The Washington Wizards need a power forward next season. The team appears to be transitioning Nene to center for next season, Drew Gooden is a free agent, and Paul Pierce may or may not return to Washington next season. There's a good chance Kris Humphries may be the only power forward returning to his position next season.
But even if everyone returns, the Wizards clearly need to make some changes at power forward. The playoffs showed how much better the Wizards can be offensively when they have someone who can spread the floor at that position. But as Zach Lowe pointed out in his piece on Grantland about the evolution of the post-up game, teams need more than just shooting from that spot:
Guys like Ryan Anderson, Ersan Ilyasova, and Channing Frye are more multidimensional, but they aren’t as lethal as they were two or three years ago, and they can only thrive in specific environments. If they had better post games, they could beat up smaller defenders and force opponents into uncomfortable readjustments. But they can’t — at least not consistently.
A few executives have dumped the term "stretch 4" altogether and replaced it with "playmaking 4" — a term I’m officially stealing right now. Shooting is nice, but it’s not enough anymore as defenses get smarter, faster, and more flexible working within the loosened rules. Spot-up guys have to be able to catch the ball, pump-fake a defender rushing out at them, drive into the lane, and make some sort of play. If they can’t manage that, a possession dies with them.
You could argue playmaking, more than stretching the floor, was the key to the Wizards' success with Paul Pierce as power forward. For as much as Otto Porter developed as a ballhandler in the playoffs, he's still far more useful when he doesn't have to take on the ballhandling load of the average small forward. With a playmaking 4 on the floor with Otto Porter, the Wizards can do things like this to create off-the-ball scoring opportunities for Porter and stretch the defense in unconventional ways:
The question now becomes, can the Wizards find a player who fits this new mold without breaking the bank this summer? It won't be easy in a high-demand, low-supply market. They'll have to determine which attributes of the modern NBA power forward -- size, outside shooting, mobility, and/or playmaking -- they're willing to sacrifice in order to find someone they can afford.
The best way for the Wizards to fill their need may just be finding players who conceptually have the right skillset, but haven't performed well in their current situation. They may have to consider looking at players who aren't performing well in their current situations and hope they can improve in Washington. As scary as it may sound, a guy like Jeff Green might make sense in that scenario. He comes with risks, but probably has the highest ceiling of anyone the Wizards could possibly acquire to fill that role this summer.
But whatever the Wizards do this season, it's clear that finding the right player to build on their playoff success isn't just about finding a great shooter. They can't just put every potential target on a list, sort them by their three point shooting percentage and make their way down the list until someone takes their money. Even in a spot where the role is more clearly defined than other positions on the court, the Wizards still need versatility at power forward.