There is no doubt that Saturday night’s loss to the Bulls would have been completely different if John Wall and Bradley Beal had been available, but despite those absences, the Wizards were still plagued by a lot of the issues they faced in their first six losses. Namely, the bench was awful, which Marcin Gortat had no problem pointing out after the game. And they were once again dismal from three, making just 4 of their 13 attempts.
Despite their continued struggles in the same areas that have hurt them all year, there was one reason to have some hope that the Wizards’ season is not yet lost, in the form of undrafted rookie Sheldon McClellan.
I have been on the McClellan bandwagon since day one, more out of fear of too much Marcus Thornton playing time and Bradley Beal injuries than anything. Here, I wrote about how he was the biggest surprise of Washington’s preseason, and I also said he would crack the Wizards’ rotation in our bold predictions piece. I knew he was good, and I really thought he could be a serviceable rotation player at some point, but for McClellan to look as polished as he did Saturday night, the first time he ever logged major minutes in a regular season NBA game, was definitely surprising.
McClellan scored 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting, and he made 4-of-5 free throw attempts in 35 minutes of action.
As seen above, McClellan knocked down an open three to start out the night, showed off his deadly midrange game, and demonstrated a knack for scoring around the basket. He also had a highlight reel moment with his second quarter transition layup over Robin Lopez. McClellan retrieved the ball off an Otto Porter block and raced past Jimmy Butler before making a nifty reverse layup with his off hand.
This was just one game, and it was absolutely an outlier in that McClellan got the start and played 35 minutes. But he did show off some skills the Wizards could use out of their reserves.
Washington is currently dead last in the NBA in bench scoring, averaging just 25.3 points per game. McClellan looks like he might be able to provide the offensive spark the second unit desperately needs. He has proven he can hit open shots, and is also impressive in the way that he doesn’t need to dominate the ball to be effective. He was third on the Wizards in scoring against the Bulls, but had the second lowest usage rate on the team. His ability to score without using up too many possessions was one of the reasons he had so much success at the University of Miami last season and it was on full display Saturday night.
McClellan also showed potential as a defender against Chicago. He is far from a defensive stopper at this point, but he does have the frame at 6’6 to really bother opposing wings and it is encouraging to hear that this is an aspect of his game that has improved over the years. Dwayne Wade shot just 5-for-17 on Saturday and McClellan played at least a part in his struggles.
There are still obvious question marks about how sustainable McClellan’s NBA coming out party is. And if he does struggle in the coming weeks, his major uptick in playing time could be short-lived due to the lack of patience Scott Brooks has demonstrated with the bench rotation so far. But the Wizards are in desperate need of any sort of continuity out of their reserves, and McClellan looks like he can provide it.