What can depth do for you?

There's been a lot of talk about the fact that next year's Wizards' team is very deep.  Ernie Grunfeld went well out of his way to opine that the Wizards are three-deep at every position.  Just three days ago, Michael Lee suggested that the 2009/10 version of the Wizards is the deepest Wizards team this decade.

And they're right.  If everyone is healthy, the Wizards have ten guys (Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson, Mike James, Dominic McGuire, Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood, Fabricio Oberto) who have started at least a third of their games in their careers.  Beyond that, the Wizards have four youngsters in Javaris Crittenton, JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Andray Blatche who have demonstrated various degrees of competency and potential.  We just had a discussion over choosing to deactivate a former two-year starter, a player acquired for a first-round pick or a former starter on a championship team. 

Our 4-12 roster compares very, very well to pretty much anyone in the East.  Take a look.

  • Washington: Haywood, Miller, Foye, Blatche, McGee, Young, Oberto, Crittenton
  • Cleveland: Ilgauskas, Varejao, West, Parker, Moon, Gibson, Hickson, Jackson
  • Boston: Rondo, Perkins, Wallace, Big Baby, Daniels, House, Scalabrine, Tony Allen
  • Orlando: Lewis, Pietrus, Bass, Gortat, Barnes, Anthony Johnson, Redick, Ryan Anderson
  • Toronto: Bargnani, DeRozan, Jack, Nesterovic, Evans, Graham, Belinelli, Banks
  • Atlanta: Marvin Williams, Bibby, Crawford, Pachulia, Evans, Teague, Mario West, Morris
  • Chicago: Salmons, Hinrich, Tyrus Thomas, Brad Miller, Pargo, James Johnson, Hunter, Gray
  • Detroit: Stuckey, Villanueva, Wilcox, Brown, Maxiell, Will Bynum, Hermann, Daye
  • Philadelphia: Dalembert, Speights, Willie Greene, Lou Williams, Holiday, Kapono, Jason Smith, Marshall
  • Indiana: Dunleavy, Foster, Rush, Dahntay Jones, Hibbert, Hansbrough, Watson, Diener

Other than Boston, Cleveland and Orlando, we clearly have the best 4-12 in the East if we stay healthy.

But how does being deep actually help the team's won-loss record?  Clearly, it does something, but what does it do, exactly?

A couple things I can think of right off the bat:

  • Provides insurance in case injuries strike again.  That's probably the major reason the Wizards made the Foye/Miller trade.  They wanted further windfall for Gilbert Arenas' injuries.
  • Enables players to stay fresher in-season due to playing fewer minutes.  Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler don't have to play 40 minutes a game anymore because each has quality backups behind them (Foye, Miller, Blatche).  Of course, they never had to play 40 minutes, but Eddie Jordan had them play 40 minutes anyway. 
  • Preventing further injury.  One post I've always wanted to make was one where I tried to figure out whether the Wizards' tendency to play their Big 3 so many minutes per game plays a role in our poor health over the years.  I've never made it because I never felt I had enough counterpart evidence to prove or disprove that theory.  If we stay healthy most of the year and guys are playing fewer minutes, then I'll be able to make that case.
  • Diverse scoring options: Our Big 3 won't have to carry us every minute of every game, because we have guys who are capable of stepping up and scoring for even a game every now and then.
  • Lineup options: Provided the coach is smart and doles out minutes effectively to keep everyone motivated, we can go small or big and match up to a lot of different teams.  In theory at least.
  • Trade options: It's much easier to improve upon the top-level talent of the team if you can send out quality depth guys to bad teams to get top-level talent. 

Those are positives.  Some negatives about being deep:

  • Distributing minutes: You can only play five guys at a time, and having too many guys who play can lead to confusion over roles and grumblings about playing time.  There's a reason playoff rotations are short: guys who have a good idea of how many minutes they're playing, what role is expected of them and when they are playing generally fill their roles better. 
  • Distributing shots: This is especially a potential problem with the Wizards: with lots of guys who can score, how do you maximize each player's ability to put points on the board for the good of the team?  This isn't to say the Wizards' players can't play well off each other, but it's a challenge that needs to be sorted through.

That's just off the top of my head.  There's much more to say about this topic, but I want to ask a few questions of the community now to guide our discussion of our team's depth.  How deep are the Wizards, exactly?  What other positives/negatives are there about being a "deep" club?  At what point does a lot of depth counteract a team with a lot of starpower (such as the teams ahead of the Wizards)?  Is it better to have one or two elite primary players, or five or six very solid players? 

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