Diagnosing Washington Wizards' Weak Link for 2014-15 Season

Jonathan Munshaw@@jon_munshawCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2014

Defensive stopper Garrett Temple was almost completely phased out of Washington's rotations by the end of last season.
Defensive stopper Garrett Temple was almost completely phased out of Washington's rotations by the end of last season.Jim Mone/Associated Press

Every NBA fan—even casual ones—know about the Washington Wizards’ young backcourt.

Even in training camp, the debate has raged over where John Wall and Bradley Beal rank among the backcourts in the league (with Dion Waiters adding the latest fuel to the fire).

But after a season of making additions to the frontcourt in free agency, not enough people are talking about the lack of depth in the backcourt.

If the Wizards want to be a contender in the Eastern Conference and be mentioned in the same breath as the Chicago Bulls for the No. 2 seed, the Wizards need more out of their backups at the guard positions.

At point guard, Andre Miller was a very serviceable backup for the second half of the season and into the playoffs. He helped the team far more than Eric Maynor, but then again, any other point guard would have been better than Maynor after the abysmal first half he had.

Veteran point guard Andre Miller is now 38, but will likely serve as the Wizards full-time backup at point guard.
Veteran point guard Andre Miller is now 38, but will likely serve as the Wizards full-time backup at point guard.Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

Still, Miller is 38 now and is on the 18th hole of his career.

Then, there’s Garrett Temple, who will likely be utilized more as a point guard this season than a shooting guard. But Temple wasn’t anything more than a defensive specialist last season after going completely cold on the offensive side of the floor.

Glen Rice Jr. is a bright spot for Washington at shooting guard after an amazing Summer League and dropping 18 points in the Wizards first preseason game against the Chicago Bulls Monday night.

But Rice will be expected to carry the majority of the backup role behind Beal with Martell Webster out for at least the first two months of the season. Rasual Butler is on the roster for training camp, but I find it unlikely he’ll make the final 15-man roster, leaving the backup backcourt duties to Miller, Temple, Webster and Rice.

Here’s all four of their per-game numbers from last season.

Wizards backup guards per-game numbers (2013-14)
PlayerMPGPPGAPGRPGFG%PER
Andre Miller (With Washington)14.73.83.52.046.014.6
Garrett Temple8.51.81.00.936.27.8
Martell Webster27.79.71.22.843.311.6
Glen Rice Jr.9.92.90.61.829.76.7
ESPN

There’s certainly the case to be made that Rice will take a step forward this year with more minutes and after the confidence boost he received by being named the Summer League MVP. But even if Rice was to develop into a guy who can average nine points or so in 13 minutes per game, there are still serious concerns with Miller, Temple and Webster.

There have only been four guards in the history of the league to be 38 or older and average at least 14 minutes and 3.4 assists per game and have at least 2.2 win shares (Miller’s numbers from last season when he was 37): John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, according to Basketball-Reference.com’s player season finder.  

What does that mean? Father Time is (basically) undefeated. Sure, it’ll be nice to have Miller to at least keep the pace of the offense up, but history says that Miller won’t be able to keep up the numbers he had with the Wizards and Nuggets last season.

Obviously, Wall is the star in Washington. He’s going to play 36 minutes a game, but someone is going to have to play for those other 12. Miller has had a great career, but at 38, he simply isn’t in the group of all-time players who have been able to keep up their production that late into their careers.

Temple can play the point, but he was used more last season as a shooting guard, especially at the end of games to be a defensive stopper. In January, he appeared in 17 games and had a defensive rating of 98 (the estimated number of points allowed per 100 possessions).

But over the course of the season, head coach Randy Wittman almost completely phased him out of the rotation. In March, Temple played a total of 20 minutes in 13 games, and didn’t even hit the 10-minute per game mark in February.

Temple went completely cold on offense, shooting just 23.1 percent in 11 games in December and finished the season with an effective field goal percentage (shooting percentage adjusted for three-pointers being worth more) of .383, compared to 45.7 percent during the 2012-13 season.

And as Albert Lee wrote for Bullets Forever, Temple’s playing time will likely be erratic, making it difficult for Temple to get any kind of consistency.

Even though Martell Webster will be out for at least the beginning of this season, Temple's playing time will be more erratic than most of the other guards and wings on the Wizards' lineup. It is imperative that he also improve his offensive game when he is on the floor, while maintaining his defensive consistency.

Finally, there’s Webster, who will likely not be back in the roster until at least December, and even then, there’s no telling if he’ll be 100 percent. He just had his third back surgery in four years, and Webster told The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo that he’ll likely retire when his $22 million contract expires with Washington.

“I know this game is probably not going to be the healthiest thing for me if I try to stretch it out as much as a possibly can,” Webster told The Post. “So I intend to really give everything I got for these last three years of my contract and probably walk away from this game so I can be healthy.”

That’s not exactly what you want to hear from a guy who played in almost 28 minutes a game last season.

Despite his new mohawk (seen here at Washington's media day) Martell Webster will have to wait to debut his hairstyle on the court while he's out with his third back surgery in four years.
Despite his new mohawk (seen here at Washington's media day) Martell Webster will have to wait to debut his hairstyle on the court while he's out with his third back surgery in four years.Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

I certainly want Webster to do whatever makes him feel comfortable and will allow him to have a healthy life after basketball, but in terms of his time left with the Wizards, there’s just no telling how healthy he’ll be.

From Castillo’s article, it seems like Webster played with pain during Washington’s playoff game, and given that the Wizards already lost Trevor Ariza this offseason, they need Webster to be healthy to be a three-point specialist.

Rice could certainly be that, but there’s no track record of him performing in the regular season, and Paul Pierce is more of a mid-range guy than he is a perimeter player.

From the 2012-13 season through the 2013-14 campaign, Webster’s per-game numbers dropped by 1.7 points, 0.7 assists and 1.1 rebounds. He also attempted 1.1 less free throws per game and his total win shares dropped from 6.3 to 5.0.

Unless this back surgery was finally the one that will finally get Webster back to 100 percent, it’s hard to expect Webster’s numbers to improve, or even stay the same.

This is not to say that Washington’s bench will cost them games over and over again, but as teams such as the Portland Trail Blazers have shown us, teams that have shallow benches don’t perform well in the playoffs.

Just the improvement from Rice may not be enough to get Washington through those times when Wall and Beal are off the floor.

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