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The Wizards must improve their bench to reach their goals this season

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

John Wall believes the Wizards’ goal this year is to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Based on their recent performance, some people are starting to believe that’s possible. Several national media members like Charles Barkley and Stephen A. Smith have expressed that the Wizards look like they can be the second-best team in the conference.

If the Wizards could make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, it would be a huge step in the right direction and often goes hand-in-hand with being viewed as a contender. But if they want to reach that goal, there’s still one thing standing in the way: Their awful bench.

In recent weeks, the bench has taken small steps forward, but it is still the team’s biggest weakness. Can Washington overcome the current state of their bench to be a contender this spring? Let’s compare them with other teams who made the conference finals in recent years to see how Washington stacks up:

Efficiency Recap Difference For Recent Contenders

Team Season Bench DEFF
Team Season Bench DEFF
Boston 2011-12 1.6
Miami 2011-12 2.8
San Antonio 2011-12 4.9
Oklahoma City 2011-12 0.4
Miami 2012-13 2.8
Indiana 2012-13 -9.4
Memphis 2012-13 -4.7
San Antonio 2012-13 4.9
Miami 2013-14 3.2
Indiana 2013-14 -2
San Antonio 2013-14 16.6
Oklahoma City 2013-14 4.1
Golden State 2014-15 6.6
Houston 2014-15 -4.3
Cleveland 2014-15 -8.8
Atlanta 2014-15 -0.8
Golden State 2015-16 5.1
Oklahoma City 2015-16 -1.5
Cleveland 2015-16 -2.5
Toronto 2015-16 3
DEFF for Conference Finalists in Past Five Seasons

Efficiency Recap Difference is, in simple terms, a measure of how a team's bench matches up against their opponent's bench in all aspects of the game. Currently the Wizards are dead last in the league this season with a DEFF of -14.8. They also rank dead last in Kevin Broom’s PPA metric, where they’re the only bench that rates below replacement level.

As you can see, there has not been a single team in recent years that has had a bench quite a bad as the Wizards’ bench is right now. The only reason they Wizards have been so successful is because their starters are playing well and logging more minutes together than any other unit in the NBA, other than Minnesota’s starting lineup.

As much as the team has talked about making it to the conference finals, it's hard to imagine this team making that goal without some type of mitigation to their bench. With the trade deadline looming, the Wizards will have to find a creative way to improve their bench play, or else they’ll have to hope they can be a statistical anomaly and overcome the odds.