Garrett Temple is always ready to play whatever role his team needs. In his four years with the Wizards, he has played positions one through three, and even played some minutes at the four last season when the team was desperate last season. He has a reputation as a consummate professional, the kind of guy coaches love because he won't cause a ruckus in the locker room, even if he's only getting spot minutes for weeks on end. Need an enforcer? Garrett Temple can do that, too.
But when necessary, he's shown he can step into a larger role: This season, Temple started in a career-high 43 games. To put that into perspective, he only played in 52 games last season.
Temple averaged a career-high 24.4 minutes per game and attempted a career-high 3.2 threes per game. His three-point percentage dropped three percent from last season (37.5 percent down 34.5 percent), but it was still better than his career average from deep (33.5 percent).
Defensive specialist, or 3-and-D wing?
Wizards fans start every season wondering if Temple will break out and become the next Danny Green, who despite his slump this year, is still the prototype for a three-point shooting defensive specialist. Temple has had the first half of that equation mastered for years, but he has never quite been enough of a shooter to scare defenses. Even last season when he shot well from deep, he didn't shoot often enough to force opposing teams to adjust their defense.
Chatter about a breakout season ramped up in December when he scored a career-high 21 points against Charlotte on December 19, and then topped it again with a 23 point performance two nights later against Sacramento. In all, Temple had five outings where he scored at least 20 points this season after never reaching the 20-point mark in his first five seasons in the NBA.
Despite this, it's not quite right to say that Temple had a breakout season. His per-36 production was virtually identical to his production last season. His increase in per game production was more about playing more minutes than major improvements to his game.
That shouldn't be taken as a knock on Temple, however. Reliability is a good thing, and maintaining efficiency with an increased role isn't a given. He continued to play within himself and go hard every night as his role fluctuated throughout the season. The Wizards asked him to step into a role well above that of a typical minimum salary player, and frankly it went about as well as one could reasonably ask.
Some will point to Temple's dip in individual defensive stats as evidence that he wasn't living up to the "D" half of "3 and D" wing player. But this is a case where numbers are misleading: Individual defensive metrics such as opponent field goal percentage are notoriously unreliable for perimeter players.
Beyond that, the Wizards made a major shift in how they played defense last year. By breaking up the Nene-Gortat duo that had anchored the Wizards frontcourt for years and starting Jared Dudley at power forward, the Wizards had to adjust how they guarded the perimeter. Wings had to worry about getting beat much more than they had in previous seasons, and the entire team struggled mightily with the transition. Temple's regressed defensive numbers are less about him and more about the 2015-2016 Wizards as a defensive unit.
Should the Wizards bring him back?
Garrett Temple is who he is. His three-point shooting has become respectable (around 35 percent, if we average the past two seasons). even if it isn't inspiring fear in the other team, and his defense helps remove some of the already too-high burden on John Wall. There aren't many other minimum contract guys that could have given the Wizards more than what Temple gave them this season.
As a free agent under the exploding cap, Temple will likely have someone offer him a hefty pay raise this summer. The Wizards may well lose him, whether it's to a contender looking to round out their bench or to a team that just needs to hit the salary floor. But depending on how the numbers ultimately shake out and where the superstar free agents land, the Wizards will and should try to bring him back next season.