Wizards' starting small forward competition is 'wide open' entering training camp

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Wizards' starting SF competition is 'wide open' originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- The Wizards believe they added considerable depth and balance to their roster this offseason and now, with training camp set to begin later this week, it's about time to sort all of it out.

As they determine early season rotation roles, the general approach from the front office and coaching staff is to embrace internal competition. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said the starting three competition is "wide open," while team president Tommy Sheppard indicated some doubt as to who will start at point guard.

That is all in addition to how their second unit comes together and, of course, who earns the final spots on the roster.

"Go out and earn your minutes every night. Nothing is guaranteed," Sheppard said on Tuesday at a pre-training camp press conference.

As for who starts at the three, veteran Will Barton and third-year forward Deni Avdija are two candidates on the short-list. Unseld Jr. also mentioned the possibility Rui Hachimura and Kyle Kuzma play some at that spot. Corey Kispert, who was the team's first-round pick a summer ago, should also factor in.

Barton has a considerable edge in experience and was recently a regular starter for the Nuggets, a perennial playoff contender. He also has a deep history with Unseld Jr., who coached Barton as an assistant in Denver before taking the job in Washington.

The Wizards, though, should be well-prepared for this given they spent three consecutive first-round picks from 2019 to 2021 on wings. Those three - Hachimura, Avdija and Kispert - have been key prospects in the team's player development system. This could be an opportunity for that years-long effort to bear fruit.

"I think this window of practices as we get into training camp, and then the window of practices when we get back from Japan, it will shake out. We have a lot of options," Unseld Jr. said.

Unseld Jr. mentioned the approach of balancing lineups based on offensive and defensive capabilities. So, the direction they go at the three could depend on how the rest of their starting lineup comes together.

We know Bradley Beal will start at the two and both Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis are likely to start at the four and the five. But at point guard, there may be at least some uncertainty.

When discussing new free agent acquisition Delon Wright's role, Sheppard said: "I think Delon is going to help us out tremendously especially at the end of games. He's someone that could be contending for the All-Defensive team and he might not even start. There's a huge opportunity for him to finish games."

Sheppard suggested Wright has a chance to start at point guard and, either way, will likely be in some closing lineups. When the Wizards need late-game stops, they could rely on his long track record as a disruptive perimeter defender.

The Wizards signed Wright and also traded for Monte Morris in the same deal that landed them Barton. Morris also has a history with Unseld Jr. in Denver and also comes over having been a regular starter at his previous stop. Wright, meanwhile, almost exclusively came off the bench last season in Atlanta. In 411 career regular season games, Wright has only started 70 of them.

Wright, though, could be central to adding defensive balance to lineups. And, if the Wizards are keenly focused on complementing Beal in the backcourt, Wright would suit that role well due to his defense and also his size and 3-point shooting.

The Wizards will have four preseason games to work with, plus a string of practices leading up to opening night in Indiana on Oct. 19. That gives them nearly a month to make these decisions.