Nylon Calculus, Washington Wizards Season Preview

Can the Wizards finally count on their bench?

The Wizards bench has been their most obvious weakness for most of the ascendant run of this John Wall-Bradley Beal iteration of the team. Those two have developed into one of the most productive backcourts in the Eastern Conference and Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat have combined to deliver reliable frontcourt production.

The issue has always been one when anyone in that group heads to the bench. Last summer’s biggest new addition for the Wizards was Jodie Meeks but the hope was that internal development from Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre Jr. would help fill in the gaps. Both Satoransky and Oubre Jr. played well but an extended injury absence from Wall forced Washington deeper into their rotation and the end result was largely the same.

According to NBA.com, the Wizards outscored their opponents by an average of 2.7 points per 100 possessions when their starters were on the floor. They were outscored by an average of 2.6 points per 100 possessions when they went to the bench. That starter to bench differential of plus-5.3 points per 100 possessions was the eighth-biggest in the NBA.

Of the teams ahead of them, the 76ers and Celtics had incredibly productive starting units with benches that came around neutral (very good for a bench), hence the wide disparity. The story with the Wizards was atrocious bench play and a starting unit that was slightly less effective than it’s been in year’s past, largely due to Wall missing so many games.

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While swapping Dwight Howard in for Marcin Gortat is the move that’s gotten the most attention this summer the smaller moves that actually provide meaningful depth — Austin Rivers in the backcourt and Jeff Green in the frontcourt could end up being the ones that really make or break the Wizards season. Those players haven’t always been effective and their Box Plus-Minus marks from last season may not inspire a ton of confidence (-0.9 for Rivers, -1.9 for Green). But if they are taking minutes from Mike Scott (-2.3), Jodie Meeks (-2.8) and Tim Frazier (-2.1) it should be a net positive for Washington.

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