The biggest storyline for the Wizards as they prepare for the 2017-18 regular season remains who will start at power forward for the first several weeks while Markieff Morris is out rehabbing from sports hernia surgery. Morris will leave a big hole on offense, as a rebounder and in what he brings as a leader and tone-setter.
Fortunately for the Wizards, they have a few desirable options. There are several ways head coach Scott Brooks can go. Here is a look at the most likely candidates as we pass the halfway point of preseason.
Pros: With a developing three-point shot, Smith could be a nice complement to Marcin Gortat the power forward position. He's not a big-time rim protector, but would certainly help the cause next to Gortat, who isn't a big shot blocker. Smith and Gortat would make a very strong pair of screen-setters and Brooks could put that to use with John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter.
Cons: Smith could end up as the primary backup power forward and by promoting him to the starting lineup, the Wizards would give him less time to gel with the second unit. Given Ian Mahinmi missed 51 games last season, he and Smith will still need time to develop a chemistry. Brooks will weigh that in his decision. Also, Smith and Gortat may have trouble with certain frontcourts. Smith has turned himself into a stretch-4 of sorts with his ability to knock down some threes, but can he guard stretch-4s? That's one of the things Morris brings to the table.
Quotable: "Jason is going to play with toughness and that brand of physicality that we need. We always say that when Jason isn't on your team in practice, you hate it because he's going to set screens and do all the little things that you're supposed to do. He never complains. He's one of the most professional guys that I've ever played with, even when he's playing or not playing. He brings the toughness that we need on both ends of the floor." - John Wall
Pros: Scott has had a strong preseason so far. We know he's tough, we know he can play very good defense when healthy. And, as he has shown this preseason, he can score in a variety of ways. He is a big body, who can bang down low and he can also stretch the floor with confidence from three-point range. By elevating him to the starting lineup, the Wizards could ask Scott to do much of the same things Morris does when he's on the floor: play an inside-out game and be ready to mix it up if the other team wants to start something.
Cons: Ideally, whomever Brooks picks to start at power forward will play a good amount of minutes and right now that is at least a minor concern for Scott. Brooks keeps referencing Scott's history of ankle injuries. He didn't play in their open scrimmage during training camp and spent the first half of their first preseason game mainly on the exercise bike. He is considered healthy, but they have to monitor his ankle and that is worth factoring in.
Quotable: "Another person that can spread the floor, shoot the ball. Good thing is if they switch and put smalls against him, he can score on the post. He showed that and his toughness. He backs down from nobody and that is something we need on our team.” - John Wall
"He can give you the inside game or outside game. I always call him Mr. Efficient because he's a bucket. I played him in college before too so he's just automatic. I love his drive and focus in the game. He's all about his teammates and being locked into the game. He can score. He can score in a variety of ways. He can shoot threes, give it to you in the post, put it on the floor, he's a great pick and roll player too. he's everything that we need him to be. He's proven it." - Bradley Beal
Otto Porter, Jr.
Pros: Porter is certainly an option to start at power forward given the success the Wizards found last year with him playing alongside Kelly Oubre, Jr. Porter gained about five pounds this summer and has the length to guard some power forwards, especially in today's NBA which is trending smaller and more athletic down low. The appeal for Porter and Oubre playing together alongside Wall and Beal is that they can switch from position to position on defense. Given their defensive issues last year, it would't be surprising if Brooks wants to go with this group and Morris' absence could give him an excuse to ride that lineup heavily early in the season.
Cons: If Porter and Oubre are both in the starting lineup, that limits Brooks' options at the small forward position on his bench. Unless both play super heavy minutes, who would take their place is not an easy decision. The Wizards would love to see Tomas Satoransky develop some positional versatility, but he doesn't seem ready for that task, to play the three alongside Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks. Scott can play some small forward, but he is going to be needed at the four with Morris out.
Quotable: “We’ve done it last year, we were pretty successful with Otto playing the four. That is something we will consider but you don’t want to overextend guys’ minutes. We’re going to be cognizant of all our guys’ minutes and we want them to feel fresh throughout the season. Otto definitely has the ability to play four. The league is so, so much — it’s a smaller league in a lot of different spots. In the ’80s or ’90s, Otto at the four probably would not have been a decision but now, with all the shooting fours out there, I think he can step in and play that role, whether we need him to start at the position or be that position throughout the game." - Scott Brooks