What I’m about to write is pointless. First, Scott Brooks and the Washington Wizards won’t do anything like it. Their views on the relative merits of the players on the roster differ from mine. Second, my idea probably wouldn’t work anyway.
At four games out of tenth (and an appearance in a play-in game), it’s long past time for the team to get desperate. One way of “going to the mattresses” is to squeeze the rotation to the bare minimum — to behave as if every contest is a playoffs game.
Will it make a difference? Could the Wizards sustain this kind of intensity for long enough? Probably not. But if they’re going to “contend for the playoffs,” something like this is the only way it happens.
Here’s the eight-man core I’d try:
- Bradley Beal
- Russell Westbrook
- Davis Bertans
- Rui Hachimura
- Alex Len
- Garrison Mathews
- Deni Avdija
- Robin Lopez
In assembling a tight rotation, I figure Beal, Westbrook, and Bertans are the core. They’re the guys the Wizards braintrust consider their most important players, and getting major production from this trio is key to any possible turnaround. So, they’re all going to play big minutes, and the team will rise or fall with them.
Since Westbrook needs shooting around him to be effective, I’ve coupled him and Bertans at all times. In addition, Mathews and Avdija are on the floor with Westbrook whenever Beal rests.
In my rotation, Beal, Westbrook, and Bertans would each play 36 minutes per game and would be in the closing lineup.
For the other five players, minutes would work differently. I’d have a set rotation for the first 42 minutes but leave the closing lineup flexible to play whoever is having the best game or to use a lineup combination that might exploit specific matchups.
“Guaranteed” minutes would look like this:
- Beal 36
- Westbrook 36
- Bertans 36
- Hachimura 30
- Len 22
- Mathews 24
- Avdija 24
- Lopez 20
That’s 228 minutes, which leaves 12 for two of the “other” five in the closing minutes of the game.
I’d give this rotation a seven-game try. Go with this group and no one else except for injury, foul trouble, or blowouts. If this group can get 4-5 wins, stick with it for another five games and see what happens.
Most likely, the team loses even with this “playoffs” rotation, and it leads to trades and a renewed emphasis on player development. But at least they can say they gave it a shot. At least players will know their roles and when they’ll get playing time. And maybe the desperation from the coach will create some urgency throughout the organization and salvage the team’s goal of making the playoffs.
It probably won’t work, but this — or something like it — is at least worth the try. What do they have to lose?