With Nene and DeJuan Blair suspended for the season opener against Miami, Randy Wittman is apparently giving some thought to playing Paul Pierce at power forward.
Paul Pierce said he spent a lot of time playing the "4" at practice today, could be used there when team uses a smaller lineup— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) October 27, 2014
Paul Pierce said he got some time at the 4 in scrimmage today. Without Blair and Nene Weds, he could be at the 4 a bit.— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) October 27, 2014
All this despite Kris Humphries likely returning from his finger injury.
First and foremost, this is probably due to the matchup. Without Josh McRoberts, who will miss the game, the Heat have played Shawne Williams at power forward in small lineups. Countering with Pierce at power forward makes sense to negate Miami's spacing advantage.
But it's also a look Wittman should consider going forward even with everyone healthy. The Nets' rise last year coincided with shifting Pierce to power forward in a small/long lineup alongside Shaun Livingston and Joe Johnson. The Wizards can temporarily duplicate that look with Garrett Temple and Otto Porter playing alongside Pierce. (It'd be even better if Bradley Beal was healthy, but alas, it wasn't meant to be).
Consider too the way John Wall was effective in the pick and roll at the end of the final preseason game with Porter, Rasual Butler and Damion James all playing together. Wall and Marcin Gortat suddenly had all this space to operate and the Knicks had to pick their poison. Defense was an issue, sure, but Pierce is way better than Butler or James. As a change of pace, it's a useful lineup.
That's why these suspensions could be blessings in disguise. If small lineups work, Wittman will be smart to add them to his toolbox.