The Washington Wizards have won two of their seven games to start the season and head coach Randy Wittman has identified the bench as a problem. Wittman spoke to media after the Wizard's loss to the Dallas Mavericks and discussed the team's bench rotation and the possibility of shortening it, via Michael Lee of the Washington Post:
"Going to our bench, we're not getting enough from that," Wittman said. "I'm going to have to figure out different guys. Maybe shorten the bench, I don't know. We'll see."
How much shorter can the Wizards' bench rotation get, though? Only nine players have played in all seven games as is. Jan Veseley and Glen Rice Jr. made their season debuts seven games into the season.
Wittman is already stretching second-year player Bradley Beal thin in an attempt to hide the team's lack of depth in the wings. Beal is averaging 39.9 minutes per game, third-highest in the NBA. Mike Prada discussed the cause and effect of shortening the rotation at Bullets Forever and concluded the increased minute-load on Beal could wear him down less than a season after suffering a serious leg injury.
Their record is a poor reflection of how the Wizards' starting lineup has played together. The lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene and Marcin Gortat has a net rating of 22.5 per 48 minutes — third-best in the NBA of all lineups that have played a minimum of 50 minutes together — according to the NBA's media-only stats website.
It's clear the problem is the bench when looking over the remaining Wizards' lineup statistics. Filtering all Wizards five-man units that have played a minimum of 10 minutes together reveals only four lineups that have outscored opponents per 48 minutes. Each of those lineups features at least four starters. The fact that both Ariza and Beal are in each of them is even more telling.
Washington will need to find some relief from their bench. The acquisition of Marcin Gortat from the Phoenix Suns for a top-12 protected 2014 first-round draft pick was a calculated gamble by the Wizards in an attempt to solidify their frontcourt for a playoff push. The starters are doing their part, but extended minutes will only put their health and efficiency at risk.
The starting five need to be able to sit for extended periods without watching leads dwindle, but for now this remains a problem coach Wittman doesn't have an answer for: