As we continue to look at various match ups nearing the start of the Washington Wizards training camp at the end of this month, I think it’s safe to say that the battle of the small forwards will provide the most amount of intrigue.
Over the past several years, after taking John Wall first overall in 2010, the Wizards never really had a small forward on their roster who was capable of holding down the starting position. They went through several forwards during the course of a few seasons, until they finally landed a starting caliber small forward, Trevor Ariza, via a trade with the then-New Orleans Hornets. Of course, Washington dealt with a few injuries, most notably John Wall’s stress injury, which hindered Ariza’s ability to live up to expectations. Since then, Martell Webster has claimed the starting spot and has revitalized his career in the nation’s capital.
The Wizards also selected Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. with the third overall pick in this years draft, making him an instant contender for Washington’s starting small forward spot. With all that said, I think it’s safe to say that the Wizards have more than a few options when it comes to small forward. Martell Webster took Ariza’s starting spot last season after displaying his unheralded ability to shoot from the perimeter. Webster provides the scoring the Wizards desperately need, but Trevor Ariza would probably contribute more on the defensive side of the floor. Ariza, who didn’t play all that well without John Wall on the floor, increased his shooting percentages exponentially once the third year guard returned to the Wizards’ lineup. Since both guys are capable of scoring, defending, and playing the required role, the Wizards will likely look to utilize their versatility in plenty of ways this upcoming season.
Webster, who’s primary position is small forward, could also play the two spot since the Wizards consider the positions interchangeable. Ariza could probably also play shooting guard, but since he’s played small forward throughout his 9 year career, I’d like to think the Wizards would continue to build upon that role. Besides, the Wizards experimented with Otto Porter during the summer league, and we all know how well that turned out. In theory, you’d like to have players who could consistently knock down perimeter shots play the two spot, especially since the Wizards don’t have a ton of shooting options.
Wizard head coach, Randy Wittman, on Otto Porter and interchangeable positions: I think he’s going to be a versatile player who’s able to do different things. People get caught up, which is kind of funny, in the two (shooting guard) and the three (small forward) position. I wish they’d get rid of numbers to be honest with you. The way we play in my system, there’s no difference, two/three, three/two.
Regardless of the respective players’ versatility, someone has to separate themselves from the group during training camp and pre-season. Despite the position supposedly being interchangeable, I think the Wizards want to maintain continuity at the open spot. All three players (Ariza, Webster, Porter) could probably embrace the role of the “3-and-D” wing, since all three guys are capable of playing that style in Washington’s offense.
Personally, unless something unexpected happens, I expect Martell Webster to remain Washington’s starting small forward. The league’s worst offensive team needs someone who could consistently provide a scoring threat, and I think Webster has showed that in Washington this past season. Ariza probably provides the biggest threat to Webster’s spot, since Porter isn’t ready to take on a great role on a playoff-bound Wizards team.
Having three players that are capable of starting isn’t necessarily a bad problem to have. Washington has to find a way to get minutes on the floor for all three guys, since all of them have tools to contribute a considerable amount this season. Let’s not forget that Trevor Ariza is probably the most “tradeable” guy on the roster, especially since he’s entering the last year of his contract. We’ll definitely keep you updated on the match up throughout training camp.
Who do you expect to win the battle of the small forwards? Give me your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section.