Wizards Training Camp FAQ: How will the rotation at the wing play out?
[Washington Wizards 2013-14 training camp is upon us. I bet you have some questions. Well, the TAI crew has answers. Five of us will cover five different frequently asked questions in a five-part series as the Wizards get ready to host Media Day on Friday, and then get to training camp work on the campus on George Mason on Saturday.]
How will the rotation at the wing play out, particularly considering Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza?
Is Martell penciled in as the starter? Should fans expect Otto Porter, said to be the most NBA-ready draft pick, to take longer than imagined to develop (and get playing time)? Will we see more three-guard/wing lineups with Ariza and Webster serving as a 2/3 combo, or will we see more small lineups where one of them might be playing the 4?
–by Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace)
Doesn’t it feel like Otto Porter went from “most NBA-ready prospect in the draft” to “likely to struggle for minutes behind Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza” rather quickly? The one positive—if you can call it that—of Porter’s less-than-stellar Summer League performance is that it should provide early season clarity in the small forward hierarchy.
Webster started 62 of 76 games last year. In light of his four-year, $22 million free agent contract this summer, it is safe to assume Webster will resume his starting role. But what does that mean in terms of minutes? Webster played 28.9 minutes per game last year, only slightly more than Ariza’s 26.3 MPG. If Webster gets “starter” minutes this year, is Ariza reduced to a glorified (and overpaid) role player, will Ariza be satisfied with a diminished role? It’s worth noting that Ariza was nothing but professional concerning his time-share last season, at one point referring to himself as the sixth starter. But that could change if he is forced to surrender additional minutes to Porter. And where does that leave the heralded No. 3 draft pick? Is Porter really just a 5-to-10 minutes per game rookie who will have little-to-no impact? That certainly would be disappointing given the immediate rookie-year production of high draft picks in recent years, including Washington’s very own Bradley Beal.
Conventional wisdom says that Webster can play some shooting guard, freeing up valuable minutes for Ariza and Porter. And that wisdom is backed up by stats—Webster played 12 percent of Washington’s minutes at shooting guard last year. But that was likely a function of Beal’s injuries, rather than an indication of Webster’s future usage. A healthy Beal should eat up almost all available shooting guard minutes, leaving scraps for Garrett Temple, Eric Maynor, and early fan-favorite Glen Rice, Jr.
More likely, Ariza (and to a lesser extent Porter) will steal some minutes from the quadrumvirate of first-round disappointments who are vying to fill Emeka Okafor’s shoes. With Okafor out indefinitely, Nene a constant DNP-threat, and Al Harrington a (intriguing) question mark, Randy Wittman has a lot of front court minutes to fill. The problem is that four of the five options on the roster are Jan Vesely, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin and Chris Singleton, all of whom, on any other team, would be end of bench fodder. Even on Washington—a team with supposed playoff aspirations—none of those guys should crack an eight-man rotation. Wittman has to find a way to shift some of the “Vesely/Booker/Seraphin/Singleton” minutes to Ariza and Porter. This is especially true in crunch time when Wittman needs a defensive stopper and veteran presence on the court. None of the ghosts of Grunfeld’s past drafts have inspired late-game trust, to put it mildly.
In addition, with the league-wide trend of small ball, there should be more than a few match-ups where Ariza and/or Porter will provide more value at power forward than Vesely/Booker/Seraphin/Singleton. After all, both Vesely and Singleton were drafted and advertised as small forwards before history re-wrote them as big men. And that’s exactly what I think Wittman will do. For better or worse, Ariza is one of Washington’s top six players. There simply is not enough talent on the roster to sit Ariza while Ernie’s merry band of first-round power forwards runs wild.
But even with creative small-ball lineups, the fact remains that there are not enough minutes for Porter to emerge as a top rookie. The lottery-night expectations of putting together a new big three should be tempered. Guys like Anthony Bennett, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller will have far greater numbers in substantially more minutes. Porter’s rookie year will be sold as a success if he flashes the fundamentals and court awareness that made Jim Boeheim go insane and establishes himself as a legitimate building block heading into the 2014 off-season. Not the highest bar for a No. 3 pick, but this is Washington, where expectations go to die.
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