NBA Wizards 

Shuffling the Talent: Taking a look at the Washington Wizards’ lineups

This season has been a troublesome one for the Wizards when it comes to health. Once again, it seems like they’re struggling to get everyone on the floor at the same time. The Wizards had everyone on the floor back healthy last night, but that was the first time since the end of November that the team had been completely healthy.

Bradley Beal went out after aggravating his stress fracture once again. And that was more than likely because he was playing 40.1 minutes per game and leading the league with that mark. Beal was the Wizards leading scorer and a great three point shooter, so his loss would be felt eventually.

The Wiz managed to string together a streak of five straight wins, but then Nene fell out of the lineup. They were at .500 for a few days, but without Nene the Wizards’ offense was bogged down to John Wall drive and kicks with little to no variance. John Wall is great, but teams were able to stack defenses against him with no one else really having the ability to create. That led to their four game losing streak that ended just on Monday in New York.

But the Wizards lineups reflect how good they are starting and how putrid their bench has been this season. The Wizards are only about seven players deep this far into the season. Glen Rice Jr. came out in Beal’s absence and provided some spark with his play on both ends, but now he’s out for three to six weeks with a wrist fracture. Their rotation doesn’t really go too far past Martell Webster and whichever backup point guard is playing well at the moment–if we even think Eric Maynor has ever played well.

Guys have shifted in and out of the lineup this season because of the lack of bench production. Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker have all gotten minutes this season in an effort to find a good third big man. Trevor Booker has stepped up into that role as of late, providing a rebounding presence on the inside in Nene’s absence and in yesterday’s game where he started. In Booker’s last five games, he’s averaged 12.2 points per game and 10.0 rebounds per game in 32.0 minutes per game. Those are solid marks for a third big who stepped into a starting role.

In the two games in which Glen Rice Jr. played a significant role when playing with Wall, Booker, Gortat and Trevor Ariza, the Wizards have a net rating of 22.5. But their offensive rating in the lineup is extremely poor–it’s only 95. Their defensive rating, obviously stellar, is what got them by. That lineup has only seen 20 minutes of floor time in two games.

In those games, Glen Rice didn’t really shoot well. But he provided some good defensive play with solid rotations and great shot contests. He didn’t seem to be in over his head and his play on the offensive end didn’t effect what he was doing on the defensive end. That should buy him more time in the rotation once he heals from his wrist injury.

If the Wizards had average play coming from off of their bench like they’ve had in the last couple of games, they’d probably be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. If they were able to play a healthy roster, they’d be one of the three best teams in the Eastern Conference–that may not be saying much considering how bad it is.

But if you compare the Wizards lineups with 100+ minutes to the lineups of that same criteria throughout the league, they rank among some of the best of the best. The Wizards have three lineups with over 100 minutes played. All three of those lineups are in the top 10 in the NBA when it comes to net rating. All three of these lineups have started games at one point or another, so the Wizards have consistently put out some of the best starting lineups in the NBA.

The Wizards’ lineup with the most minutes has been together for only 126 minutes. That’s a pretty low figure around the league. For comparison, the Brooklyn Nets’ lineup with the most minutes played is a meager 90. But the Wizards aren’t really far behind that. The Atlanta Hawks lineup with the most minutes played has logged 252 minutes. That shows that they haven’t really had any issue with health this season.

Now, as far as the Wizards most played lineup goes, they’ve got a net rating of 11.2. This lineup features Wall, Beal, Nene, Gortat and Webster. This lineup logged most of their minutes when Trevor Ariza was out with hamstring issues. They had an offensive rating of 109.6 and a defensive rating of 98.4. This lineup features some of the best shooting in the league with Webster and Beal on the wings.

Their next lineup with the largest amount of minutes logged featured Wall, Gortat, Ariza, Webster and Nene. Most of these minutes were logged, obviously, when Beal re-aggravated his fibula and sat out for about three weeks in precautionary measure. Ariza has been hot shooting the three ball this season and at one point during that stretch he was shooting 70% from deep. The Wizards didn’t have to adjust their offense because of his shooting.

That lineup has logged 116 minutes this season–not far behind the largest minute total of 126. But the offensive rating in this lineup was closer to average with only a 106.3 rating. Where this lineup separated itself from the rest of the league was defensively. In a semi-large sample this far into the season, this lineup was able to put up a defensive rating of 92.8. That would rank fourth in the league out of all lineups with at least 100 minutes played.

The Wizards’ next lineup with at least 100 minutes played is my personal favorite. This lineup features Beal, Ariza, Wall, Gortat and Nene. This lineup has their best net rating at 17.2. Their offensive play is flat out spectacular in this lineup. They have a 111.3 offensive rating in this lineup coupled with a defensive rating of 94.1. Their defensive rating mark is the fifth best in the league out off all lineups with at least 100 minutes played. Here’s the caveat, though–this lineup has only played 100 minutes together.

Their 111.3 offensive rating mark is the 8th best in the league out of all lineups with at least 100 minutes played. The chemistry here isn’t hard to find between Wall, Ariza and Beal. Their shooting really sets everything off. And it also provides a defensive element that is missing when Martell Webster is on the floor.

But what’s truly spectacular about them is that their pace in this lineup is through the roof. They have a 102.07 pace when playing with this lineup. That’s so much of an increase from their average 95.36. Their shooting in this lineup has been spectacular as well. They’ve got a 64.1% TS mark and a 62.1% eFG mark–both marks of excellence on the offensive end. We should see a lot more of this lineup going forward into the season.

The true issue still lies with the bench. The Wizards aren’t able to get out too many bench players on the floor at one time. They undo all of the great work that the starting units mentioned above have done. Randy Wittman has been forced to stagger the starter’s minutes for much of the season. That’s why we saw Bradley Beal leading the league in minutes played after coming off of a stress fracture injury. This is why John Wall was in the top 10 in the league in terms of minutes played this season.

Hopefully, with the improved play of Garrett Temple and Trevor Booker, the Wizards can become nine players deep instead of just seven. Martell Webster coming off of the bench should help now that he’s improved his handle on the ball and is a better creator. And yesterday, Nene playing with the second unit was very helpful. They were the most productive they had been in quite some time with Nene on the floor.

An interesting thing the Wizards could toy with going forward for offensive success is playing small ball. With both Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza in at the forward positions and Marcin Gortat playing center, the Wizards have a 12.3 net rating. Their offensive rating with this lineup is 109.3 and their defensive rating is a solid 97.1.  These marks are solid on both ends–especially offensively. And that would allow for a lot more space for the Wall/Gortat pick and roll combo to go to work.

Another interesting lineup was having Al Harrington at the power forward position with Ariza and Beal on the wings and Gortat at center. This lineup was a minus on the defensive end with a rating of 131.7. But I wonder how much of that can be attributed to Gortat’s early struggles in the defensive system. The offensive rating was 114.8, which is a stellar mark. They had a 64.1% TS mark and were up over 106 possessions as far as pace goes. This lineup had something going offensively.

There are a few issues, though. It only saw 16 minutes of floor time and that’s an extremely small sample. The numbers could go up or down on this lineup when talking in terms of both ends. I worry about it defensively because Harrington is always going to be a minus defender. I reserve a bit of hope for it because Ariza and Gortat have both been solid defensive players since the beginning of the season, though. It’d be interesting to see it once again when Harrington gets back on the floor in January.

The Wizards have some solid pieces to build upon going into this season. We should see more of these various lineups going forward and, hopefully, a bit of bench production will be sprinkled in. But this shows that health is the biggest issue for the Wizards going forward. They lost Bradley Beal, Nene and Martell Webster almost at the same time. That is what lead to their recent four game skid.

But if this team puts these same lineups on the floor going forward, they should be able to nab a homecourt slot in the Eastern Conference this season. They’re, at worst, the fourth seed in the East in terms of talent. They just have to stay on the floor in order to prove that.

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