The solution to Scott Brooks’ bench lineups

Death, taxes, and all-bench lineups.

Ever since Scott Brooks took over at the helm as the Wizards’ head coach, it’s been clear that he prefers using a long bench, and playing them together to build cohesion. Whether it was sticking with 2016’s historically bad bench, the ‘not terrible but still not good’ reserve unit of 2017, or this year’s up-and-down reserves—he doesn’t deviate much from his pattern of subbing all of the starters to get a breather in the late first quarter and early second quarter.

We’re less than one-fifth of the way through the season, but many of the bench’s problematic issues have flared up, even though this was supposed to be Washington’s deepest team under Brooks’ watch. With streaky players like Jeff GreenAustin Rivers, and Kelly Oubre Jr. coming off the pine, there have been nights where one of them explodes and carries the team for a stretch, but there have been just as many nights where the bench squanders a lead before the starters can down a cup of water.

Brooks has made one tweak to the rotation that fans have been clamoring for years – bringing in Oubre as the first sub at the six-minute mark for Otto Porter and letting Porter start the second and fourth quarters with the reserves.

The Kelly Oubre experience is already in full effect. He has the tools to go off for a big game as he did against Blazers, Warriors, and Kings; but he still makes many of the same mistakes that haunted him during his rookie and sophomore seasons. A lot of that is on Oubre, but the coaching staff needs to take some of the blame here because they haven’t catered to his strengths by playing him alongside four other players with unclear roles.

Plugging him in with the starters off the bench does wonders for both parties. It allows Oubre to be the fourth or fifth option, where he gets less defensive attention and can take more advantage of his biggest strength, his athleticism. All he has to do alongside Wall is run the floor and bring energy. In return, Wall gets another person to run with in transition and someone who can lighten his load on the defensive end.

Otto Porter would also be a beneficiary should Brooks continue to go with this approach. Porter has been in and out of Brooks’ doghouse this season, but giving him the green light with the reserves could be a way for both sides to get what they want. Whether you’re in the ‘Otto isn’t aggressive enough’ group or on the ‘Wizards coaching staff doesn’t run enough plays for Porter’ side of the fence, here’s an opportunity to change both narratives as he’d be the focal point of that unit, not to mention, probably the best player on the floor at that time.

This has the makings of a win-win for both guys as Oubre would be put in a better position to succeed, and Porter could continue to be an outstanding third option while also having a shot to be an alpha for the bench unit.

We’ve seen Brooks coach up close and personal for two years full seasons and some change now and it’s clear that some habits die hard with him. There isn’t really a downside to utilizing this rotation more as this current iteration of the all-bench unit has had a rocky start to the year. And the upside? It might generate more confidence in two of the more up-and-down players on this roster, which would be a huge boost for the team.

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Ranking who needs to step up the most in John Wall’s absence and if they’ve done so

Ranking who needs to step up the most in John Wall’s absence

News surfaced this weekend that after receiving injections to reduce swelling in his knee, John Wall would be sidelined for two weeks. Unfortunately for Washington, these small nicks and bruises often tend to linger longer than the initial diagnosis. The Wizards have already had a bumpy start to the season and with a tough schedule looming, there couldn’t have been a more inopportune time for the injury bug to rear its ugly head.

Here’s a ranking of the Wizards who need to step up if Washington is going to come out of this stretch with minimal wounds.

1. Scott Brooks

As mentioned by Ben Mehic, the honeymoon is over for Brooks. And if he wants to recreate an optimistic buzz around this team and its fanbase, here’s his chance.

Many thought Brooks was a not-so-creative inside the box hiring during the Summer of 2016. We’re only at the quarter pole of the season but his rotations still make you scratch your head, sometimes doesn’t make in-game adjustments fast enough, the team easily loses focus, and it looks like it may have spread to the rest of the coaching staff.

If Wall truly only misses two weeks of play, that means he’ll miss games against Portland (Loss), at Minnesota (Win), at Philadelphia, Detroit, and another early season west coast road trip at Utah, Portland, Phoenix, and the Los Angeles Clippers. On paper, that looks like a 3-5 or a 2-6 stretch.

Hopefully, Brooks will be able to push the right buttons like he did in Tuesday’s win, going with some unusual lineups down the stretch that got the job done.

2. Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal has been the best player for the Wizards so far this season and if Washington is going right the ship while Wall is out, they are going to need Beal to continue playing like an All-Star. Bradley Beal is averaging 24.7 points in games where Wall has been sidelined this year while knocking down 46.4 percent of his shots in those contests.

The sharp-shooter, who adds a little more to his offensive arsenal every year, is currently posting a usage of 28.7 percent, putting him in the 96th percentile of the league, per cleaningtheglass.com. With John Wall out, and Beal finding the ball more in his hands more often, there’s no reason to think that that number will drop.

Scott Brooks has toyed with Beal being the primary ball handler on the court. Although it’s a very small sample size, it doesn’t feel (nor look) natural when Beal is bringing the ball up the floor to trigger the offense. However, he’s excelled as the secondary handler, specifically, when running the pick-and-roll with Gortat or the rapport they’ve built in the two-man game.

With Wall out, Beal will not be lacking scoring opportunities and will be able to showcase his ability to be ‘the guy’ for this team. It’s not so much that he needs to step up, but rather, continue playing at an All-Star level for the Wizards to stay afloat during this stretch.

3. Otto Porter

Like Beal, Porter is putting up the best numbers of his career and has a huge opportunity to showcase to the national media that he was worthy of that big deal this offseason and maybe, just maybe, work his way into All-Star talks.

Even though Porter is posting career-highs in points, rebounds, steals, two-point shooting percentage, and three-point shooting percentage (let me catch my breath), his usage rate is just 16.1 percent; putting him in just the 53rd percentile in the league. That’s unacceptable for a player as efficient as Porter.

Scott Brooks is often criticized for running next to no plays for Porter but if the Wizards don’t want to fall behind in the surprisingly improved Eastern Conference, that has to change. Specifically, Porter has to be more assertive and aggressive when his number is called. The only criticism of Porter so far this year is that he still sometimes disappears during games. That can’t happen for one of the Wizards’ most efficient players.

As one of the best and most efficient players on this team, it’s time for Porter to start being a bit more selfish and take matters into his own hands, as we saw late in Tuesday’s win over the Timberwolves.

4. Tim Frazier

Frazier has been fairly underwhelming through the first quarter of the season. However, with the increased playing time about to come his way, he can change all that.

So far, Frazier seems content in trying to get others involved but is very reluctant to shoot the ball. Frazier is averaging just 7.5 points per 36 minutes on a putrid 38.2 percent shooting.

Should Frazier start jacking up shots to make the defense respect him more? Not at all. However, he does need to look for his shot just a little bit more as teams are lagging off, begging him to shoot. On a positive, Frazier is shooting a career-high 92.3 percent from the foul line. The only issue is, he doesn’t get there that often evidenced by his 0.7 attempts per game or 1.4 attempts per 36 minutes.

If Frazier could watch the tape on Ramon Sessions while he was here in Washington, and mimic his aggressiveness, that would pay dividends for the backup point guard. He’s very solid at setting his teammates up, he now just has to take advantage of these extended minutes to make himself more of a threat and open up things for his teammates.

It’s not going to be easy to replace the All-Star production of John Wall, however, if the Wizards are going to stay competitive during this tough upcoming stretch, it all comes back to these guys stepping up.