If you're being honest with yourself, there's probably a part of you that almost wishes Martell Webster wasn't coming back this week. Yes, you can admit it.
The Wizards have played incredibly well so far this season that no one wants to mess up the Wizards' rhythm integrating someone who has not played yet — especially as the team approaches a difficult stretch of schedule.
But despite what your trepidations may tell you, Martell Webster's return is good news for the Wizards. Whenever you can add another wing player with a dependable three pointer, it's a good thing. Even at the worst of Webster's struggles last season after the All-Star break, he was still shooting 37 percent beyond the arc while maintaining a positive plus/minus rating off the bench. He's not going to be a healthy scratch if he can still play at that level.
The bigger question then is where does Martell Webster fit into the Wizards' rotation and who ends up losing minutes because of Webster's return? I agree with CSN Washington's J. Michael that DeJuan Blair is the most likely candidate to be moved to the inactive list, followed by Garrett Temple and then Drew Gooden. Of course, none of those three help make it easier for Webster to get a spot on the Wizards' second unit.
The biggest issue is that Rasual Butler, who should have been the most likely candidate to get less playing time, is still blazing hot right now. Benching Butler now because you're convinced he'll crash back down to earth is both self-fulfilling and self-defeating. When Butler starts struggling, then the Wizards can sort things out with him, but there's no need to put that fire out before it's ready.
That leaves Otto Porter as the only logical player left who should lose time because of Webster's return. Though Porter has made great strides since last season and given the Wizards' second unit some athleticism the rest of the lineup lacks, Webster should still give the Wizards more to use than Porter upon his return.
Based on how minutes have been doled out recently, you could argue that the Wizards have already begun preparing for Webster to start taking Porter's spot in the rotation. After averaging 23.5 minutes in November, Porter is only averaging 15.2 minutes per game this month — that's with extra playing time from blowout wins over Denver and Miami and the extra time he got against Minnesota after Paul Pierce was ruled out with a sore toe. Without those games, Porter's been averaging closer to 12 minutes per game since the start of December.
If it weren't for Porter being the third overall pick in 2013, we would not be wrestling over this decision right now. While the Wizards still need to emphasize development as they shift into contender mode, there's nothing wrong with leveraging the limited availability of playing time to help further Porter's growth. This isn't Flip Saunders playing a clearly inferior Fabricio Oberto ahead JaVale McGee to teach the youngster a lesson. This is the Wizards rolling out the players who are best suited to help the team win. In a contending environment, Porter should understand the difference.
In the short term, Porter should still get spot minutes off the bench, probably similar to, but slightly more than what Temple has received since Bradley Beal returned to the lineup. He probably won't get the first crack at playing time off the bench, but if the reserves struggle, the Randy Wittman can use Porter as a change of pace guy in the second half, especially if the Wizards are having issues defensively.
Long term, Porter will still have plenty of chances to earn back the time he's lost. Rasual Butler is bound to fall back to earth at some point this season. Plus, there will still be those occasional games Paul Pierce sits out to tend to lingering injuries. When those times come, Porter will get his chances to reclaim his old role.