Assessing the Wizards Roster: Forwards

With the start of free agency rapidly approaching, now is a good time to break down Washington’s roster and see where the Wizards could improve (and trust me, there’s a lot of room for improvement). This is part two of a three part “series,” and today’s focus is the forwards.

I’ll separate forwards into small forwards and power forwards.

First up is the small forward position…

Small Forwards in 2009-2010–

Josh Howard

GP: 35 (4 with Wizards) PPG: 12.7 RPG: 3.6

Washington Wizards forward Josh Howard (55) warms up in his first game as a Wizard prior to the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on February 17, 2010. UPI / Mark Goldman

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Al Thornton

GP: 75 (24 with Wizards) PPG: 10.7 RPG: 3.9

Washington Wizards Al Thornton (14) drives the ball past Charlotte Bobcats Gerald Wallace (3) during the fourth quarter at the Verizon Center in Washington on March 23, 2010. The Bobcats beat the Wizards 95-86, delivering the Wizards 12th loss in a row. UPI/Alexis C. Glenn Photo via Newscom

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Quinton Ross

GP: 52 (23 with Wizards) PPG: 1.8

Cartier Martin

GP: 18 PPG: 7.8 RPG: 3.8

Analysis: Last November, no one would’ve guessed that the Wizards would end up with four brand new small forwards by the time the season ended. It’s just another example of the turbulence Wizards fans experienced.

Now, with free agency about to start, there’s a very good chance that three of those four small forwards will be gone. Quinton Ross was traded today for Yi Jianlian, who will have to fight for minutes with Andray Blatche.

I’m probably in the minority in wanting Josh Howard back. I think if he played here on a new contract for a year or two, he’s an extra scoring threat the Wizards could use. It’s not like Washington has any young small forwards that he’s taking playing time from. More than likely though, he won’t return. In fact, Howard will have a hard time finding a new team at all as he recovers from major surgery.

Al Thornton will be back (he has one more year left on his contract), and is a serviceable player. I’d rather he come off the bench, but the Wizards may not have any better options.

Projected Small Forwards in 2010-2011–

Al Thornton

GP: 75 (24 with Wizards) PPG: 10.7 RPG: 3.9

Analysis: Yep…The Wizards have one small forward at the moment. Simple logic would tell you that this points to Washington going after a small forward through trades or free agency.

The big rumor right now is that Josh Childress will sign with the Wizards. I’ll get to him soon.

Power Forwards in 2009-2010–

Andray Blatche

GP: 81 PPG: 14.1 RPG: 6.3

March 12 2010: Washington Wizards

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James Singleton

GP: 57 (32 with Wizards) PPG: 4.5 RPG: 4.8

Washington Wizards James Singleton warms up before his first game with the team, against the Minnesota Timberwolves, at the Verizon Center in Washington on February 17, 2010. UPI/Alexis C. Glenn.

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Analysis: Andray Blatche finally put the pieces together last season. Kind of. When Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison were traded, Blatche became the number one scoring option for the Wizards. He averaged over 20 PPG after the All-Star break, and added a good number of rebounds and assists.

So why aren’t Wizards fans more excited for this guy? One, because he’s a knucklehead, as Charles Barkley would say. Blatche is not a helpful locker room presence. He likes to whine and complain, which led to his benching in a game last season when he refused to listen to coach Flip Saunders. Two, this is no longer Andray’s team. John Wall and Gilbert Arenas are much more potent offensive threats, and we’ve yet to see how Blatche operates as the third scoring option. He also just broke his foot and could miss three months of offseason workouts. That has major implications on his game shape come regular season.

James Singleton was a surprisingly effective player for the Wizards. I, like many other fans, would welcome him back for cheap. I doubt he will return now that Washington has added two big men though.

Projected Power Forwards in 2010-2011–

Andray Blatche

GP: 81 PPG: 14.1 RPG: 6.3

Yi Jianlian

GP: 52 PPG: 12 (Career high) 3P%: 37 RPG: 7.2 (Career high)

Apr. 07, 2010 - Milwaukee, WISCONSIN, UNITED STATES - epa02107833 New Jersey Nets

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Trevor Booker

Statline at Clemson: PPG: 15.2 RPG: 8.4

CLEMSON, SC - JANUARY 13: Trevor Booker #35 of the Clemson Tigers against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Littlejohn Coliseum on January 13, 2010 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Analysis: The Wizards are now loaded at the power forward position, to the point where I’m not sure how every guy is going to get much playing time. Assuming Blatche is healthy, he’s by far the best option and deserves 30+ minutes per game. Rookie Trevor Booker would be a nice bruiser off the bench, but now that Yi Jianlian has entered the equation, I’m scratching my head over what’s next. Perhaps the Wizards don’t have faith in JaVale McGee and would rather start Blatche at center with Jianlian at power forward. More likely however, is that moves from the front office are yet to come.

Looking Forward: What’s Next?

Despite Blatche’s injury, he should still be penciled in as the starting power forward for next season. Washington will need to acquire another small forward, but at the very least they have Al Thornton. After that, the Wizards have two more power forwards who might have to unfairly struggle for playing time (Booker and Jianlian).

So who are some possible small forward options? Washington still has the cap room to take on a high-quality (although not All-Star worthy) player. Check out this list of free agents…

  • Josh Childress (RFA)
  • Linas Kleiza (RFA)
  • J.J. Redick (RFA)
  • Ronnie Brewer (RFA)

I understand those last two guys are thought of as shooting guards, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for them to play small forward successfully. Redick may have trouble defensively against bigger guys, but he’s still a hard-nosed player, and coupled with an athletic option like Al Thornton, he would have a strong impact.

It appears Josh Childress could be heading to Washington, which is why he’s first on that list. Here’s a quote from http://bulletsforever.com:

According to redplanet.gr (in Russian), the Wizards have just about agreed to a deal with Josh Childress, he of the amazing hairdo. As you may know, Childress starred at Stanford many moons ago, so Grunfeld is very familiar with him. I also recall that the Wizards were very interested in drafting him back in 2004.

Atlanta still own his rights, and according to probasketballtalk.com, he is basically a restricted FA, so the Hawks would have the right to match any offer the Wiz make. An ESPN.com article I see says Childress can opt out of his Greece deal after each season, so the Wizards would then not have to pay Olympiakos anything over what we offer Childress. I cannot find anything on deal specifics.

So it’s not set in stone, but the chances of Childress-to-D.C. are fairly high. Even if he joins the team, Washington will need to add another dirt-cheap small forward. Possibilities include:

  • Michael Finley (UFA)
  • Joe Alexander (UFA)
  • Joey Graham (UFA)
  • Devean George (UFA)
  • Steve Novak (UFA)
  • Adam Morrison (UFA)
  • Trenton Hassell (UFA)

Out of that list, I like Joe Alexander best. He’s been labeled a bust, but will sign for very little, and it’s not as if he’d log major minutes. He’s very young, and there’s always the small chance he could get his game together.

And yes, I did put Adam Morrison on this list. Laugh all you want, but he’d be a pretty solid 10th man.

So here’s the potential depth chart for forwards.

Projected Small Forwards

Starter: Josh Childress

First Backup: Al Thornton

Second Backup: Minimum salary free agent (perhaps Joe Alexander)

Projected Power Forwards

Starter: Andray Blatche

First Backup: Yi Jianlian

Second Backup: Trevor Booker

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Tags: Al Thornton Andray Blatche Cartier Martin Devean George Flip Saunders J.j. Redick James Singleton Javale Mcgee Joe Alexander Joey Graham Josh Childress Josh Childress Wizards Josh Howard Linas Kleiza Michael Finley Nba Quinton Ross Quinton Ross Trade Ronnie Brewer Steve Novak Trenton Hassell Trevor Booker Washington Wizards Yi Jianlian Yi Jianlian Trade

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