The Week in Wizards, the basketball ones — Nov. 4 to 10 | Truth About It.net

The Week in Wizards, the basketball ones — Nov. 4 to 10

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Updated: November 12, 2013

The week that was and the week that is in Washington Wizards, #SoWizards, and pixels otherwise—mostly to do with basketball.

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The Washington Wizards were mere inches, mere seconds from a perfect week.

They could’ve notched their first three-game winning streak since mid-March of 2013 (when they won three straight at home), and they could have tallied two wins in a row on the road for the first time since late-March 2013. The Wizards woulda/coulda been 3-3, a record they haven’t achieved since November 2006.

While some might not want to call the OT loss in OKC on Sunday a “moral victory”—which is fine—what Washington showed this past week despite a bad 0-3 start comes close to how people had previously imagined they could play. But there are still major kinks to work out and players off the bench who have gone missing.

In Philadelphia last Wednesday: a must-win (as imagined at that time), and the Wizards took care of business. New mansion owner John Wall turned on all the sinks to make sure they were working and hit a career-high five 3-pointers. The cherry on the season was anxiously broken.

On Friday night against Andray Blatche’s Brooklyn, the Wizards redeemed themselves in front of a hometown crowd, also giving them free basketball in the form of OT. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams showed on-the-decline flash; Brook Lopez flexed early, fizzled late; Andray Blatche fed off Phone Booth boos; and Kevin Garnett didn’t score until 3:40 left in the fourth quarter, and again with 37 seconds left—both were big shots, of course. But Nene and new bosom-buddy Marcin Gortat showed that they wouldn’t back down from the blows; Wall was a junior floor general; and Bradley Beal woke up any dozing New Yorkers sleeping on him. The overtime victory had Nene talking about the holy spirit, and that’s all you need to know.

We don’t have to rehash Sunday’s loss against the Thunder too much. A play here, a free throw there … playing a contender tough at their place doesn’t detract from a 2-4 start. But there were more encouraging signs than not, and Wizards watchers will simply have to trust that the progress seen from Wall and Beal thus far will continue to translate to better late-game decisions and more focus on knocking down pressure shots.

With that, we take a slightly below-the-surface look at a topic debated from the outside looking in: Randy Wittman’s rotation.

A surface statistical look in bullet form (via NBA.com/stats):

  • 16 different Wizards 5-man units have played 5 or more minutes together.
  • John Wall is present in 13 of those 16 units (Ariza is in 12, Beal is in 11).
  • The best overall lineup: Wall, Beal, Ariza, Nene, Gortat (the starters)—66 minutes, plus-37
  • The worst overall lineup: Wall, Beal, Webster, Booker, Gortat—15 minutes, minus-16
  • Best non-Wall lineup: Maynor, Beal, Webster, Harrington, Gortat—8 minutes, plus-1

Over the past three games:

  • The starters are plus-41 in 65 minutes and shooting 50.8% on field goals.
  • The Wizards are plus-17 in 154 minutes overall, shooting 45.3% from the field (meaning all non-starter lineups are simply not playoff material).
  • The second most-used lineup, Beal & the Bench Mob, isn’t working out…
  • Maynor, Beal, Webster, Harrington, and Seraphin are minus-4 in 16 minutes and shooting 36.7% from the field.

Some have taken issue with Wittman’s tight, nine-man rotation. Understandable, but I get what the coach is trying to do. He’s not keeping a short leash on the likes of Kevin Seraphin and Eric Maynor. The team invested an entire summer in training Seraphin, so they’re willing to ride through the bad times in hopes that something will click with more playing time. The Wizards also threw cash down on Maynor at the onset of free agency. And while we appreciate Garrett Temple, he will never be as good of an option as Maynor. Temple is barely adequate at being able to run the point, and perhaps that’s a hidden fault of the Wizards—that they don’t have a third player who’s better at creating. Maynor should be allowed more time to try to gel with his new teammates and under a new coach, and Wittman is owed the leverage to keep trying to work both players into a more solidified rotation. The coach has been dealt the cards, let’s see how he plays them past just the sixth game.

That said, it is curious to how Trevor Booker has gone from starting to being buried on the bench. His recently-dislocated finger could be a factor, but he’s practiced with the team and hasn’t been declared unavailable. Wittman last Tuesday said Booker would be fine, but when asked if the injury would affect Booker’s shot, Wittman said, “If it affects your shot, don’t shoot it.”

Booker had been averaging 9.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, second to Gortat’s team-best 10.7. Seraphin is averaging 6.3 rebounds per 36, 0.5 less than Trevor Ariza. If you add Booker’s assists and steals and subtract his turnovers per 36 minutes, you get 2.0. If you do the same thing with Seraphin you get minus-2.3. Conversely, Seraphin’s plus/minus numbers have been better, a positive 6.1 per 48 minutes on the season compared to Booker’s minus-7.4.

Statistics till you’re blue in the face… Wittman’s search for the right, more likely to win combination continues. For perseverance, the coach might want to forge an attempt of a Nene-Seraphin combination or a Booker-Gortat combination to see if those 4/5 pairings could work. Search for ways to get Seraphin the ball after initiating offense from Nene in the post—no need to always force it into Kevin from the perimeter. Or see if Gortat has more room to operate when paired with a player like Booker—maybe Trevor can finally show something with that lefty, cocked-back jump shot of his. That’s my conventional thinking. The small sample-size says I’m wrong.

2-man lineups so far:

  • Nene and Seraphin: 2 minutes, minus-4
  • Nene and Booker: 18 minutes, plus-2
  • Gortat and Seraphin: 4 minutes, plus-3
  • Gortat and Booker: 47 minutes, minus-11

There’s some luxury in not having to actually search but being able to write about the results.

What’s next? The Wizards today face a 4-3 Mavericks team in Dallas, a 7-1 Spurs team in San Antonio on Wednesday, and then Kyrie Irving and the also-sputtering 3-5 Cleveland Cavaliers in Washington on Saturday. Will Randy Wittman expand his circle of trust in an effort to find better balance from his second unit? That will be next, too.

Plays of the Week

at Philadelphia

in D.C. vs Brooklyn

at Oklahoma City