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If the 2014 NBA Summer League taught fans anything about the Washington Wizards, it’s that 2013 second-round draft pick Glen Rice Jr. has just as much potential as one of the top three overall selections in that draft, Otto Porter.

While both excelled in Las Vegas last week, and each was named to several Summer League First Teams, Rice walked away with the summer’s MVP award and season’s top highlight when he nailed a tying three-pointer from the corner to send a semifinal game against the San Antonio Spurs into overtime. Rice hoisted too many shots at times, but that aggressiveness led him to 25 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals per night.

Kevin Durant rumors aside, the Wizards let integral piece Trevor Ariza depart to the Houston Rockets because they invested so much into his position the year prior, when they drafted Porter and Rice. While Rice is still listed as a shooting guard on the team’s roster, he has the height at 6 feet, 6 inches and the heavy frame to allow him to handle the wing position while John Wall and Bradley Beal run the backcourt. A bullish scorer with a one-dimension offensive game, Rice could be useful off the bench as a player who will look only for his own shot rather than getting his teammates involved—but that’s what pass-first point guards Wall and Andre Miller are for. Porter’s all around floor game was on display and effective, but Rice’s killer instinct was the highlight of the summer run.

The potential dynamic between Rice, 23, and Porter, 21, should have Wizards fans upbeat, as both players seem capable of fulfilling some of the duties that Ariza vacated. Rice’s experience in the NBA Developmental League following a stint at Georgia Tech should help speed up his learning curve. Buzz is already loud around the District behind the Wizards’ acquisition of perennial All-Star Paul Pierce, but the long-time Celtic will be 37 at the season’s start. Pierce should be excellent in a mentor role and his younger counterparts can learn under his wing. Rice, especially, should be itching for the chance at that tutelage considering Pierce was once a similar bullish offensive threat.

The Wizards will enter a season of transition after losing Ariza. The offense may not be as potent with his sharp shooting skills now in Houston, and the defense will definitely take a step back as Ariza was the team’s best defender. Pierce had moments of solid defense followed by horrendous displays often last season. Ideally, Porter would be the go-to defender at the small forward slot, but his slender frame could hinder him. Rice doesn’t have the required lateral quickness to be a lockdown ball defender, but with so many question marks revolving around the three candidates, things are definitely up for grabs. The Wizards brass is naturally going to want Porter to eventually take over as the second running mate behind Beal to Wall’s breakneck fast breaks. But after a solid summer and with semi-pro experience already in pocket, Rice could be a surprise dark horse to steal playing time.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO