With the intense NBA offseason cooling down, there is time for reflection on what the Washington Wizards accomplished and a chance to look at the road ahead. For the next couple of weeks, CSNwashington.com Insider J. Michael and Wizards correspondent Ben Standig will examine various issues and answer questions as the Wizards move toward the 2015-16 campaign.
Assuming good health on the roster, there’s a good chance that Martell Webster and DeJuan Blair are at the end of the bench, if not inactive most, nights. Of the two, which one has the best chance of making an impact this season?
J. Michael: Webster. Now, no one is expecting him to return to the player he was a few seasons ago when he averaged a career-high 11.4 points. But all Webster has to do is make a few shots here and there. He doesn’t have to be a lockdown defender or a dribble penetrator.
The problem is there are plenty of players at his position ahead of him – Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson, Otto Porter and probably even rookie Kelly Oubre.
With Dudley’s offseason back surgery, that bumps up Webster for a moment in the rotation. Then factor in that coach Randy Wittman tends to side with experience over youth, so at least for a minute Webster could be above Oubre, too. Pending just how often the Wizards use small lineups, there could be mop-up minutes for him to prove that he’s back to form after a terrible 2014-15 after his third back surgery cost him half of the season.
Webster played some stretch four when he started out with the Portland Trail Blazers, so he could get time there behind Nene and Drew Gooden in the short-term. If he doesn’t produce immediately, he’ll quickly fall back. I can’t see a scenario, no matter how Blair’s peers perform, that results in him getting meaningful time on the court. He easily could be off the roster by the time the regular season tips. He could be released, and paid the balance of his contract, and another big signed at the vet minimum and the Wizards could remain below the luxury tax.
Ben Standig: First off and seeing how we rarely discuss DeJuan Blair or his performance last season, let me just start with a sincere "What the heck was that???" We knew simply by the amount of bodies available that not all the big men would receive consistent playing time, but the other five all contributed and then some. The former NCAA standout at Pittsburgh really never even had his one shining moment. That Marcin Gortat and Kevin Seraphin were healthy all season combined with Drew Gooden's presence limited the amount of minutes available at center, but 56 points over 29 games, yeesh. The game is evolving away from 6-foot-5 center's who can't play away from the basket, but Blair's physical condition may not have always been in the ballpark of NBA quality.
Ironically, there is arguably more of a direct path for minutes this season. If were talking low-post scoring, the physical Blair is the third-best option besides Gortat and Nene. The big Brazilian is serving as the backup center, but we know about his injury history. Gooden and Kris Humphries would receive first crack. Neither are interior scorers, though both possess size and far better perimeter games that work for this modern era.
Meanwhile, Webster is buried behind Otto Porter and Jared Dudley at small forward, Bradley Beal and Gary Neal at the two with Alan Anderson floating between both. That doesn't even factor in first round pick Kelly Oubre Jr. or defensive-minded Garrett Temple. Still, considering he provides desired 3-point shooting, Webster's perimeter pop gives him the edge over Blair assuming his back is right. If Blair comes into camp focused and leaner -- and, as J. Michael hints at above, comes to camp at all -- then perhaps he surprises in the rotation the way Seraphin did a year ago. Just don't bet on it.
MORE WIZARDS: One on one: Wizards biggest roster concern is...?