What can depth do for you, Part Two: Flip Saunders' "eight-man rotation"

We should all be well aware that when Flip Saunders says he likes an eight-man rotation, he doesn't really mean he'll only play eight guys.  Every coach will always create scrap minutes for the rest of the roster to deal with foul trouble and the like, and Flip's no exception.  Injuries also happen, and no team, particularly this one, should take health for granted.

But even with all those disclaimers, it's safe to say that we'll see less tinkering from Flip Saunders than we saw from Eddie Jordan.  If Eddie Jordan is the guy who loves multi-tooled players that can be ready to do their thing no matter their minutes, Flip ties players down to specific roles and minute allotments to preserve consistency with the team.  Let's be clear: Flip's approach is a good thing.  Sure, roles may become inflexible, but consistent rotations breed consistent play.  

The interesting part about this is that the Wizards' depth has been highly-touted.  Michael Lee called this team the deepest Wizards club of the decade.  An eight-man rotation means only two of Nick Young, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, DeShawn Stevenson, Fabricio Oberto, Dominic McGuire and Javaris Crittenton will play regular minutes this year.

So I ask this question again.  What good is depth if only eight guys will soak up most of the minutes anyway?

Clearly, there are some indirect positives of having a strong 9-12 on your roster.  Preventing and accounting for injuries in the top eight, competition in practice, etc.  That stuff matters.  But it matters less than having a really strong top eight.  Compared to the teams we're trying to chase, we just don't have the horses at the top.

Even if Gilbert Arenas comes back healthy, the Arenas-Caron Butler-Antawn Jamison trio doesn't compare to Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett-Ray Allen-Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard-Vince Carter-Rashard Lewis-Jameer Nelson or even LeBron himself.  Brendan Haywood is underrated as hell, but he's not Dwight Howard, is about as good as Kendrick Perkins and can't beat Cleveland's Ilgauskas-Shaq-Varejao threesome by himself.  Mike Miller and Randy Foye are good complimentary guys, but they can't make up for the big gaps in starpower here.  Hell, you can legimitately argue that they aren't as good as guys like Mickael Pietrus, Rasheed Wallace, Jamario Moon, Delonte West, Anthony Parker, etc. 

The positive way to look at reconciling the depth vs. tight rotation dichotomy is to suggest that a tight, balanced eight-man rotation can maximize everyone's strengths.  You could look at Flip's Detroit teams, who got by on several good players playing together without dwarfing each other's minutes, as evidence here.  But that same case study falls short in a sense because, for all their depth, they ran into teams with more starpower and better players than what Flip and the intangible whole-is-better-than-sum factor could make up. 

Maximizing the top-level talent on this team must be the priority.  It doesn't pay to have our 9-12 guys be so strong in order to have overall roster depth when that 9-12 group could be used to upgrade the top eight.  And in this case, it can be.  Take a promising youngster who might not crack our tight rotation here (Nick Young, Crittenton, one of Blatche/McGee maybe), combine him with expiring contracts (Mike James, even Foye or Miller), and you can find yourself someone to upgrade the top eight.  (You could have taken a similar package and gotten something better than Foye/Miller, but I digress).  The longer you wait to decide who to package, the more those 9-12 guys don't play, and the lower their trade value.  It doesn't pay to wait.  

Point here is, at a certain point, excessive depth is unnecessary.  The 9-12 guys don't matter, and they especially don't matter on a Flip Saunders-coached team.  Excessive depth needs to be used to upgrade your top-level talent, or it needs to be used as insurance in case you need to dip into your top eight to upgrade your top eight.  That depth needs to be parlayed into top-level talent as soon as possible, because the longer that depth sits on the bench, the lower its trade value sinks.

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