Another offseason brings another bombshell the Wizards could not avoid. The news Jared Dudley will miss the next three to four months, likely including the beginning of the regular season, doesn't bury the Wizards this season, but it hurts. This is more than likely something they expected could happen and something they felt was worth the risk.
It's rare that you find players who can produce like Dudley can on both ends of the floor. He had an effective field goal percentage of 55 percent last season and also had 2.1 defensive win shares for a solid defensive team in the Milwaukee Bucks. Only seven other players hit those marks last season while attempting at least 100 three-pointers. One of them went on to be MVP (Stephen Curry), another made the All-Star Game (Kyle Korver), and three others (Danny Green, Wes Matthews, DeMarre Carrol) earned big contracts in free agency.
Obviously, Dudley didn't play heavy minutes like those other players, but that production is still stellar even in just over 23 minutes per game. It puts him in some great company, and it only took a future second round draft pick to acquire him and his $4.25 million deal for next season. I'd say that is pretty great value and, quite frankly, a deal that this organization had to make after Paul Pierce walked.
Still, though, this presents a very dangerous situation for the Wizards going into this season. Dudley likely won't return until November or December, and we have to assume that would be the earliest--especially with this team. They're likely going to be cautious with Dudley here because of the history the team has had with back injuries.
However, unlike the Marcin Gortat trade to offset the loss of Emeka Okafor and the Pierce signing to offset the loss of Trevor Ariza, there is no obvious replacement plan here for the Wizards. Dudley likely was not going to start over Otto Porter, but he was expected to play important minutes for the team at both forward positions as he did for the Bucks at times last season.
The Wizards don't have that versatility with Dudley inactive. The addition of Alan Anderson somewhat eases the blow here, but he's nowhere near the three point shooter Dudley is and isn't as fit for a position as a small ball power forward.
Porter playing the power forward position could help here, if he's up to the task. Anderson has experience with small ball fours, after playing with Pierce as his power forward two years ago in Brooklyn and with Mirza Teletovic last year. Both of those combinations were part of some of the Nets' best lineups over the last couple of years. Anderson is a threat from the outside, and that is something the Wizards have obviously needed. He's a solid defender and still provides another upgrade over what Washington had last year.
However, Anderson isn't going to fill the hole Pierce left the same way Dudley would have. The initial feel after Pierce left for the Los Angeles Clippers was that Porter would have to fill his shoes, but the Dudley trade gave the Wizards a bit of wiggle room with Porter if he struggled to adapt. Now, they won't have that luxury to start the season.
Porter is going to have to become a consistent threat from outside to be effective from both forward spots. Teams already know that he'll hustle to create plays, fight for tipped rebounds and disrupt things defensively. But he's going to have to improve his three point consistency next season. Porter shot 34 percent from three last year, which is very close to league average, but only 26 percent of his shots were from deep. That is going to have to improve to make him a more palatable offensive threat.
Kelly Oubre, Jr. wasn't really expected to garner that much playing time as a rookie and still really shouldn't be--even after Dudley's injury. But now all it takes is one unforeseen circumstance early in the season to shift him into the rotation, and that really isn't a place that the Wizards want to be in either.
There's a chance Dudley doesn't miss as many games as he would have with this injury because of changes to the NBA's schedule to limit stretches with four games in five nights, but even still, that may not make much of a difference. The Wizards are going to have to work through this and figure out what needs to be done to improve the team's offense even without one of their new key cogs.