The formula for success is "1-3 stars, supporting defender, supporting shooter, guys to give fouls inside."
Sounded about right to me. So I got to thinking about where the Wizards are with this. Clearly they're hoping for Wall, Beal and Nene to be the stars. Supporting defenders? Okafor, Ariza and in a pinch Garrett Temple. Supporting shooters? Webster and Harrington. Guys to give fouls inside? We got plenty of those… Ves, Book, Seraphin, Singleton.
There's certainly room for debate about whether any of our "guys to give fouls inside" can develop into more than that (or whether that's a really good role for 4 first round picks to be playing). But in theory, with a full team and the continued development of Wall/Beal it seems like there was a pretty good chance that we could have made that leap to being a 'successful' team (not championship winning this year at least, but certainly able to compete against playoff level teams). With everybody healthy I think we would have continued with last year's incredibly successful starting 5 of Oak/Nene/Web/Beal/Wall and a 2nd unit of Serph/Harrington/Ariza/GR2/Maynor. That gives us a defensive stopper and a shooter in each lineup and a rotation that could probably do some things.
The problem is that once Okafor went down it threw everything out of balance. How do you replace Okafor in the starting lineup? Based on preseason performance Ves/Seraphin/Booker don't seem quite ready for a starting role. None of them would really meet the definition of being either a great shooter or a great defender (and some would say they could each be viewed as net negatives in one or both of those categories). That leaves Harrington to step up (and us to pray that he can handle the minutes), but as much as I like the idea of spreading the floor on offense with 3 shooters surrounding Wall/Nene that unit would get creamed on the defensive side of the ball.
So in order to create a sense of parity I think you have to start Harrington and Ariza with our "big 3." The drop-off from Harrington to Ves/Serph/Booker is pretty immense at this point (side note: we need an easy nickname for those 3). Yes there will be individual games (or brief runs) where one of the young bigs plays well but there's no consistency yet and I don't think you want Wittman stuck having to figure which of them (if any) is worthy of starting on any given day.
On the other hand The drop-off from Webster to Ariza is not so much a drop-off as a trade off. Elite shooting for elite defending. A lineup with Ariza/Harrington keeps one great shooter and one great defender on the court with the starters. It limits the need for Ariza to do the things that he's not good at (creating offense off the dribble) and allows him to do what he does well (defend and hit the wide open corner 3's that playing with John Wall creates).
I certainly see the point that you're not getting the best out of Martell Webster when you have him on the 2nd unit away from Wall, but like Al Harrington was quoted in this article on Bleacher report, "I don't mind not starting because Eric Maynor is a great point guard on the second unit." Webster will still get some good looks from deep (as he has been all pre-season). But he is also much more capable of creating for himself off the dribble than Ariza, which will be needed on that 2nd unit.
Also by not trying to force Ves/Serph/Booker into a role they probably aren't ready for (and may never be) we can play them more with the second unit and allow them to keep on developing against more comparably talented opponents. This is a make or break year for each of them and I want to give them every chance to try and succeed. Harrington is getting up there and you don't want to overdo it on minutes for him but he has been succeeding in pre-season and appears to be in great shape. I think he can do it.
Long term I hope we can get Okafor back healthy and return to last year's starting 5, with Ariza and Harrington off the bench. But injuries mean making adjustments and trying to put out the best units you can with the players that are available. Players are going to be asked to play out of their comfort zones a bit, but you try and mitigate the effects of that to the greatest extent possible. I think starting with Harrington and Ariza on the floor comes the closest to putting each of the members of the supporting cast in a role they are comfortable with and capable of, so I think those two should get the nod in the starting lineup until either Okafor returns from injury or the front office makes a move to get us a replacement big (other than Harrington) who is more suitable for the starting role.
What y'all think?