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The confounding consistency of the Wizards’ starting five

Washington has not experimented much with what should be a fluid starting lineup.

Washington Wizards v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Washington Wizards are not pursuing an NBA Championship this season. My condolences to all those hearing the news for the first time, but the 5-24 Wizards are currently engaged in a strategic action called “tanking” in which teams construct uncompetitive rosters to boost draft odds at the end of the season.

Tank-riddled seasons usually involve creative experimentation with personnel and lineups — essentially throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. So, what is with the consistency of the Wizards’ starting lineup?

So far this season, the Wizards’ starting lineup has been Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Kyle Kuzma, Deni Avdija and Daniel Gafford. This lineup has been incredibly durable: Jones, Kuzma and Avdija all have yet to miss a game, while Gafford and Poole have combined to miss just four. The Wizards’ starting five has played the third most minutes out of any five-man lineup in the NBA, and they have a net rating of +1.4.

The only players to start at all this season outside of the aforementioned five are Mike Muscala, who started twice in Gafford’s absence, and Bilal Coulibaly and Corey Kispert, who each started once.

It is strange that coach Wes Unseld Jr. has not experimented more with starting lineups in a clear transitional year, especially when the incumbent starters are certainly not producing wins. Coulibaly and Kispert, two high selections in recent drafts, especially deserve more starts to get better reps against the stars of the league. Both Coulibaly and Kispert play decent minutes, but most of those minutes are against backups. Of course, minutes translate to development, but higher-quality minutes against the Embiids and Jokićes of the league instead of the Paul Reeds and DeAndre Jordans would be exponentially more constructive, especially in a year already lost.

Naturally, the extensive minutes for Jones, Kuzma and Poole can be explained away by the impending trade deadline — Kuzma and Jones are sure to be highly sought-after targets for title contenders, while Poole’s trade value has cratered and needs rehabilitating. Trade value is worth its weight in gold for a rebuilding team like the Wizards that still has not blown it up all the way yet, so ideally players like Coulibaly, Kispert and Johnny Davis will see higher-quality once the deadline has passed.