Wizards building team with solid role players
updated 5: 17 p.m.
The Wizards aren't messing around.
Two days into free agency and they have re-signed perimeter threat Martell Webster, added a needed backup point guard in Eric Maynor and in the process trimmed down their list of needs.
Including first round pick Otto Porter, that's 12 players under contract. Though Glen Rice Jr. does not have a guaranteed contract, the second rounder could make it a baker's dozen. By the time you read this, the team may have also brought Garrett Temple back on board (updated - they did), which would leave one available roster slot. At this moment, here is the Wizards' working depth chart (including Rice):
PF - Nene, Trevor Booker, Jan Vesely
SF - Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza, Otto Porter, Chris Singleton
C - Emeka Okafor, Kevin Seraphin
SG - Bradley Beal, (empty), Glen Rice Jr.
PG - John Wall, Eric Maynor
*First, don't get hung up on starters vs. reserves. The point here is to show depth, not establish who's on the court for the opening tap. Porter could start from day one, but there is also no reason to press it with Webster and Ariza around. Regardless, he's not really the third small forward. Of course, neither is Webster or Ariza. At the same time, Porter isn't really a wing guard. Neither is Webster or Ariza, but based on the roster composition, they all will see time behind Beal as evidenced by the empty slot. More on this below.
*Entering the draft, the following items figured to be on Washington's to-do list in some order: add scoring punch, find long-term answer at small forward, secure a viable backup point guard, pick up a stretch-four, tack on experience and break up the young group of frontcourt players.
- Selecting Porter took care of the 3-man concern (as did bringing back Webster). Maynor provides a steadier option and better decision maker to run half court sets behind Wall than last year's reserve A.J. Price. To varying degrees, the four additions help with the scoring concerns either as a shooter (Webster), facilitators (Porter, Maynor) or down the line (Rice).
- There is still the issue of adding offensive punch up front. One rumor involving Antawn Jamison and the Wizards showing mutual interest in a reunion came about this week. Even though the 37-year-old can knock down 3-pointers, he might prefer playing for an overt NBA title contender at this stage of his career, something the two-time All-Star probably thought he was doing last year when he joined the Lakers. Also, the Wizards might not want to tie up a roster spot with an aging player. Oh, the Wizards don't have exactly funds to pay him much.
*Having three point guards is often a wise plan, but perhaps a necessity for the Wizards considering the lack of ball handlers in the backcourt. Webster is a shooter, not a dribbler. Ariza and Porter's ability to play two-guard stems mostly from their defensive ability, though Georgetown often used Porter to bring the ball up against pressure. That's why bringing back the heady and agile Temple is not only the latest rumor but a smart move. Wizards coach Randy Wittman praised Temple's defensive abilities and unselfish manner throughout the season. The 6-foot-6 guard would also provide the coach with another interchangeable defensive piece to move around the chessboard.
*Now, let's go back to Beal's backup - or the fact that there isn't one and the reality that there probably won't be a true version in that role. Again, there simply isn't any real money to entice a player of substance. In addition, Wittman will need to find minutes for his top three small forwards and that means at wing guard (and some at stretch-four). Even though Rice's game is currently that of a 3-man, the Wizards feel he can play the two. They also clearly like him seeing as he was rated much higher on their draft board then the No. 35 overall selection, but for now he's a lottery ticket.
Neither Wall nor Maynor are high-percentage shooters, but the Wizards are open to using the two together. Besides his basketball smarts and competent shot, Temple has the size to play alongside Wall and let Washington use three-guard sets when desired.
With Temple, Webster, Porter, Ariza and Maynor, Wittman can throw out different two-guard looks when Beal rests. For a coach that openly craves versatility, this sounds like an ideal scenario. It also is the exact scenario barring a trade or unforeseen transaction.
*Even if we count Rice and Temple, that leaves the Wizards with one final spot, but there is no rush filling it. Washington will get a look at players in the summer league and invite others to camp. Earl Barron was a final roster surprise last season and the extra spot gives Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld trade flexibility.
*Lastly, there are more moves to make. For all the transactions, the Wizards still haven't touched their power forward/center slots. It seems unlikely they can enter next season with Booker, Vesely and Singleton still on the roster. Nene is one of the team's key pieces, but he's a significant injury risk and Washington would struggle for points inside if he misses time. Also, with only one-year left on his deal and Porter offering a defensive wing option, Ariza is a prime trade candidate either now or at the trading deadline.
After these aggressive moves early, can't wait to see what the Wizards do next, whenever that might be.