Wall, Beal and Gortat Paying the Price for Washington's Bad Bench | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wall, Beal and Gortat Paying the Price for Washington’s Bad Bench

Updated: January 5, 2017


By any statistical measure the Washington Wizards bench has not played well this season. However, the biggest problem with the bench has nothing to do with their performance on the court. It’s the amount of time they spend off it. The Wizards bench is second to last in the league in minutes played at 14.4 per game.

As a result, Scott Brooks has been forced to lean heavily on his starters – most notably John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat.

The Wizards’ back-to-back games in Texas earlier this week provide the best and most troubling example – @Houston: John Wall (37 minutes), Marcin Gortat (40), Bradley Beal (35); @Dallas, John Wall (39), Marcin Gortat (40), Bradley Beal (35).

This is not good.

John Wall told me back on December 10 that he has played more minutes than he expected coming off knee surgery. At that time, he had played at least 37 minutes in nine of his last 10 games. Since that comment, Wall has averaged over 37 minutes in his last 13 games. For perspective, only three players average as many minutes for the season: Zach LaVine (37.6) Anthony Davis (37.3) and LeBron James (37.2). With his recent increase in playing time, Wall’s season average has climbed to 36.3 mpg, good for eighth in the league.

Joining Wall in the top ten is Marcin Gortat, who averages the 10th most minutes at 35.9. In an ominous sign, the only other team with two players in the top ten is the Minnesota Timberwolves (LaVine, 1st; Andrew Wiggins, 5th). Their coach, Tom Thibodeau, was notorious for running his starters into the ground during his prior stint in Chicago.

Gortat is playing almost six more minutes per game than he did last year and is easily averaging a career high at age 32. And he is spending his extra time on the court doing the kind of dirty work (setting screens and grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds per game) that takes its toll on the body.

Beal is at 34.3 mpg, but that includes two injury-shortened games where he played 10:51 and 17:52. If Beal played his normal allotment during those games, he’d jump right into a tie with Karl-Anthony Towns, another one of Thibodeau’s players, at 14th in the league. Beal’s history of managing high workloads is not comforting.

The worst part is that the Wizards have so little to show for all these extra minutes. Brook’s over-reliance on Wall, Beal, and Gortat has not even resulted in a winning record. Brooks is doing this simply to stay afloat in the stagnant Eastern Conference.

If those guys have to play this many minutes in November and December just to chase .500, how much will they have left for a playoff push in March and April – let alone once the playoffs begin and starters minutes rise as rotations shorten.

During their two trips to the playoffs, Wall averaged 38.5 mpg while Beal averaged an eye-popping 41.7. That type of production is a lot harder after you have already played extended minutes over 82 games.

These guys need some quality time on the bench together. (Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

[These guys need some quality time on the bench together.
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.]

This is not to say that Brooks is making a mistake. He may not have a choice right now. Wall, Beal, and Gortat are all having career years. If this team is 16-18 with those three playing this many minutes, imagine Washington’s record without them.

But the fact remains that this type of production – while sustainable over 34 games – cannot continue for the entire season.

Gortat is the easiest fix. When (if?) Ian Mahinmi returns, Gortat’s playing time will return to normal. In fact, he will probably end up playing fewer minutes than he would like on most nights.

Wall’s situation is trickier and may require a roster move. Wall’s fate was sealed on July 3 when Washington agreed to trade for Trey Burke. Burke is not a point guard. That, in and of itself, is not a problem.

The problem is that Washington’s front office expected Burke to be Wall’s primary backup – they said so in his introductory press release – and in doing so they scratched “point guard” off their list of off-season needs without actually acquiring one.

If Brooks does not yet trust Tomas Satoransky to play meaningful minutes in relief of Wall – and Satoransky’s recent string of DNP’s suggests he doesn’t – the front office needs to replace one of its non-guaranteed rookie contracts with a playable backup point guard. Moving Burke to full-time shooting guard carries the added bonus of providing another bench scorer to relieve Beal.

Whichever direction the front office chooses, the current path is not an option. Washington has three roster spots that are producing zero or near-zero minutes (Danuel House, Daniel Ochefu and Andrew Nicholson) and two more producing only sporadic minutes (Satoransky and Sheldon McClellan). Brooks either needs to find a way to squeeze some minutes out of these five players or the front office needs to replace one or more with a player(s) (e.g, Hollis Thompson) who can find the court.

Otherwise, Wall, Beal and Gortat’s long winter will turn into an equally long spring.


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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.