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It will be hard for the Wizards to replace Jared Dudley this season

NBA: Washington Wizards at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the Wizards’ 2015 playoff run, when they were defeated in the second round by the Atlanta Hawks, there was an outcry among Wizards fans and media members alike to acquire a playmaking power forward. (The term “stretch four” has been used enough.) After the small-ball lineup that featured Paul Pierce playing the four proved to be so successful in the postseason, it became clear that a more permanent solution at that spot would be key to the Wizards’ offensive success moving forward.

After Pierce left DC for the Clippers in free agency, Jared Dudley was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks in early July to fill that role. And while the 2015-2016 season as a whole was a disappointment for a young Wizards squad coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, Jared Dudley was not the reason why.

Washington struggled in large part last season because of their uncharacteristically poor defense, but their offense actually improved playing a more up-tempo style of basketball and shooting more threes. In 2014-15, the Wizards finished 17th in points per game and 18th in pace. In 2015-16 they were ninth in scoring and fifth in pace. While their actual offensive efficiency improved minimally, they did score more with increased possessions.

Dudley thrived in the Wizards’ high tempo offense. Logging 94 percent of his minutes at power forward, by far the most time he’s spent at that position in his career, he was able to spread the floor and open up the lane for John Wall to attack the basket and kick back out to shooters.

In 81 games last year, Dudley shot 42 percent from deep on just under three attempts a game. He was expected to be one of the Wizards’ most consistent deep threats, as he was, but he also ended up being one of their more consistent contributors overall.

Dudley was tied for the team lead in offensive rating (points produced per 100 possessions). He also finished in the top four on the Wizards in VORP (value over replacement player) and win shares (estimated number of wins contributed by a player). He trailed only John Wall, Marcin Gortat, and Otto Porter in both categories while logging significantly fewer minutes than all of them.

Dudley’s impact cannot be fully shown by his box scores, however, as he would consistently make plays that go beyond his numbers. Whether it was spur-like extra passes on the perimeter to turn good shots into great ones, being in position defensively, or always making the right play after setting a screen, Dudley always seemed to be impacting the game and the team in a positive way.

This is what the Wizards will miss most about Dudley, his presence both on and off the court. Markieff Morris was a great trade deadline deal, especially on such a friendly contract, but he doesn’t bring with him the consistency or veteran leadership Dudley’s proven to possess. Andrew Nicholson, one of the Wizards’ free agent signees, has the potential to be a capable rotation player that can play inside and out, but he too is an unproven commodity.

Jared Dudley was not one of the Wizards’ most important players moving forward, and maybe not signing him to the 3-year $30 million deal he got from the Phoenix Suns was smart even in the current market where Ian Mahinmi can get $64 million. But he did play a vital role for the Wizards, providing continuity and leadership for a team that was in desperate need of both. Hopefully, Morris can blossom into the capable NBA starter he’s shown flashes of being and Nicholson can become the playmaking-four the Wizards want him to be, but both are unknowns. With Dudley, you knew what you were getting. The Wizards will sorely miss his contributions.