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Key Storylines from Washington Wizards' Summer League Team

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Key Storylines from Washington Wizards' Summer League Team
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp
The Washington Wizards have struggled in the summer league, losing their first two games against the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks.

The 2013 NBA Summer League is underway, and there is certainly no shortage of stories for Washington Wizards fans to follow during the next two weeks as rookies begin to develop and position battles start to play out.

All eyes are on Otto Porter Jr., the rookie out of Georgetown, but there are plenty of quieter storylines that are developing as the Summer League squad plays their three games. This season's wins and losses actually means something, since the teams in the Las Vegas Summer League will be seeded and will participate in a tournament to crown a league champion.

The Wizards are off to a slow start, losing their first two games against the the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks. Washington will play their third game Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET against the Denver Nuggets

Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports
Randy Wittman (left) and Ernie Grunfeld (right) are using the summer league to evaluate the recently drafted Otto Porter Jr. (center).

Winning and losing aside, the Summer League at least offers the opportunity for Wizards coach Randy Wittman and team president Ernie Grunfeld to evaluate talent and make the final cuts for the 13-man roster.

For players who seem to already be guaranteed a roster spot, the last summer games provide an opportunity to prepare themselves for the start of the season. 

These may not be the most important games ever for the players on the Summer League roster, but fans should keep an eye on these players and position battles especially, as they will directly affect the starting roster in late October.

 

The Development of Otto Porter Jr.

Washington's No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft was one of the most highly touted prospects coming out of college. Most analysts projected Porter to be the most NBA-ready out of anyone else in the draft, but Porter has struggled out of the gate.

In the two Summer League games, Porter has gone a combined 7-for-26 shooting, playing for 29 minutes in both games. Porter has been good at rebounding and putting back shots when he misses, but he's also thrown some bricks at the rim. 

Al Bello/Getty Images
Otto Porter out of Georgetown has struggled shooting in the summer league, but is competing for the starting small forward position.

Porter has also attempted five field goals from behind the arc, but has missed all of them.

However, the 20-year-old could be struggling to shoot because of an injury. Porter sat out a two-quarter scrimmage against the Toronto Raptors because of a tight hamstring, but the injury is not expected to be serious, according to J. Michael of Comcast SportsNet in Washington.

Despite only scoring a combined 15 points between the two games, Porter has played well on defense, picking up eight defensive rebounds and one steal in each game.

It's unclear if Washington plans to start Porter at small forward during the season, or if he'll come off the bench behind the newly signed Martell Webster, who started at small forward all of last season.

But if Porter's Summer League numbers are indicative of anything, it looks like Webster could get the nod when the season starts so the Wizards can give Porter time to work out his NBA kinks.

 

The Battle for Backup Power Forward

There's no question that if he's healthy, Nene will be the starting power forward for Washington.

However, he's never been able to play a full season and his age is really starting to show. This leaves the backup power forward position as a very important position for the Wizards. Trevor Booker would often fill in last season when Nene was hurt, but he only averaged five points and five rebounds in 48 games and 14 starts. 

The two other potential power forwards that are already on the roster include Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely. Development league player Dennis Horner could also find himself as a bench player in Washington by the end of the Summer League.

Jan Vesely has struggled to adapt to the U.S. game in his two seasons with the Wizards.

Vesely, the former first-round draft pick for the Wizards, has been incredibly disappointing in his two NBA seasons, averaging three points and three rebounds in only 24 career starts. He has at least improved his defense in the Summer League, picking up 11 defensive rebounds across the two games and adding on four blocked shots.

The 23-year-old has still struggled offensively, going 4-for-10 from the field against the Knicks and he has turned the ball over eight times.

Singleton has been much better offensively, scoring a combined 25 points, even leading the team in points against the Warriors with 13. The third-year player out of Florida State added on four blocked shots and has been exceptional at drawing fouls, shooting 87 percent from the line.

Horner is probably the least likely candidate to make the team, as he has only scored two points across the two games in a total of 25 minutes. 

Prior to the Summer League, Horner was with the Brooklyn Nets, but he spent most of the season in the D-League with the Springfield Armor, averaging 11 points and six rebounds per game.

It's unlikely that the Wizards will send Vesely down to the D-League since he's making $3.5 million this season, and Singleton has been playing much better than Horner. So expect Singleton and Vesley to play some minutes at power forward this season but Booker could start the season as the primary backup.

 

The Development of Glen Rice Jr.

Washington made a concerted effort to pick up Rice in the draft, trading away two second-round picks to the Philadelphia 76ers to get him.

Rice won't be a starter for the Wizards, but he will back up second-year shooting guard Bradley Beal. Although Rice has yet to start a Summer League game, he has played about 40 minutes of game time, scoring 17 points and shooting only 30 percent from the floor. 

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Glen Rice Jr., who played his college ball at Georgia Tech, spent last year playing in the NBA Development League.

That's way down from his shooting percentage of 49 percent he had last season in the D-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. 

Rice, like Porter, has had a tough time making the right shot selections, although he is playing against a similar level of talent he saw with the Vipers. If he wants to make an impact in the NBA, he has to become a better shooter and give the Wizards some energy off the bench.

In the game against Golden State, Rice at least made up for his poor shooting with seven rebounds and a block, finishing the game with a plus/minus of +3, which was better than Porter and Singleton.

It remains to be seen what kind of NBA player Rice can be, but Washington struggled on offense last season and needs someone who can shoot better than 30 percent.

 

The Battle for Third-String Point Guard

One of the biggest items on Washington's offseason checklist was backup point guard. They satisfied that need by signing free-agent Eric Maynor, who had previously spent time with the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder.

But with no A.J. Price, there's no one to fill in should Maynor get hurt, which has happened to him in the past. 

The two main candidates for that job include journeymen Sundiata Gaines and Marquez Haynes.

Sundiata Gaines is competing for a spot on the Wizards' roster, but faces stiff competition against Marquez Haynes, who has spent time playing in Europe the past two seasons.

Gaines has spent time with four different NBA teams in his three NBA seasons and spent last year playing in China. The Wizards invited him into camp, but he's been relatively unimpressive in the two Summer League games. He started the first game against the Warriors, playing in 19 minutes but only scoring three points, and was subsequently benched against the Knicks. 

Haynes has taken an equally long path to get to Washington's Summer League team, playing for two different colleges, then playing in Europe for three seasons before coming back to the United States.

The 26-year-old is looking to finally get a shot in the NBA, and it looks like he just might. In both games, Haynes has scored a combined 19 points, even leading the Wizards in scoring against the Knicks with 13. In the Golden State game, Haynes came off the bench and played well in 20 minutes, dishing out six assists, although he missed all three of the three-pointers he attempted. 

Washington also re-signed Garrett Temple this offseason, who can play point guard if necessary, but Grunfeld may decide to give Haynes a shot given his quality performance so far in Las Vegas.

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