Wizards edge Pelicans in summer league finale
Entering the draft, the Wizards believed Glen Rice Jr. had first round value. In Washington's Las Vegas Summer League finale, the 6-foot-5 swingman certainly scored liked one.
Rice had 14 points on three 3-pointers and Sundiata Gaines scored 15 points as the Wizards closed out their Sin City summer with a 78-77 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.
Chris Singleton had 11 points and seven rebounds. Playing scant minutes in the second half, Jan Vesely scored nine points. As expected, Otto Porter sat out his second straight game with right hamstring tightness.
After losing three of its first four games in part because of excessive turnovers, Washington committed 15, but forced the Pelicans into 18. Austin RIvers led New Orleans with 23 points.
With Porter watching and Vesely resting much of the second half, the opportunity existed for others to produce. Led by Gaines, the bench scored 37 points. The production overall came mostly inside as collectively the Wizards only made 3 of 16 3-pointer attempts, with all the makes coming from Rice.
The second rounder drained his first three attempts, two coming in the first quarter. After sinking another shot from beyond the arc in the third, the assertive Rice scored Washington's next basket on a rousing slam dunk off a backdoor feed from Dennis Horner.
The Wizards trailed 43-42 during a relatively nondescript first half. Trailing 51-50 late in the third quarter, they took the lead for good on Ryan Thompson's jumper, which started a 15-6 run. Gaintes, who struggled for much of the event, scored six straight points and Frank Hassell's layup put the Wizards ahead 65-57 lead with 8:09 remaining.
Rice missed his first 3-point attempt late in the fourth quarter, but Horner's offensive rebound and putback gave Washington a 75-69 lead. Horner's free throw with 1.4 seconds made it 78-74 and proved decisive as Pelicans' guard Brian Roberts hit a three-quarters court shot at the buzzer.
The backup slot behind Bradley Beal is not clear-cut, but potentially crowded with Porter, Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza, Garrett Temple and even Eric Maynor possibly in the mix for minutes. That doesn't leave much room for Rice, but outside of Webster, he might be the best natural scorer of the bunch. That doesn't mean coach Randy Wittman will feel comfortable playing the rookie heavy or consistent minutes, especially if the other aspects of Rice's game are not on point. Still, if the team finds itself scuffling on offense one night, we know there will be one confident option on the bench ready to fire.
Singleton and Vesely: As for the team's two veterans, they once again had combination of solid hustle plays with some head scratching moments, specifically Vesely taking two ugly and ill-advised jump shots. However the big man also made a mid-range attempt and largely played with confidence, as he did for much of the summer league. That alone is a win. Singleton made 4 of 9 field attempts against the Pelicans, but missed all three of his three-point tries. The stretch-four hopeful finished 0 for 5 from beyond the arc in Vegas. That's not the type of perimeter production the Wizards were hoping for out of the 6-foot-9 forward.
Porter watch: In three games, Porter played 65 minutes, scoring 19 points on 9 of 30 shooting from the field with 11 rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. The Big East Player of the Year, who shot 42.2 percent on 3-point attempts last season, missed all five of his attempts from distance in Las Vegas. Still, stats don't mean much in this case. The small forward received his first taste of the professional game, including last week's mini-camp at the Verizon Center. Now Porter has the next two months to draw on those experiences and prep for training camp. Expect better results once he plays alongside the team's main players.
What's next: The primary focus now shifts to the team's contract talks with John Wall, who works out next week with USA Basketball (the injured Beal is showing for the mini-camp experience). If a contract extension is happening this year, the two sides must agree to a deal by October 30.
With 14 players under contract, the Wizards likely won't fill the final roster slot until training camp, if then. Therefore don't expect much if anything on the free agent front until training camp in October - unless the team swings a deal.
There is logic behind idea of breaking up the offensively limited forward tandem of Vesely, Singleton and Trevor Booker. Perhaps Trevor Ariza entering the final year of his contract is attractive for teams seeking a defensive small forward. However, that doesn't mean Washington intends on making such a move or can find a suitable offer, though ideally the team would like to add frontcourt help.
Now we have two-plus months to ponder all kinds of scenarios, whether the Wizards ultimately make a notable deal or not.