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.
For argument sake, let’s say the Wizards could have kept Paul Pierce, but then no Jared Dudley trade and only minimum contract players instead of Alan Anderson and Gary Neal. Which scenario do you prefer?
J. Michael: Let Pierce walk. He’ll be 38 by the time the season starts and really doesn’t help immediately. The Wizards were certain they could keep him but the Los Angeles Clippers offered him an extra guaranteed year. Not trying to match or exceed that was smart not only for the long-term but short-term.
Sure, the Wizards lose the big-shot ability that Pierce brings and was evident during the playoffs. But Gary Neal, Alan Anderson and Jared Dudley should be able to make up for that and then some. All three have experience and have come through with daggers in the postseason for previous teams. Pierce doesn’t have a monopoly on shot-making and his impact was more team-wide when it came to his locker-room presence and leadership. His impact on Otto Porter's development, however, has been grossly exaggerated. The real truth: Pierce rarely uttered a word to him.
And one of the Wizards’ points of emphasis is being a better regular-season team to get a better seeding so they have a better shot at the conference finals. They only won 46 games last season, two games better than the previous year when the also advanced to East semis, with Pierce. The fact is, Pierce doesn’t do much for you during the regular season. He admits it’s tough getting up for 82 games and he paces himself. He will miss games for rest. He has a troublesome big left toe that has caused him to sit since 2012. He can be a defensive liability (see final play of Game 5 vs. Hawks when he's beaten so badly to box-out position by Paul Millsap that he compromises the defense which leads to Al Horford's game-winning basket over Nene). Pierce was great for the one season he was here. He brought an attitude that John Wall and Bradley Beal can learn from and held players accountable for goofing off too much after bad losses and enjoying the NBA lifestyle too much on the road. But it was best for both sides that he moved on in the end.
Ben Standig: The truth is I had more fun professionally covering Paul Pierce's shot-making and quote brilliance during the postseason than just about anything in my career. Now, this has nothing to do with this hypothetical other than to note that regardless of any personal desire for more "I called game" moment, I'd side with adding the three other players.
J. Michael mentioned the age. Now, I love the Satchel Paige quote ("Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind then it doesn't matter). The thing is, younger, stronger and bigger NBA players don't care about such things.
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Wizards Coach Randy Wittman has stated he didn't use Pierce at stretch-4 much during the regular season because he wanted to save the veteran from that extra wear-and-tear. I'm buying what the coach is selling and therefore expect more of that effective the small-ball look over 82 games. (Dudley's return from back surgery plays a large role in such plans.) Regardless, the Wizards now have more consistent 3-point shooting threats - a key factor should Bradley Beal miss any games - plus Anderson's defensive knack on the wing.
If Beal and John Wall step up with their own late-game shot-making, these Wizards can overcome just about everything Pierce provided. If Dudley, Neal and Anderson help the Wizards improve on last regular season's win total and playoff seeding, then we'll probably blurt out, "That's why they brought them here."