The Wizards have struggled to find a strong, consistent lineup to put on the floor this season, thanks to injuries and inconsistent play from some of the team's role players. But now that the Wizards finally sorted out their rotation and gotten everyone healthy, some very potent lineups have finally emerged.
Four of the Wizards' five most-used lineups since the All-Star breaks have outscored their opponents, but the new starting lineup of Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris, Gortat unit is doing it much better than anyone else.
The lineup has the second-best Net Rating of any five-man lineup that's played at least 100 minutes since the All-Star break and it's the 13th-best lineup in the league this season that has played at least 100 minutes together.
So why is the new lineup working? Here are a few reasons:
1. Let's be honest, the schedule has been pretty light
The Wizards' new lineup has only played 12 games together, and they haven't faced a tough slate together. They've faced the Heat, 76ers (twice), Timberwolves, Pacers, Cavaliers (once with LeBron, once without), Pistons (twice), Bulls, Knicks, and Hawks. There are a few lottery teams in there as well as some instances where the Wizards were fortunate to face good teams that weren't at full strength.
That said, the fact that the Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris, Gortat lineup is performing far better than any other lineup over the same stretch should indicate that there's something special there that should be able to still work well against more challenging opponents. Finishing with a Net Rating of +32.4 in 22 minutes of action against the Hawks on Monday night is an encouraging sign.
2. The Wizards finally have a unit that can control the glass
Washington struggled all through the first half of the season to find a 4 who could rebound effectively alongside Marcin Gortat. Heck, even when Gortat was paired with Nene they couldn't win the battle on the glass. But since Markieff Morris' arrival, things have changed for the Wizards on the glass. Since the All-Star break, they're in 11th in overall rebounding and 3rd on the defensive glass.
The starting unit has been especially effective rebounding the ball. They're grabbing 58.3 percent of all available rebounds and 84.9 percent of rebounds on the defensive glass. Only three five-man units that have played at least 100 minutes have controlled the glass better this season.
3. The defense has been outstanding with Markieff Morris
Believe it or not, the Wizards' offense has still been more effective with Jared Dudley (116.1 ORTG) than Markieff Morris (111.7) at the 4 since the All-Star break. But Morris really makes the Wizards click on the other end. They're a full 13 points per 100 possession better on the defensive end when Morris is at the 4 instead of Dudley.
Morris' versatility and athleticism help the Wizards address a lot of the defensive issues they faced earlier in the season. In the same way an offense struggles when you don't have anyone who can make plays happen with the ball, a defense struggles when all the defenders are at their best working off-the-ball.
For as good as Jared Dudley is as a defender, his best defensive value comes as a communicator and providing outstanding help defense. When he's left out on an island, star players can take advantage of his physical shortcomings in ways they can't against Markieff Morris like we saw on Saturday night when he shut down Carmelo Anthony.
4. Bradley Beal opens up so much for the Wizards' offense
For as much as Beal has grown this season as a player who doesn't have to rely on John Wall to create offense for him, Washington still needs him on the floor with Wall to maximize their offensive potential. Even though Garrett Temple's shooting has improved after a disastrous February (he's shooting 41.5 percent from beyond the arc in March, up over 13 percent from last month) he's never going to command the same respect from opposing defenses as Beal, who's averaging 16.6 points per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from beyond the arc this month.
Simply put, if you pair Garrett Temple and Otto Porter together, teams know Wall is going to have to initiate most of the offense in order to make something happen. With Beal out there, you add enough variety to keep defenses honest.
5. Turnovers are down
One of the benefits of keeping defenses honest with Beal -- and Morris, to a lesser extent -- is that it opens up passing lanes, which means John Wall doesn't have to take as many risks to create offense. The Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris, Gortat lineup has a 2.17:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is a nice improvement from the team's 1.68:1 ratio for the season as a whole.
6. Morris' presence makes Porter more effective
Remember how Otto Porter suddenly got way more effective as a scorer in the playoffs last season paired with Paul Pierce? The same thing is happening this season now that he's paired with another playmaking 4 is Morris. According to NBAwowy, Porter's effective field goal percentage when he's on the floor with Morris is 57.7 percent. His effective field goal percentage is only 50.0 percent since the All-Star break when Morris isn't on the floor.