What a difference a day can make.
Having had the opportunity to check out the rookies at various summer leagues and after the bulk of free agency occurred, ProBasketballTalk.com's Kurt Helin posted a new set of NBA power rankings at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Helin slotted the Washington Wizards 10th overall, third in the Eastern Conference:
10. Wizards (46-36). Paul Pierce is in Los Angeles but Otto Porter can step into the three spot just fine. Added Jared Dudley and Gary Neal help make this a deeper team. The bigger questions fall to coach Randy Wittman: Will he finally trust the small lineup more like he did in the playoffs? And can this team find more offensive diversity rather than being the John Wall show.
Some six hours later, the Wizards announced Dudley had lower back surgery to fix a herniated disk Tuesday and will be out 3-4 months.
The time frame means Dudley might not actually miss any regular season games or at most the month of the six-month season. The Wizards still have John Wall and Bradley Beal. They still have Marcin Gortat and Nene. They still have Porter, Kris Humphries and Drew Gooden up front with Ramon Sessions and Garrett Temple in the backcourt. They also added Gary Neal and Alan Anderson along with first-round pick Kelly Oubre Jr. In other words, they can certainly fill the general talent void lost should Dudley.
However, look at what Helin wrote. He directly or indirectly mentions Dudley in almost every line.
Yes, Porter is first in line to replace Pierce, but Dudley will also receive minutes at small forward. The "small lineup" really means playing Dudley at stretch-4 just as Pierce did in the playoffs against he Raptors and Hawks. Gooden can also help in terms of 3-point shooting, but that's not the same. Nobody would be talking about Washington's small lineup if the 6-foot-10 Gooden, who turns 34 in September, was the only option. We'll see if Kris Humphries extended his range beyond the arc.
Spreading the court with 3-point shooters is one thing, but all the small-ball lineup talk isn't just about the offensive end. Neither Gooden nor Humphries really have the foot speed to defend opposing perimeter forwards.Though he has the length to guard taller players, the slight Porter is not ideal for long stretches at stretch-4 unless he significantly bulks up before next season.
As for finding "more offensive diversity" beyond Wall, it appears they've done that. Neal and Anderson are quality 3-point shooters, as is Dudley, though they lost an interior scorer in Kevin Seraphin. Porter showed more range and versatility in the postseason. More diverse as a team, yes, but part of that involves those small ball lineup deployed during the playoffs.
Again, the Wizards certainly have enough talent to overcome Dudley missing time or slowly recovering upon returning to the court. If Oubre shows he can hang with the adults, if Webster and DeJuan Blair return to previous NBA form, Washington has 15 players it can use most nights. The roster just doesn't have much in the way of two-way stretch-4's other than Dudley. If the news of his surgery breaks Monday, it's curious to wonder where Helin slots the Wizards in his power rankings.
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