This is our seventh Summer Checklist piece where we break down an area of weakness each player on the roster can improve. Previously: Bradley Beal | John Wall | Marcin Gortat | Nene | Otto Porter | Paul Pierce.
The Wizards entered last season with a big man rotation of Trevor Booker, Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin and Al Harrington. Two of those players are washed out of the league and one could very well be on his way if he fails to show any real progress this upcoming season. There isn't a hell of a lot for this year's unit to live up to considering the circumstances, even if they don't fully live up to their billing.
But there are some real concerns about this year's group. Management beefed up the front court with the additions of Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair, but it may come at a price. It resulted in them doubling down on the league's market inefficiency, a trend Zach Lowe detailed in a column earlier this offseason:
Some trends have emerged over the last three summers. The price of shooting at all positions has gone up. And one player type has become less and less desired, to the point it may already be a market inefficiency: the power forward who can't shoot 3s and can't protect the rim or provide real fill-in minutes at center.
There's a few things to consider first. Washington got by with far lesser players in the second-half of the year in 2014, throwing off opposing defenses by inverting the floor and having their big men serve as floor spacers. Andre Miller instantly became more effective operating out of the post and Bradley Beal began to see the floor a lot better with teams no longer packing it in.
But they weren't bombs-away from three. Al Harrington shot a paltry 31-percent from distance following the All-Star break, and that was with defenders rarely paying him any mind. Only 11 percent of Drew Gooden's offense came in the form of threes, and he shot just 17 of them in 22 games. The two big men allowed over 108 points per 100 possessions when they shared the floor per NBA.com's stats page, one of the worst marks on the team.
The Wizards didn't have a ton of money to throw at stretch-bigs once they took care of their own and found a suitable replacement for Trevor Ariza. They're looking to flip the script on the rest of the league now, hoping to strike gold with Blair and Humphries while boasting a deep front court. If they can get even 75 percent of the shooting they got from the bench a year ago, they'll be in a good place.
Still, they'll have to make up for the loss of shooting somewhere. If they're not outscoring their opponents at the rate the AARP unit did (they probably won't), then they'll have to show up on the other end.
Here, Humphries finds himself at the crux of the matter. He's not the most intimidating presence down low and he has a tendency to let guards zip past him in the lane because he's either taking a poor angle to the ball or is jumping out of position. That's something he might see a lot of this year. Washington's defenders along the wings are a 38-year-old Miller, their two rookies from last season, a Martell Webster that's coming off his third back surgery and Beal if they choose to deploy him with the second-unit again.
There are going to be problems if Humphries isn't up for the job. He had loads of experience working in this exact manner with the Celtics last year and proved to be an adequate deterrent at the rim once he moved to the 5. His block percentage of 3.4 percent is right there with Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler, meaning he's not a complete stiff. He made strides in Brad Stevens' system after often struggling early in his career. And again, the bar is set low.
But the questions will still persist. Will he be quick enough to cover up for Blair's mistakes? Can Washington stay afloat defensively if Gortat goes down for an extended period of time? It's easy to reference last year and come away from all this unmoved, but if he's forced into playing big minutes, these concerns will manifest themselves.
No, this isn't a gamble for Washington. All they did was significantly upgrade their front court at a good price. But now all of the pieces have to fit together, and someone has to be able to protect the rim. That someone should be Kris Humphries.