Game Plan for Fixing Washington Wizards' Power Forward Position Next Season

Jonathan MunshawCorrespondent IMay 11, 2013

While Nene played solid at power forward for the Wizards this season, he is aging, and Washington needs to find a long-term solution to the position.
While Nene played solid at power forward for the Wizards this season, he is aging, and Washington needs to find a long-term solution to the position.Al Bello/Getty Images

Of all the positions on the Washington Wizards, perhaps none is more of a concern heading into the 2013-14 season than the power forward spot. 

Having Nene fill that position this year was a good option, but it is not ideal if the team wants to build for the future. 

The 12-year veteran started in 49 games for the Wizards, but missed several games with injuries. At one point, his injuries were so bad he considered retirement

Even when he was in the lineup, Nene performed well, but not as well as Washington had hoped when it originally traded for him. 

The 6'11" power forward averaged 12.6 points and over six rebounds per game. However, both those numbers were down from the previous year, which presumably comes from aging. 

Nene's field-goal percentage took the biggest hit, which dropped from 60.7 percent in 2012 to 48 percent in 2013. 

When Nene was out, Trevor Booker filled in, starting 14 games. Yes, not much was expected of Booker heading into this season, but five points and five rebounds per game are barely enough to get by on, coming off the bench. 

The upside of Booker is that he is much younger than Nene at 25. Booker is also smaller than Nene at 6'8" and is much less of a defensive force, averaging just about a half a block per game for his career.

After seeing the performance of these two players this season, the Wizards need to take a serious look at power forward this offseason in order to improve as a team in the coming years. 

While power forward isn't a high-scoring position, every team needs a quality big man, center aside, to pull down rebounds and score in the paint. 

Emeka Okafor currently has the defense shored up at center, but he could certainly use some help, and the offense is always looking for more points. 

It's impossible for the Wizards to just flat-out drop Nene, because he is still under contract through next year, but the team needs to bring in someone younger to come off the bench and take over full time once Nene's contract is up. 

The easiest way to do that is through the draft. 

It's close to impossible to predict which players will be available for the Wizards in the draft, since the lottery hasn't been drawn yet, but there are two players the Wizards should seriously target.

While Cody Zeller played center for the Indiana Hoosiers for two years, he is certainly capable of being a power forward. 

Zeller brings both offensive firepower and defensive experience to the table. 

In college, Zeller scored 16 points per game, as well as posting over a block per game this year. Sticking with defense, Zeller also averaged eight rebounds per game. 

Perhaps the biggest improvement he could bring to the Wizards is his shooting percentage. His sophomore year, Zeller shot 56 percent from the floor, while Washington shot 43.5 percent as a team this season.

Zeller is likely to go higher in the draft, but if he's there when Washington's on the clock, he should be a lock.

If the Wizards fall further back in the draft, Mason Plumlee could be an option. It might be a bit of a reach if the Wizards are picking at No. 10 or higher, but he is a true power forward who performed extremely well in his senior year at Duke.

Plumlee averaged over 17 points per game, while still posting 10 rebounds and a block per game. And, at 6'10", Plumlee certainly brings height to the roster. 

Like Zeller, Plumlee had a great shooting percentage this year, making 60 percent of his shots. 

If the Wizards don't pick up a power forward in the draft, they could turn to free agency to improve that position. 

However, free-agent power forwards should be something the Wizards avoid. Most of the available players are just as old as, if not older than, Nene and are only a short-term fix to the problem.

Three players, Hakim Warrick, Troy Murphy and David West, will probably be hot commodities this offseason, but they are all 30 or older and don't do much that Nene doesn't already bring to the Wizards.

However, Tyler Hansbrough may be a good player for Washington to look at, should it not land one in the draft.

The tricky part of landing Hansbrough is the Indiana Pacers can extend a qualifying offer to him, but the Wizards may be able to beat the Pacers in a bidding war. 

Hansbrough averaged seven points and four rebounds per game, and that's with backing up West, one of the best power forwards in the league. 

With Martell Webster's future up in the air and the Wizards already facing some cap-space issues, they would be wiser to go through the draft to pick up a power forward, but if the space is available, Washington should try to go after Hansbrough.

Either way, Nene is not a permanent solution to the Wizards' power forward position, and the team needs to look to either the draft or free agency to find a long-term solution.