Opening Statements 20: Wizards vs Magic — Are Washington's Starters Playing Too Much? | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements 20: Wizards vs Magic — Are Washington’s Starters Playing Too Much?

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Updated: December 6, 2016

Washington Wizards vs Orlando Magic

Washington’s starting lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat averages 20.3 minutes on the court together per game, which ranks second most in the NBA (15 games, +4.8 per game).

The others (at least 18 minutes and 10 games — plus-minus per game also noted):

  • T’Wolves: Rubio, LaVine, Wiggins, Towns, and Dieng — 20.7 (14 gms): -3.4
  • Clippers: Paul, Redick, Mbah a Moute, Griffin, and Jordan — 19.9 (20 gms): +8.1
  • Pacers: Teague, Ellis, George, Turner, and Young — 18.8 (14 gms): -1.4

So, certainly high … but an outlandish amount? Before we attempt to dig into reasons why, let’s take a look at past NBA season (five-man units averaging at least 18 minutes per game and at least 20 games):

2015-16

  • Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Ilyasova, and Drummond — 19.1 (48 gms): +1.5
  • Pistons: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Harris, Morris, and Drummond — 18.5 (25 gms): +1.6
  • Pacers: Hill, Ellis, George, Turner, and Mahinmi — 18.1 (25 gms): +1.3

2014-15

  • Clippers: Paul, Redick, Barnes, Griffin, and Jordan — 20.3 (60 gms): +7.5
  • Blazers: Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, and Lopez — 19.7 (32 gms): +4.2

2013-14

  • T’Wolves: Rubio, Martin, Brewer, Love, and Pekovic — 20.6 (51 gms): +5.3
  • Pacers: Hill, Stephenson, George, West, and Hibbert — 20.1 (73 gms): +3.8
  • Blazers: Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, and Lopez — 19.9 (69 gms): +3.1
  • Warriors: Curry, Thompson, Igoudala, Lee, and Bogut — 18.6 (44 gms): +5.8

2012-13

  • Pacers: Hill, Stephenson, George, West, and Hibbert — 19.0 (64 gms): +4.4
  • Blazers: Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, and Hickson — 18.9 (57 gms): -0.5
  • Grizzlies: Conley, Allen, Gay, Randolph, and Gasol — 18.0 (35 gms): +3.3
  • Grizzlies: Conley, Allen, Prince, Randolph, and Gasol — 18.0 (31 gms): +3.7

2011-12

[lockout shortened season, qualifier lowered to 10 games]

  • Clippers: Paul, Billups, Butler, Griffin, and Jordan — 19.4 (14 gms): +6.1

2010-11

  • Jazz: Williams, Bell, Millsap, Kirilenko, and Jefferson — 18.7 (40 gms): -1.3
  • Rockets: Lowry, Martin, Battier, Hayes, and Scola — 18.1 (44 gms): +3.5

And that’s as far back as we’ll go right now with this exercise—the John Wall Era.

What does this tell us? Well, over the last seven seasons, this season’s starters represent just one of five NBA lineups that have averaged over 20 minutes a game. Not overly concerning—you can’t spell starter without “star” and some teams (and there are some patterns here) heavily rely on what works.

Is it right for these Wizards? To be determined. Considering the injury history of this team, especially its star guards, it’s understandable that some might be concerned.

The No. 1 problem this season has obviously been Washington’s bench, but that doesn’t necessarily lead to playing the starters heavy minutes. Brooks could simply be working to continue to build rhythm and familiarity amongst his main crew. That said, other coaches might have the luxury—because of better bench options—of mixing and matching lineups while not strictly relying on their starting five.

Worth noting: over 51 fourth quarter minutes this season, Washington’s starters field a Net Rating of minus-9.4 (per stats.nba.com), while their Net Rating over all quarters is plus-10.9, tied with the starters of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So, as I tweeted earlier on Tuesday (below), don’t blame all the losing on Washington’s bad bench; the starters need to close out games better. Sure, there could be something to the starters being worn out late in games due to the bad bench, but that’s closer to making an excuse than not.

Before tonight’s game against Orlando, Scott Brooks was asked about the number of minutes his starters are playing (top 3 in the league), if that’s a high number in his experience, and if that’s something he tries to manage:

“I never really looked at it that way. I mean, there’s so much other there. Everyday there’s something new to look at, and I try to keep everything manageable with both units. But really, like I said, I try to put both of them together, mix-match them a little bit so we can have a good combination of defenders and offensive players … shooters, drivers, screeners, rollers, poppers. It’s just the way it works out right now. Ian’s going to be a different factor when he comes back, and hopefully that can be soon. But I thought our starters have done a good job on this road trip. We played a couple of tough places to play, and I thought they did a good job of putting us in position to win those first two games of the trip.”

Earlier in his pre-game presser, Brooks was also asked if his second unit was starting to turn the proverbial corner:

“It’s still fluid, it’s a work in progress. We still want to keep tweaking and finding ways to get better, it’s going to continue. Ian, as I’ve said all along — I’m not making an excuse — but Ian is a big part of our team, not only for our bench but he gives us some great experience if I do put him with the starting lineup. But I think they’re starting to get a nice little rhythm. I’m still searching on giving guys minutes … But it’s a team thing, I’m just still focusing on how we can improve our defense as a team.”

Your Ian Mahinmi Update:

There is no real update … he’s out again versus the Magic, he apparently had an MRI on his sore right knee a week or so ago (everything was fine), he practiced on Sunday, he’s “feeling better” according to Scott Brooks, and will go through another workout this evening … the famous, literal, day-to-day.

Brooks on Tomas Satoransky:

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.