- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2015

Minutes after his team’s run in the playoffs had ended, Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman declared he knew what the team needed to do. He talked about being a smaller, more wing-oriented team. Creating space for darting John Wall and rolling Marcin Gortat was paramount. More shooting would help. The Wizards wanted to veer toward the more fluid lineups populating the NBA.

Who they have acquired thus far in the offseason has backed Wittman’s stance following what the club felt was a sudden end to the season. The Wizards traded for Jared Dudley after Paul Pierce decided to sign with his hometown Los Angeles Clippers instead of return for more money. They signed shooter Gary Neal. Alan Anderson was added to provide more wing depth off the bench.

“We can play a lot of different guys,” Wittman said Thursday. “[Jared] Dudley can play three and can play four. You can play Bradley [Beal], John [Wall], Gary Neal all together. Versatility, being able to defend but also offensively having that. We’ve kept that in mind. We’ve got to see in October, when camp begins, how it filters out. There’s a lot of things on paper that look good, that we’re happy about. Now we’ve got to put it together when we get to camp.”

The Wizards traded a protected second-round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for the gritty Dudley, a career 39.6 percent 3-point shooter who also defends well. Last season, almost half of his field-goal attempts were from behind the 3-point line.

Neal, a Baltimore native, made his name while with the San Antonio Spurs. He’s a 38.1 percent career 3-point shooter, though that number has dwindled for three consecutive seasons. Neal was most effective during his three seasons with the Spurs, finding open shots thanks to their ball movement. He anticipates replicating those clean looks with the Wizards because of Wall. Neal also expects to add bench scoring, something that was inconsistent for the Wizards last season.

“Playing against the Wizards, they had a very strong starting five,” Neal said. “I think their starting five could have competed with anybody’s starting five in the NBA. I noticed that their bench — it wasn’t a potent bench. As far as what I mean by potent, it wasn’t an offensively dominant bench.

“Just watching them and playing against them, they would lose a little when their bench came in. … If you came in the game as a bench player and you were up 10, they didn’t have the ability to maintain that 10 because they didn’t have scoring ability coming off the bench. I think that was the one thing I noticed. That was another reason why I felt the Wizards were a good fit for me.”

The 32-year-old Anderson, who also plays mainly at the 3-point line, is expected to sign a one-year, $4 million deal. His signing, widely reported, was not announced by the team on Thursday, the first day players could sign contracts.

Importing the trio, plus drafting shooting guard Kelly Oubre Jr., makes the Wizards bench very guard-heavy. Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, and Neal can serve as backup point guards. Neal, Oubre and Anderson can also fill in at shooting guard. Martell Webster, Anderson, Otto Porter and Dudley can play small forward. Dudley can be used as a “stretch four” when the team uses a small lineup.

Washington already has 14 guaranteed contracts, leaving one open spot. They can use a clause called the “early Bird rights” to re-sign power forward Drew Gooden, who excelled last season when deployed by Washington as a 3-point threat at power forward.

“A lot of different things are in play,” Wittman said. “I think right now you’ve got to look at what best fits what we’re trying to do here.”

The team packed for Las Vegas on Thursday. Mini-camp had concluded, and Summer League begins on Saturday. Though it’s early July, the overhaul in roster and direction has already taken place. The organization did what Wittman projected. The question now is if it will work this winter.


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