One of the Wizards' goal for this offseason was to find a veteran point guard to tutor and play behind John Wall. On the surface, finding a veteran point guard seems like an easy enough proposition, but finding the right player who fit the Wizards' criteria was a challenge.
As a team, you need to be able to offer the right mix of playing time, money and opportunity to win in order to sign the free agents you want. Washington couldn't offer veteran point guards much playing time, because Wall needs as much playing time as he can handle to help the Wizards win and develop. They couldn't offer much money because they were close to cap and it just didn't make sense to offer a lot of money to someone who would play so little. And while the Wizards would like to think they can sell everyone on a playoff run this year, you can understand why a veteran point guard would look to teams with a more established track record of recent success. With so little to offer, you begin to understand why the Wizards ended up with A.J. Price.
Price isn't the first player that comes to mind when you think of veteran point guard, but he fills the role better than you think. He's played in a Final Four, he's been on two playoff runs and still has more experience than anyone else in the backcourt. More importantly, he plays the way you want a veteran point guard to play in this situation.
POSITIVES TO BUILD ON: As a passer, Price had his best season last year, posting an assist rate comparable to players like Ty Lawson, Jeremy Lin and Jeff Teague. His turnovers went up slightly, but the increase in playmaking (his assist rate jumped from 27.2 in 2010-11 to 38.8 last season) was worth the slight uptick in turnovers (his turnovers rate rose from 13 to 14.4). Better yet, he did it all while decreasing his usage rate from 22.7 to 17.7.
Also, as Ted Leonsis noted in his interview with us, A.J. Price had a significant impact on Indiana's defense last season. As the league shifts to more of point guard driven league, you need players who can slow things down at the point of attack.
AREAS TO IMPROVE: Like everyone else in the backcourt this season, the question Price has to answer is "Can he shoot?" During his rookie year, thing seemed promising. He hit 34.7 percent of his threes and had a effective field goal percentage just under fifty percent, which isn't bad for 52nd pick in the NBA Draft. However, in the two years since, he hasn't cracked 30 percent from beyond the arc. That's a problem when you attempt about half your shots from three. If he can't get those numbers back to where they were his rookie year, it's going to be hard for him to get off the bench.
PROJECTED SPOT IN THE ROTATION: There might not be a player on the roster with a more clearly defined role than A.J. Price. If he's doing anything more than backing up John Wall, something is probably going wrong.
OUTLOOK: A.J. Price probably wasn't the first guy people envisioned when the Wizards started looking for point guard to play behind John Wall. He doesn't carry the name value some of the other free agents who joined better teams have, but if he can get his shot back on track, the Wizards have all they need in a backup with Price.
What are your projected statistics for Price? What are your general expectations of him? Do you expect him to be here at the end of the season?