This Year’s Glen Rice, Jr. : TAI Wizards Player Previews 2013-14
[Truth About It.net player previews of Washington Wizards in 2013-14 -- For each player on this year's roster of 15, we take a look at what's at stake, an interesting statistic, and finally, where that player needs to improve (or excel) to make successful contributions toward a playoff goal.]
Eric Maynor via Conor Dirks; Garrett Temple via Adam McGinnis;
Otto Porter via Adam Rubin; Glen Rice, Jr. via Rashad Mobley;
Trevor Ariza via John C. Townsend; Trevor Booker via Adam Rubin;
Al Harrington via Kyle Weidie; Chris Singleton via Adam McGinnis;
Kevin Seraphin via Sean Fagan; Martell Webster via John C. Townsend;
Jan Vesely via Kyle Weidie & Lukas Kuba; Nene Hilario via Rashad Mobley;
Emeka Okafor via Sean Fagan;
Bradley Beal via Kyle Weidie; John Wall via Conor Dirks.
WHAT’S AT STAKE.
Four months ago, TAI’s Adam Rubin wondered where and if Glen Rice, Jr. fit in to the Wizards’ plans for the 2013-14 season. At that point, Martell Webster’s future was in doubt, which means the Wizards could need scorer off the bench. Rice, who averaged 13 points in the 2012-13 D-League regular season, and then 25 points during the postseason, could conceivably fill that role with relative ease. The challenge Rice (drafted 35th overall in 2013) faced at that time was supplanting Otto Porter (drafted third overall) and Trevor Ariza, a nine-year veteran who figured to either start or play significant minutes.
Now, just a week in a half away from the start of the regular season, Rice isn’t simply a starstruck rookie trying to fit in. Instead, he’s filling the preseason void left by Porter’s injury and Ariza’s inconsistent play. In the Wizards opening preseason game against Brooklyn, Rice made an immediate impression with a tip-in dunk at the buzzer to send the game into overtime:
Just two nights later, in a game against Chicago in Brazil, where the Wizards’ starters looked listless at best, Rice was aggressive on both ends of the floor, and he hit go-ahead 3-pointer late in the game. Coach Randy Wittman has already praised Rice for his fearless play, and with Porter and Chris Singleton still out with a hip and a foot respectively, Rice currently has a legitimate chance to crack the rotation as the second or third player off the bench.
Rice has already demonstrated in just five preseason games that he has a knack for the dramatic, but apparently this was a skill he perfected in the D-League:
- In his first D-League start he scored 35 points (6-for-10 from the 3-point line) and grabbed 15 rebounds.
- In the D-League playoffs, he averaged 25.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.0 steals, 2.0 blocks — a vast improvement from the 18 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists numbers he amassed during the regular season.
- In the D-League championship series (two games), where his Rio Grande Valley Vipers won the title, Rice averaged 29 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 3.0 blocks and 3.0 steals a game.
Is it likely Rice will sniff even half of those per game averages? Not at all. But if there is anything meaningful that can be gleaned from the D-League numbers, it is that the level of Rice’s play increases as the stakes do. That’s key for any NBA player, but for a bench player who may or may not make the regular rotation, the ability to get hot immediately after sitting on the cold bench is paramount.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT.
Rice’s aggressiveness is an admirable trait for a rookie whose reputation will be made by how well he excels at bench play. But unlike preseason basketball, where Wittman has a bit more patience and a longer leash, in the regular season Rice will have a limited amount of time to shoot his way into more minutes, and those shots will have to come with more makes. In his four preseason games (he put up a DNP versus New Orleans in Kentucky), Rice is shooting just 34.5 percent from the field (10-for-29) and an embarrassing, team-low 7 percent (1-for-14) from 3-point range. Those numbers could be attributed to a player trying to hard to impress in limited minutes, or maybe Rice is still getting used to facing NBA, not D-League, defenses. Either way, percentages, particularly from 3-point range, must improve.
Rice will also have to shed his reputation for mentally checking out on the floor, particularly on defense where Coach Wittman has already implored him to improve. Here was the scouting report on Rice before the draft (courtesy of DraftExpress.com):
Defensively, Rice is athletic enough to make plays, regularly coming up with blocks and steals, and posting an impressive 10 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted, but it’s not difficult to see why it took him so long to get playing time early on in the season. He doesn’t shows great fundamentals, awareness or intensity on this end of the floor, as he’s very quick to get out of his stance, gets lost a fair amount off the ball, and struggles to keep quicker players in front of him. Rio Grande Valley played at the fastest pace (103 possessions per game) of any team in the extremely up-tempo D-League, so there will certainly be an adjustment that needs to be made from guarding small forwards and power forwards in the D-League to defending wing players in the NBA. Rice acknowledges that saying that “working on being in the right spot defensively” is one of the main things he needs to improve on.
As talented as Rice is offensively, lazy lapses on defense will surely cost him a spot in the rotation. And with Otto Porter, Chris Singelton and maybe even Josh Childress (provided he makes the final roster) lurking, Rice might find it hard to earn that spot back.
Henry Abbott of ESPN TrueHoop recently appreciated Glen Rice, Jr.’s skywalker impression, which was cited as a reason why NBA goaltending rules should go the way of FIBA. Garrett Temple might disagree.
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