Scott Brooks Plays Mad Lineup Scientist in Washington's First Win | Wizards Blog Truth About

Scott Brooks Plays Mad Lineup Scientist in Washington’s First Win

Updated: November 5, 2016

Washington Wizards game first-hand game coverage from TAI — Now: Hawks at Wizards, Game 4, November 4, 2016, via Adam Rubin (@LedellsPlace).

Scott Brooks is a breath of fresh air.

Whereas Randy Wittman conducted his pre-game press conferences in the hallway outside the locker room in a barely audible voice while refusing to answer even the most rudimentary questions about player availability (“You’ll find out when the game starts.”), Brooks holds court in the main interview room and thoughtfully answers all questions asked.

The difference extends to their coaching style as well. Washington entered the Atlanta game 0-3 and facing a crises on the bench. Trey Burke, who was anointed as Washington’s primary backup point guard in his introductory press release before he ever put on a Wizards uniform, spent the preseason and first two and a half regular season games channeling the Ghost of Eric Maynor. Burke, along with Marcus Thornton, Jason Smith, Andrew Nicholson and not-yet-ready-for-primetime player Kelly Oubre, Jr., hemorrhaged leads faster than a hemophiliac in a knife fight.

Last season, Wittman would have continued sending Burke into the trenches to get slaughtered and then snapped at anyone who suggested otherwise. Brooks is the complete opposite. He openly discussed the bench’s inability to create points and promised to experiment with rotations. And experiment he did.

Brooks gave Burke a quick hook after an embarrassing first half in the home opener versus Toronto and continued that trend against Atlanta, playing Tomas Satoransky as the primary backup point guard. In fact, Brooks used Satoransky like a swiss-army knife, bouncing between point guard, shooting guard and small forward all game for a team-leading 21 minutes off the bench. This usage makes sense, since Satoransky is currently the best backup point guard, shooting guard and small forward on the team. However, since Tomas cannot play all three positions at once, Burke (7 minutes) and Thornton (17 minutes) still played a role against the Hawks. In fact, all three played together for a stretch.

Another notable change in Brooks’ rotation: a DNP for Kelly Oubre. Aside from Otto Porter, Oubre is the only other small forward on the roster (Danuel House was inactive), and was expected to be a rotation player this season. Brooks commented during the preseason that Oubre sometimes gambles too much and needs to remain disciplined to earn minutes. He has also said repeatedly that his player evaluations are based heavily on practice performance. So, if Oubre has already succumbed to a DNP in his fourth game, it is safe to assume that Brooks has not been impressed with his recent play in practice.

With no small forward coming off the bench, Brooks was forced to get creative with his rotations and there were some interesting lineups at times:

  • Satoransky – Burke – Thornton – Morris – Smith: +3, 4.1 mins.
  • Satoransky – Beal – Thornton – Porter – Gortat: +3, 2.1 mins.
  • Wall – Beal – Satoransky – Morris – Gortat: +4, 1.8 mins.

Judging from his on-court rotations and off-court comments, it appears Brooks right now has complete trust in six players on the roster (all five starters and Satoransky) with Nicholson as a situational threat. Beyond that, the rest of the players receive their minutes out of necessity not merit.

Brooks stressed after the game that his rotations are not etched in stone and there is reason to believe he is not done tinkering. Jason Smith played the most front-court minutes off the bench (13) but his play was almost comically bad. Brooks was forced to keep rolling Smith out there because Marcin Gortat was in foul trouble and Andrew Nicholson lacks the size to check Dwight Howard. However, if Smith continues his Laurel & Hardy routine on the court, Daniel Ochefu may eat some of his minutes until Ian Mahinmi returns.

Bombs Away.

As if Brooks’ rotations were not fluid enough in the first four games of the season, he dropped a bombshell in his post-game press conference: John Wall will not play in back-to-back games to start the season, including the next game on Saturday night versus Orlando.

Wall’s teammates were just as surprised as the media to hear the news. When Bradley Beal was told about Wall’s forthcoming absence after the game his eyes lit up and he said, “I wish I knew that going in to tonight.”

Brooks was coy about who would start in Wall’s place but he strongly implied it would be Satoransky. It has been quite a turnaround for the man who spawned the #FreeSato movement. Tomas has quickly gone from garbage time minutes to leading the team off the bench to possibly starting in his fifth career game.

When I asked Satoransky about potentially starting his first game, he—like Beal—was surprised: “You are the first person to tell me this.”

If Tomas does get the start, he has a chance to solidify his spot as the first player off the bench and move Washington one step closer to solving its second unit woes. Either way, Brooks has shown he isn’t afraid to put on his lab coat.

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.