The Washington Wizards are starting to resemble the Golden State Warriors and not simply because they're launching more 3-pointers.
One reason why the Warriors went from contender to champion last season involved a key and early lineup decision. Golden State moved long-time NBA starter Andre Iguodala to the bench so Draymond Green could emerge in the coveted stretch-4 role. Green became one of the league's best two-way threats. While adjusting to the new role, Igoudala became one of the league's top sixth-men and ultimately, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.
The Wizards appear set for a similar change at power forward with Nene, a starter for 601 of his 747 career regular season games. The evolution with the NBA game toward perimeter players makes having two traditional interior options challenging. There are issues with floor spacing offensively and guarding matchups defensively.
Washington uses 6-foot-11 Marcin Gortat at center. Having a power forward capable of shooting from distance provides Gortat with more space offensively. As for Nene, 33, the Brazilian big man provides many things, but floor spacing is not among them.
“I have no clue,” Nene said this weekend about possibly coming off the bench. “That’s the coach’s decision.”
That decision and others with the Wizards rotation are not definitive, but signs point to this specific change. Nene came off the bench in Washington's first two preseason games, though he started Sunday against Brazilian club team Bauru.
Wittman mentioned Golden State's situation when asked Saturday about the potential challenge an established player might endure going from starter to reserve.
“I’m sure sometimes it is, but it happens all the time,” Wittman said. “The bottom line is the betterment of the team. I think we saw it last year with Iguodala. He was an All-Star. Not only a starter in the league, but an All-Star."
Even if the role changes, the minutes should remain comparable, though fewer for Nene might benefit him over the full season. Injuries have plagued the 6-foot-11 forward throughout his career. He missed 15 games during the 2014-15 season primarily due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
“Nene’s going to continue, whether he’s a starter or non-starter, to get the minutes he’s gotten since he’s been here,” Wittman said. “I’m not going to play him any differently whether he’s a starter or not.”
The second unit's offense may revolve around Nene's ability to pass and shoot from the high post. He should feast against a bevy of backup centers. As for playing in this perimeter-oriented era, Nene isn't worried.
“Basketball is basketball,” he said. “If you know how to play basketball, you’re fine.”