The Wizards’ two biggest free agent signings over the summer, Ian Mahinmi and Andrew Nicholson, have played a combined five minutes and 20 seconds over the past four games. That isn’t the best thing to hear about two players who are earning a combined $90 million over the next four seasons. Mahinmi’s absence is understandable since he’s still recovering from surgery, but Nicholson has been a healthy scratch in three of the last four games.
Scott Brooks talked to J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic about why Nicholson hasn’t been able to get on the floor lately, and his answer says a lot about where things stand with the current roster:
"With the league going so small you have to make a decision. It's either with Jason (Smith) or Drew playing that five spot and Otto is playing so well you want to give Otto more minutes. He matches up with the backup four man because that's usually a shooting four. This really has nothing to do with how Drew is playing. It's just how we are trying to match up and stay competitive playing against a smaller lineup's shooting four."
There’s no question Otto Porter has done a wonderful job at the four this season. His ability to play both positions has been a big part of why he’s been able to take such a big step forward. However, it’s not as if the Wizards didn’t know before the start of this season that Otto Porter could be effective at the four position. Umair Khan broke down last season how Porter was making an impact on both ends at that position.
No one is complaining about Porter’s emergence, but stuff like this should bring back into question why the Wizards chose to invest so much in big men this summer. Because of those decisions, now you have Andrew Nicholson, the team’s sixth-highest paid player, racking up DNP’s while the team has to hand heavy minutes to players on minimum contracts like Marcus Thornton and Sheldon McClellan.
The good news here is Ian Mahinmi should be back in the next few weeks, and perhaps his defensive strengths will cover for some of Nicholson’s defensive liabilities. Still, he won’t be able to do much to help Nicholson on the perimeter, and even with that help, Porter might still be the better option to log most of those minutes at the backup four spot. If so, Washington is going to make some moves to balance the roster out and better utilize the money they’re spending. There aren’t many teams who can afford to sit their sixth-highest paid player and still be successful, and based on the early results this season, the Wizards aren’t one of them.