Over the past few seasons, the Wizards have been blessed with quality starters but plagued by a weak bench. The disappointing play of players like Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton, and Eric Maynor has killed the Wizards in past years, and the last years playoff run was hindered by a lack of depth and scoring off the bench. On paper, the Wizards should again have one of the best starting fives in the East. John Wall, Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce, Nene and Marcin Gortat provide a nice balance of shooting, athleticism, size, defense and experience. The difference this year is that the drop off between the starters and their bench replacements shouldn't' be nearly as dramatic. The Wizards should field a much deeper and experienced bench this season, an improvement that could prove vital come playoff time.
The ageless Miller proved to be a smart late-season pickup last year, as he stabilized the second-team unit while posting a solid 14.6 PER. The 38 year old provides a sharp contrast to Wall's explosive athleticism, as he relies on his veteran savvy, post-up game and still considerable passing skills to get the job done. His presence over the course of an entire season should provide an upgrade over last season's combo of Temple and Eric Maynor. Webster will likely miss a significant chunk of time due to his back injury. But when healthy, he shooting provides a nice compliment to Wall and Beal, and he is a more than serviceable defender. Temple made little impact last year, but he is a big guard (6'6") who can play both positions and can serve as a defensive specialist in limited minutes.
Rice is the X-factor. The second year man has been playing out of his mind this summer, averaging 25 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 2.5 SPG en route to winning Summer League MVP. Granted, it is the Summer League, so he hasn't exactly been facing top-notch competition, but if his shooting, aggression and playmaking have been eye-opening. One of the biggest things missing from the Wizards' bench has been a scoring guard who can create his own shots. If Rice can become that player, it will shore up a major weakness and allow the team to roll back Beal's minutes when necessary.
This is where the Wizard's make the biggest leap this offseason. Porter has been nearly as impressive as Rice this summer, demonstrating the versatility and mid-range game that made him a star at Georgetown. With Webster injured and Pierce not likely to play a ton of minutes, Porter will see plenty of action this season. After making little to no impact last season, the new and improved Porter should finally live up to his potential and provide versatility off the bench.
Nene is included in this section because the Wizards are likely to continue experimenting with using him off the bench. While he and Gortat play well together, Nene is one of few Wizard's players who can provide a reliable scoring punch off the bench, and his underrated passing ability could really benefit the second-team unit. He also provides experience and poise alongside Miller. Flanking playmakers like Miller and Nene with shooters like Rice, Webster and Porter could prove lethal.
Humphries, Blair and Gooden are solid veteran bigs who will give the Wizards a lot of depth up front. Humphries is strong on the glass, Blair plays with ferocity despite being undersized, and Gooden was arguably the Wizard's most effective reserve big man in the playoffs. Seraphin will be at the back of the rotation but can has the offensive tools to make an impact if called upon. You can never have too many bigs, especially in the playoffs, and the Wizards now have a solid rotation of six to throw at the opposition.
The Wizards bench is far from perfect. They don't have a quality sixth man in the vein of Jamal Crawford or Manu Ginobili, and they could use a third point guard. Rice and Porter's strong Summer League play may not translate to the regular season. But having productive players they can turn to in the playoffs could mean the difference between a deep run and a first round loss.
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Tags: Andre Miller, Basketball, DeJuan Blair, Drew Gooden, Garrett Temple, Glen Rice Jr., Kris Humphries, NBA, Nene, Otto Porter, Washington, Washington Wizards
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