Plenty of 'small ball' options for Wizards

Plenty of 'small ball' options for Wizards
September 16, 2013, 1:15 pm
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Given the tweaks made to the roster during the off-season, the Wizards appear to be in position to play a lot of "small ball."

They've upgraded not just their talent but their versatility. Players have worked out individually all summer and have trickled in to train at Verizon Center, but all the pieces have yet to come together. 

"Our roster has changed. You really don't know until you get out there and put guys in certain situations," coach Randy Wittman said. "In your head though you're planning on looking at different combinations to see how that works."

The Wizards added a small forward (Otto Porter) and a shooting guard (Glen Rice) through the June draft. 

Both likely can play at each other's position, too. 

The Wizards also are hopeful that free-agent addition of Eric Maynor can play in combination with John Wall in the backcourt. That was something Wittman didn't do much of last season with A.J. Price, who wasn't retained.

Maynor is primarily a backup to Wall at point guard, but he has shown the ability to slide over to shooting guard. It would make for a small yet strong ball-handling backcourt, particularly if Bradley Beal stays on the floor for a three-guard set. 

Martell Webster is a small forward who has played some at shooting guard, and Al Harrington is a power forward with the shooting range of a small forward and the strength of a center (245 pounds). Wittman believes he could use him in all three spots. 

Playing "small ball" isn't a gimmick that inferior teams use to cover up weaknesses anymore. Playoff-caliber teams such as the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors implement it effectively. The Miami Heat, who have won the last two championships, flourish without a true center. 

Instead of slowing down the pace for Joel Anthony who is limited offensively, they'll move Chris Bosh or even Shane Battier into the middle. They stretched the floor with their shooting range. On defense, their faster, lengthy, more athletic teammates will help by collapsing on the interior mismatches such a gamble creates. 

The two chip shots Tim Duncan missed with his San Antonio Spurs trailing 90-88 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals? He was being defended by Battier. All 6-8 of him. 

The Wizards, a top 10 scoring defense last season, not only have versatility but length and athleticism to cover lots of ground, too. 

Garrett Temple is a 6-6 shooting guard who showed the ability to run the point. Jan Vesely is 6-11 and though lacks the strength to defend at center he can run the floor and is showing signs of being offensively more capable away from the basket. Chris Singleton is a 6-8 small forward who could manage as a stretch power forward if he ever gets his jump shot back on track. 

Imagine this small ball lineup for the Wizards: Wall, Beal, Rice, Webster and Harrington.  

Or: Wall, Maynor, Porter, Webster, Harrington.

Maybe: Wall, Temple, Trevor Ariza, Webster, Harrington.

The possibilities seem endless. 

"You won't know until you get into a practice situation and see how our guys respond," Wittman said. "We did a little bit of that last year, with Trevor Ariza, Martell and guys of that nature. There's some combinations that we'll take a look at in October."