Can the Wizards Win Without Nene? Lineup Data That Says Yes (& Pre-Game Wittman)
Nene’s suspension for Game 4 is potentially series-altering. Didn’t really have to type that sentence, but it’s worth reinforcing.
Yes, with a 2-1 series lead and still holding home court advantage, despite losing their first playoff game on their home court since May 2008, Washington still has Chicago’s back against a wall. A competitive team like the Bulls doesn’t always need a mental edge, but they’ll happily take the boost from knowing that a third-year player got under the skin of a veteran on such a big stage.
So which combination of players might help fill the void? Maybe the Wizards weren’t finding a ton of success with Nene against the Bulls anyway (although his dominance in Games 1 and 2 says otherwise). The top two Wizards five-man units featuring Nene (and the top two units in minutes overall), are both fielding a negative in plus/minus:
- The starters–John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene, and Marcin Gortat–are minus-7 over 58 minutes.
- The second most-used unit–Andre Miller, Beal, Martell Webster, Trevor Booker, and Nene–is minus-14 over 19 total minutes.
- Even Randy Wittman’s third most-used lineup–Wall, Webster, Ariza, Booker, and Gortat–is minus-6 over 15 minutes.
What bodes well for the Wizards is that lineups featuring Gortat and a frontcourt mate not named Nene (and without the defensive liability of Martell Webster) have fared well against the Bulls during these playoffs, as well as during the regular season.
- Wall, Beal, Ariza, Booker, and Gortat--today’s starting lineup–are plus-19 over 13 minutes.
- Replace Booker in that lineup with Drew Gooden, and those five are plus-6 over seven minutes during these playoffs.
- In the regular season, the Wall-Beal-Ariza-Booker-Gortat lineup finished plus-5 over 26 minutes (playing in just two games).
- The Wall-Webster-Ariza-Booker-Gortat lineup also found regular season success in 16 minutes over two regular season games against the Bulls–16 minutes, plus-13.
Randy Wittman (video below) was asked before the game about compensating for the lack of Nene against Joakim Noah. He was coy, reserved, obscure–playoff media coachspeak.
“Well, we got Booker, and we got Al Harrington, we got Gooden, we got Marc(in) … all those guys will have an opportunity.”
Wittman was also asked for his thoughts on the suspension. “Doesn’t matter,” he said. End of story.
And on what, specifically, Gorat needs to do to be effective against Noah?
“He just needs to be Marc. Again, nothing changes. He’s just got to continue to be who he is, be aggressive on touches inside. Running the floor is always important for us and our bigs. That’s all he needs to continue to do. Nothing changes.”
Except something has to change, especially Washington’s defensive focus. Game 4, leggo…
Randy Wittman Pre-Game.
[stats via NBA.com/stats]