October 19, 2019

Washington Wizards 2015-16 Season Position Outlook: Small Forward

With the loss of “The Truth” Paul Pierce, many people think the Washington Wizards are going to take a step back this season, but anyone who carefully watched how Otto Porter performed in the playoffs knows the team will be just fine. Along with Porter, the Wizards smartly moved up in the draft to select Kelly Oubre Jr., used their mid-level exception to sign Alan Anderson, and still have a now healthy Martell Webster on the roster. For the discussion in this article, we will not consider Gary Neal or Jared Dudley as small forwards although they probably will find themselves playing the wing position during the season.

In the playoffs, Otto Porter, the former 3rd overall pick out of hometown Georgetown, turned into the player Washington expected out of him two years ago. His development was hindered for much of his rookie season because of an early hip injury; however under the mentorship of future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce, Porter grew up quickly.

Although Porter technically came off of the bench during the playoffs, the length wing averaged 33 minutes because the Wizards started their transition to playing small ball. During the playoffs, Porter averaged 10 points, 8 rebounds, and played solid team defense on the likes of DeMar Derozan, DeMarre Carroll, and others. Porter has always excelled when he is playing with better talent around him like John Wall and Bradley Beal, so there is definite optimism that Porter can continue the same level of play during last year’s postseason.

Kelly Oubre Jr. is an extremely interesting talent. Similarly to Porter who left school early to declare for the draft, Oubre decided to leave Kansas after just one year under Bill Self. With a 7′ 2” wingspan, the 15th overall pick has the physical attributes to be a prototypical “three-and-D” star. That being said, Oubre is extremely raw and is still developing his shot as he was 25 percent (8 of 32) and 67.5 percent (27 of 40) on three point and free throw attempts during summer league.

It is unlikely that Kelly Oubre Jr. will be able to contribute too much in terms of minutes at the moment because of the number other wing options ahead of him, barring additional injuries to some already incurred by Dudley (back), Anderson (ankle), and Webster (hip). During Wizards Media Day, Oubre told me that he can bring defense and the ability to get to the rim “anytime he wants” to the table immediately. Averaging 16.8 points, granted against many who are no longer in the league, during summer league is impressive and can provide sparks of energy in bursts if called upon by Randy Wittman.

Alan Anderson will likely be Otto Porter’s primary backup at the small forward position when healthy. At the moment, the Wizards are hoping he can return from surgery to “remove a small bony fragment” in his left ankle, which was previously operated on in May, as soon as possible. There is currently no timeframe for Anderson’s return, but the hope is that the veteran wing can be back without missing too much of early regular season action.

When healthy, Anderson is a career 34.6 percent shooter from beyond the arc including 252 made threes over the past three seasons. Last season Anderson averaged 7.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.1 assists during 24 minutes of play off the bench for the Brooklyn Nets, an organization with multiple problems at the time. No one expects Anderson to come in and replace Pierce, which is something John Wall loves about all of the new acquisitions, but another shooter while the team transitions into a small ball system is much appreciated.

Martell Webster was an essential part of the Wizards offense during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 season. Last year, he was completely non-existent as he was in poor basketball shape after yet another back surgery. In his first two seasons in DC, Webster was a 40.7 percent (285 of 701) three point shooter. Last year Webster only made 10 three pointers while shooting 23.3 percent from beyond the arc and totaling just 106 points for the team during the entire season. Prior to his most recent hip injury, Wittman raved about how Webster was finally healthy again and made it sound like he would be given an opportunity to contribute. If Webster could return to his original shooting form, it will be one more weapon John Wall will have at his disposal when running the Wizards offense.

In short, there is a lot of potential for Washington when it comes to the small forward position. Unfortunately with the loss of Pierce there is no one who has a consistent track record. But as long as things go according to plan with Porter and complementing backup pieces can step up when needed, the Wizards will not be too upset with The Truth’s decision to return home.

About Neil Dalal

Neil Dalal is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins, Wizards, and Maryland Terrapins. Neil grew up in Silver Spring, MD and attends the University of Maryland. Neil has loved everything related to the Redskins, Wizards, Capitals, and Terrapins since he was eight years old. However, he favors the Orioles, as he started watching baseball before the Expos moved to DC. You can follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.

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