and they are building towards that through the draft, acquiring young talent (as seen with the Atlanta trade) and developing players internally. At some point, they will need to bring in some savvy veterans to build the bench. A guy like Shane Battier comes to mind.
The mold has been set by the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls in how to build a competitive franchise. If you can't land three top tier free agents like Miami did, then you had better get lucky in the draft with a star player and build around him with young, motivated players. The Wizards have their lucky star in John Wall, and they have several talented young guys in JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche (when he wants to be), and Nick Young. Now they need to increase depth, add experience, and possibly hire a new head coach.
What are the list of priorities for the off-season?
Draft well, develop the young players on the roster, add a couple of veterans who bring leadership, experience and a positive influence, and perhaps bring in a new coach to grab the attention of the team.