For the most part, the Washington Wizards were able to retain all of their key free agents this off-season, meaning that their roster will look pretty similar this upcoming season to the one they had this past season.
Here’s what their depth chart should look like prior to the start of training camp. We looked at the guard rotations yesterday, so now we’ll move on to the forwards.
1) Paul Pierce
2) Otto Porter
3) Martell Webster (out 3-5 months after back surgery)
Trevor Ariza had arguably the best season of his career with the Washington Wizards last year, which was ironically his contract year, and it looked like the team would do anything they could to retain him after re-signing Marcin Gortat to a 5-year deal.
Well, the Washington Wizards were reportedly unwilling to give Ariza over $8 million per season, and he opted to go back to the Houston Rockets for the same deal…except Texas has no state income tax.
But, instead of making a panic move and breaking the bank to keep Trevor Ariza, they reached out to a number of cheaper forwards that could soften the blow of his departure. Thabo Sefolosha, who visited the Washington Wizards, decided to sign with their Southeast Division rival, the Atlanta Hawks, and it didn’t seem like the Washington Wizards were going to bounce back. Well, they did.
Just hours after losing Trevor Ariza, the Washington Wizards were able to land Paul Pierce (!!!) with the help of assistant coach Sam Cassell, who’s no longer with the team.
Obama , J Wall here I come
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) July 13, 2014
There were reports of Paul Pierce leaving the Brooklyn Nets in order to join Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers, but he ended up in the nation’s capital. After seeing the Washington Wizards grow and have some success in the NBA Playoffs, D.C. became a legitimate destination for Paul Pierce and he’ll likely finish his career with the team.
Although Paul Pierce will not replace Trevor Ariza’s production defensively, he will give them another scoring option, taking some pressure off of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Pierce isn’t the same player he once was, but he’s still capable of producing. Most importantly, Paul Pierce will give the Washington Wizards another locker room leader and a mentor for some of their younger players.
Otto Porter, who looked spectacular in the NBA Summer League, is probably going to benefit from having Paul Pierce on the team more than anybody else on the roster. With Martell Webster out 3-5 months, Porter will more than likely become the backup small forward after not playing much in his rookie season. Paul Pierce played around 28 minutes per game last year and I expect that to stay about the same this upcoming season. Pierce averaged close to 14 points per game, 2 assists and 5 rebounds in Brooklyn last year, and with John Wall by his side, those numbers could potentially increase.
With that said, Porter’s growth will be a huge factor for the Wizards. Unlike last season where the team relied heavily on Ariza and Webster, their small forward position isn’t very deep and they need Porter to step up in his sophomore year, especially since Webster is out for such a long time. Otto Porter played with confidence during the summer league and the Washington Wizards will need some of that scoring and defense to translate over to the regular season.
3) Drew Gooden
One of the Washington Wizards’ biggest weaknesses last season was their lack of front court depth. So, despite losing some depth at the guard and small forward positions, the Washington Wizards did a fantastic job this off-season by adding a few very solid big men to their roster.
Nene will continue to start at power forward, and he did play well against Team USA on Saturday night which is good news, but he’s been unable to stay healthy and at this point I don’t think we could expect him to play out an entire 82-game season. Resting Nene and keeping him healthy for the playoffs might be something the Washington Wizards do this upcoming season, especially now that they’ve got multiple backup big men that are capable of playing starters minutes from time to time.
Washington acquired a trade exception in a three team deal that sent Trevor Ariza to the Houston Rockets, but they didn’t waste much time in using it. They quickly scooped up Kris Humphries from the free agent market after reportedly expressing interest in signing him. They used the mid-level exception to sign Paul Pierce, which allowed them to use some of the trade exception they got in the Ariza deal to sign Humphries.
Kris Humphries is obviously more well known for his life off the court, but he’s been a very solid NBA big man for quite some time. Humphries averaged nearly 14 points and 11 rebounds per game in the 2012 NBA season, but played in a smaller role with the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics the last couple of seasons. Humphries won’t be a starter, but he’s capable of replacing Trevor Booker’s hustle and rebounding. Humphries also shot the ball very well from the mid-range area last season, and he’ll give the Washington Wizards a pick-and-pop option, which should increase their offensive production.
Drew Gooden helped the Washington Wizards secure a playoff spot last year after Nene went down with an MCL sprain, but he won’t play a big role next season. Gooden was re-signed by the Washington Wizards for the veteran’s minimum and he’ll probably be the third string power forward. DeJuan Blair is also capable of playing power forward, but he was more effective as a center and he’ll probably play that position for the Washington Wizards next season.
The Washington Wizards have a lot more flexibility with their big man positions than they’ve had in quite some time. Paul Pierce was very good at the power forward spot last season, and although it wouldn’t surprise me if Randy Wittman does play him at the 4 occasionally, I think they’ll stick to traditional lineups. Kris Humphries is a very solid third big man and I think the Washington Wizards got a steal by signing him for a cheaper deal than Trevor Booker got with the Utah Jazz.
Washington will have lots of depth at the power forward spot, so it’ll be interesting to see who’s in and out of the rotation once the season starts.