#MaynorTime is Sunk: Washington’s Post-Apocalyptic Backup Point Guard Waterworld
A real commitment to being buzzworthy means pre-typing stories, generating lists with pictures that move so that your imagination can relax and/or atrophy, and finally, throwing yourself on the hide of a dead horse, violently, in the hopes that a combination of kinetic force and accumulated attention will restart its dormant heart.
Ezra Pound, one of the strangest authors of the 20th century, urged us to “Make it new!” With that in mind, what is the point of generating another article about Eric Maynor? I struggle with the question as well. There is not much more to “break down” that hasn’t already been done with the cold eloquence of numbers. There is not, to my knowledge, a needle of good to be found in the razorstack thus far which would serve as a foundation to build upon. Although improvement isn’t impossible to attain, there is much in the realm of possibility that is never realized, and simply hoping for improvement from Maynor (or for “getting on track” or “getting something” or “finding a way”) after such intolerable play is roughly similar to signing up for a university study where you’re fed nothing but Hostess products for a month and hoping to retain your sylphlike figure.
Why, then, bring yet another article about Washington’s backup point guard problem kicking and screaming into the world? Because problems are soluble. Because there might be a way forward. And because sometimes flow charts and digital pencil drawings aren’t enough.
I draw inspiration for this article from a 1995 film (starring Kevin Costner) entitled Waterworld.
Mariner: What are the markings on her back?
Helen: Some say it’s the way to dry land.
Mariner: Dry land is a myth.
Helen: No, you said it yourself, that you’ve seen it.
Mariner: You’re a fool to believe in something you’ve never seen.
Helen: But the things on your boat…!
Mariner: The things on my boat, what?
Helen: There are things on your boat that no one has ever seen. These shells, the music box and the reflecting glass. Well, if not from dry land, then where? Where?
Mariner: You wanna see dry land? You really wanna see it? I’ll take you there.
When frustration, previously bottled up neatly in polar ice caps, begins to melt and spread across continents of glee formed during the age of adequacy, drowning individual excellence in a sea of hashtagged vitriol and poor bench production, the Washington Wizards become mired in a background myth not dissimilar from what was the most expensive and absurd film ever made when it was released in 1995.
The Washington bench, headlined by its own mariner, Eric Maynor, is 30th out of 30 NBA teams in total points produced, having scored 371 points in the first 20 games of the season. The second-worst bench unit (Minnesota) has scored 460 in 21 games, while the third-worst bench unit (Chicago) has scored 470 points in 19 games. Contrast that with the best bench unit in the NBA (Lakers), which has scored nearly three times as many points as Washington’s group, at 1,004 points in 21 games. Old-timers, wait! Before you click your tongue and close your tab, know that these “statistics” only confirm what can’t be unseen.
If you need more convincing, here goes: Maynor sports a 7.45 PER (and 6.1 at the point) while opposing point guards (oftentimes the other team’s backup) average a PER of 18.1. In Maynor’s 135 on-court minutes, the Wizards have been outscored by 78 points. During Maynor’s 551 off-court minutes, the team has outscored opponents by 54 points, for a point total differential of minus-132. If you remove the trivial, but successful, moments where Maynor has played the two with Washington, his minus-31.3 floor time stat as a point guard tells us that if Maynor was to somehow weasel his way into playing the entire game at the point, Washington opponents would outscore the Wizards by an average of 31.3 points.
Fortunately, Eric does not play the entire game. Unfortunately, he has taken up 18 percent of the Wizards’ available point guard minutes thus far, averaging just over 10 minutes of action per game. Imagine you’ve been involved in a misunderstanding in the parking lot of the club you most enjoy, and due to circumstances beyond the scope of this article you’ve been shot in the abdomen. Your friend is there to apply pressure to the wound, but 18 percent of the time he has to step away to text his girlfriend and assure her of his fidelity with well-crafted emoji strings. Eighty-two percent of the time, the blood is attempting to clot and the reduced flow from the wound is aiding it in doing so, but when your friend steps away to type “baby im with my boy were just at the parking lot trying to holler at this ambulance real quick,” the clot breaks open and you, dear reader, bleed out.It goes without saying, really. The time has come (and gone, and come again) to sit Eric Maynor down indefinitely. What comes next is the more complicated part. But first…
Randy Wittman’s doghouse has revolving doors, but players have been benched for weeks at a time for far fewer mistakes. Whether it is “not running the offense” or “not playing well” or jacking up ill-advised shots, Chris Singleton, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, and Jordan Crawford have been at the very end of Wittman’s bench for extended periods of time. Only Kevin Seraphin has shown flashes of Maynor’s ability to completely break the offense while he’s in the game. Twenty games in, Maynor has only recorded one of Wittman’s “doghouse” stamps of disapproval, the “Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision.” Why the long leash, Coach? I’ll answer my own question with another question: who else is going to run the point?
Despite Maynor’s prime candidacy for being replaced internally, three inconvenient truths exist:
Garrett Temple is not the answer. He is not a point guard, he produces 3.0 assists per 48 minutes played, shoots just over 36 percent from the floor, has a meager PER of 2.3 at the two (and a PER of 0.3 at the point in very limited minutes) while his opponent shooting guards average a Dwyane Wade-esque PER of 21.7. Temple may pass the “eye test” because of his occasionally good defense in limited run, but it’s unclear whether this would even be an upgrade.
Bradley Beal, the team’s only other competent ball-handler aside from John Wall, developed a “stress injury.” Stress injuries are caused when bones absorb more contact than they’re accustomed to absorbing. Leading the league in minutes may qualify as “more contact” than Beal was accustomed to absorbing. Coach Wittman, in an effort to, you know, win games, often staggered lineups so that Beal could handle the ball with the second unit. It was, and still is, completely and utterly unsustainable. Unless the Wizards want Beal to re-injure his fibula (which Michael Lee has recently discovered was cracked last April, and Beal was “on the verge of” ending up like Louisville’s Kevin Ware, who suffered a mid-game compound fracture), Bradley is not the answer at point guard when Wall is not in the game.
Maynor’s salary this season is a guaranteed $2.1 million, and as noted by Mike Prada in a list of possible options for solving the “Eric Maynor Problem,” the Wizards have a total salary of $70.4 million, a mere $1.3 million from the dreaded luxury tax line, which Ted Leonsis will not cross in a season where the Wizards are not competing for a title. Further exacerbating the issue is Maynor’s player option for next season, which he would be mad to not exercise affirmatively. Waiving Eric Maynor in the way that the Toronto Raptors recently waived their underachieving point guard, D.J. Augustin, would disclaim any hope for a return on the investment, essentially setting the money on fire.
Even if you believe (as I do) that Maynor will not improve, and will not be able to contribute to this team’s success, it may be more prudent (from a roster flexibility standpoint) to keep him on the team. Waiving Maynor precludes Washington from including him in a trade (any takers?), which is one of the few ways forward where the Wizards can both escape his salary and his negative impact on the floor. The more likely candidates for roster removal are Temple and Al Harrington, regardless of whether it is fair that they suffer the ignominy of being a surrogate “cut” in place of Maynor. Both Temple and Harrington are on small, one-year deals which do not hurt Washington’s cap next season.
A bench as bad as Washington’s will cause more and more problems as the season goes on. Would it be better if every player on the roster was available? Yes. But injuries happen (see: every team ever), and there’s no room on a 15-man roster for a players who are incapable of adequacy. Washington has made player personnel decisions with limited data in the past. John Wall was signed to an $80 million extension after starting 42 games last season. Aren’t 20 games of Eric Maynor enough to make a roster decision that could, at the very most, impact $3 million of annual salary? After releasing Maynor, Temple, or Harrington, the Wizards would have enough room under the luxury tax line for a veteran’s minimum player.
With the cosmically expansive words of a beleaguered Flip Saunders echoing around in our skulls (“Don’t think it can’t get worse… Don’t think it can’t get worse… Don’t think it can’t get worse…”), we look to a list of point guards, available in free agency or theoretically available via trade. First up?
1. Scott Machado – He was a darling of draftniks until he wasn’t a darling at the 2012 draft. Although he went undrafted after playing at Iona during college, his solid performance at Rockets summer league (Stop laughing, I’m serious! SO serious.) earned him a spot, albeit a brief one, on the Rockets roster. The Rockets assigned him to the D-League, where he played for months before being waived and picked up by the Golden State Warriors. Machado actually played in the Warriors’ first-round series against the Nuggets last season! I can hear the Grunfeld presser now: “Scott brings us playoff experience…” Although he was waived after the Warriors’ season ended, picked up by the Jazz when Trey Burke was injured, and then subsequently waived again, Machado is a truly exciting passer and has the added bonus of youth. His weakness is in the athleticism department. Like Maynor, he’s also not very tall (generously listed as 6-foot-1). But before you write off a player who has been cut from a team, look at ex-Wizard Shelvin Mack, who has been a part of Atlanta’s success this year backing up Jeff Teague.
2. Rodrigue Beaubois – The fact that he won a title with the Mavericks should be all Ted Leonsis needs to hear. I mean, the Wizards did trade Jordan Crawford for Jason Collins’ NBA Finals experience. Beaubois is 25 years old and was a long-term project in Dallas that eventually received an “incomplete” grade. He averaged 7.1 points per game with the Mavs over four seasons but, as the kids say, he “had no chill.” His best season is only two years removed when he played 21.7 minutes per game and averaged 8.9 points with 2.9 assists. Before this season, he drew interest from the Miami Heat, but a wrist injury prevented the workout. He often plays out of control, but can absolutely create his own shot, and can make plays, which might be good enough for 18 percent of the game. He would be better than Eric Maynor.
3. Jamaal Tinsley – Look, Eric Bledsoe ain’t walking through that door. None of the players mentioned here are going to get you excited. On the contrary, they all have significant flaws which have caused them to be available while the NBA season rolls on without them. Jamaal Tinsley played most of his career in Indiana, and was a good ball-handler with above-average court vision who didn’t have much of a shooting touch and is only an average free throw shooter. He’s now 35 years old. He would be better than Eric Maynor. He did this to A.J. Price just last season.
4. D.J. Augus— – Cancel that. Chicago is signing him, pending a physical, after he was waived by Toronto. Seems like they noticed that Marquis Teague isn’t cutting it (although he’s played far better than any Washington backup point guard so far) and made a quick move to address the issue. I’m skeptical about Augustin working out, regardless, as he may have been the most disappointing guard outside of Maynor in the NBA this season.
5. Kendall Marshall – This won’t happen. Why? Two reasons. 1) There are better options than Kendall Marshall, who despite John Feinstein’s erstwhile Wall-for-Marshall trade proposal, is not very good. 2) If the Wizards really wanted Marshall … well, they already had him. Both Marshall and Shannon Brown were acquired along with Marcin Gortat in the Okafor-Gortat swap with Phoenix. Theoretically, the Wizards “could have” cut Maynor and signed Marshall when that trade went down, or cut Maynor and Vesely and kept Marshall and Brown, but that would have been even stranger considering the circumstances (i.e. not having seen Maynor play in a regular season game). Fortunately, I don’t think this is a Joni Mitchell situation, at least not in the case of Marshall.
1. Kyle Lowry – I’m addressing this mostly because it is buzzworthy, and since I’m already knee-deep in buzz-sludge via writing an article about the most easily discerned problem Washington has (my next article will be about injuries, and papyrus-thin rumors, and will have all of the search engine optimization the world can handle and more). The Wizards do not have the available pieces that a savvy GM like Masai Ujiri would want in return for a Kyle Lowry rental. It’s the Blockbuster rule: you can’t rent a new player until you return the last one. Since Washington’s protected first-rounder is still floating out there, not sure whether it will go to Phoenix this year or stay at the Wizards residence, collecting late fees, the Wizards do not have a reasonably valuable pick to send to Toronto. The package the Wizards could send would be Jan Vesely, Trevor Booker/Kevin Seraphin, and a second-round pick.
First, Toronto would not take that deal. Second, the Wizards should not make that deal. Third, Kyle Lowry would not like that deal. He’s an above-average NBA point guard who has been upset with his role at pretty much every stop, and would presumably not be in love with the idea of being brought in to back up John Wall. His deal for this season is reasonable, but would be more than the Wizards would, or should, pay for a backup point guard in the future. Just to put the depth problem into perspective … if the Wizards were to send Vesely and Seraphin to the Raptors for Lowry, their available frontcourt bench would be Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton, neither of whom have the size to play power forward with a straight face, much less center. Again, I advise caution, for the New York Knickerbockers are currently talking to the Raptors about just such a deal. And according to “sources,” the Raptors, as expected, want a first-round pick.
2. Luke Ridnour – If I’m getting a Bucks point guard, I want it to be Nate Wolters, not Ridnour, who is having a very bad season and has struggled along with fellow Milwaukee point guard Brandon Knight. Would he be better than Eric Maynor? Technically, yes! But only marginally so, and he makes more than double ($4.4 million) Maynor’s salary.
3. Cory Joseph – Just throw the ‘Zards a bone, Spurs!
Trades are sometimes fun to think about in better days, but dealing for a backup point guard when your team is so obviously desperate for one removes any leverage you might have. Dallas has a few point guards (Gal Mekel and Shane Larkin come to mind) that could be interesting, but both are young, promising, and not likely to be moved for anything the Wizards have. That last point is the crux of the matter, and is what those clamoring for a trade should remember: the Wizards have very, very little in the way of tradable assets outside of Trevor Ariza, who is unfortunately far too important to Washington’s “playoff run” to consider dealing.
When asked whether this was the worst stretch of basketball of his career by Comcast Sportsnet’s J. Michael, Maynor flippantly, but not unexpectedly, responded “What do you think? I’m in a funk offensively. We play 82 games. The way I’ve started the season off, of course I’m not happy about it. We’ve got 60 games left. I got to look forward to playing in these next games. … I will be better.”
The above-linked J. Michael article argues that Maynor’s previous four years of NBA play has earned him the benefit of the doubt, citing (in a very clever way) fickle D.C. sports logic, “I was for the signing, but now I’m against it.” But, with all respect due to J. Michael, I think this argument is flawed. In adopting a Faulkner-esque (“The past is not dead. It’s not even past.”) attitude towards tolerating the continuance of #MaynorTime, the team glosses over the unfavorable reality: that Maynor has never been very good (relative to other NBA point guards), he’s just been playing with good teams.
Before the season, Maynor told me that his focus, and indeed, his role, would be changing the pace, and getting his teammates good looks while running Randy Wittman’s offense. As the flowchart above noted, the opposite has been the case. At times, it seems, for lack of trying. Maynor frequently pounds the rock for the first twelve seconds of the shot clock, dribbles left, dribbles, right, and then either fires up an ill-advised shot or dumps the tail end of a low-quality possession on an unsuspecting perimeter teammate.
The following quote from Coach Randy Wittman is telling in just how strange Maynor’s interpretation of “changing the pace” has been:
“I told him, I would rather have to pull you aside and say, ‘Slow down a little bit, you’re trying to do too much now,’ than to have to try to get you giddy-up and go. … That’s what you need from your bench, aggression rather than passiveness. … If I have to piss them off to get mad at me to get some aggression, I’m all for it. It’s not just Eric.”
Too often, the Wizards have been patient while other teams have pursued avenues for improvement. Being patient with newly-drafted franchise players, or developing big men like JaVale McGee, is more than understandable. But for a team on the fringe of relevance, being patient with a frequently fatal (in terms of wins and losses), malfunctioning cog in their roster is par for the (something-less-than-mediocre) course in a season where the team, and its fanbase, expected a few birdies. So, I say there is dry land to be found. It may just be the (Waterworld spoiler alert!) peak of Mount Everest transformed into a barely-above-water island, but the Wizards should steer towards a solution rather than allow John Wall to drown in the bench’s inadequacy or wait for Eric Maynor to grow gills.