For much of this regular season the Washington Wizards have had one of the most maligned benches in the entire NBA.
The Wizards’ early season second unit, comprised of players such as Trey Burke, Kelly Oubre Jr., Sheldon McClellan, Tomas Satoransky and Jason Smith, struggled to furnish Washington with much of anything in the first 55 games of the season, averaging the second-least amount of bench points per game at 23.4, trailing only the Minnesota Timberwolves, another team that has been grappling with bench issues all year long as well.
With a scoring average that lowly, it should come as no surprise that the 786 minutes Washington’s bench spent on the floor clocked in as the second least amount of minutes played by any second unit during that same timespan.
Their inability to produce would force the Wizards’ starters to trickle back onto the floor quickly, and that right there is your explanation for why all of Washington’s starters play at least 30 minutes a contest, a statistic that is shared only with the starting five of the Timberwolves.
Washington knew they needed to do some operating to bolster their bench, and the pickup of Bojan Bogdanovic from the Brooklyn Nets for a 1st round pick in this year’s draft, along Brandon Jennings, who was scooped-up after being bought-out by the New York Knicks, has given the Wizards’ second-unit the steadying boost they’ve been longing for all year.
The sharpshooting Bogdanovic was acquired at the trade deadline and he’s been a flamethrower ever since stepping foot in the Nation’s Capital.
Bogdanovic is averaging 16 points a game on 50% from the field and 49% from downtown in his first ten outings as a Wizard, and his TS% (68.8%) is higher than Eminem when he recorded The Slim Shady LP.
Against the Orlando Magic on March 5th, Bogdanovic clapped eight three-pointers, marking him as only the fifth player in Washington’s franchise history to do so in a single game.
It’s fair to question the sustainability of this hot shooting from Bogdanovic, but his offerings, along with those of Jennings and Ian Mahinmi, who missed the first 50 games of the season with a knee injury, have provided the Wizards’ bench with some reliability. Let’s look at the comparison of the Wizards’ bench from the first portion of the year to post All-Star Break.
They’ve improved in some major offensive metrics since the acquisition of Bogdanovic and that aligns with his shooting prowess and his ability to man the offense in spurts. Prior to the arrival of Bogdanovic and Jennings, Washington didn’t have a clear-cut reserve guard to play the role of orchestrator and they suffered because of it. Now they have two guys they can lean on to manufacture things offensively when John Wall and Bradley Beal are parked on the bench.
While these two aren’t long-term solutions, they’ve shown that their capable of doing more than the players who formerly assumed their roles, and that’s welcomed for a Wizards team hoping to make a deep dash in the postseason.
Playing Bogdanovic for prolonged periods of time gets tricky because he’s not the greatest of defenders, so he’s best served in small doses. If he’s not drilling shots from downtown or scoring his effectiveness dwindles, but that hasn’t been a problem thus far in his tenure with the Wiz Kids. He’s been that good on offense.
Regardless, Bogdanovic’s transition from the Brooklyn Nets to Washington has been seamless, and he’s established a vigorous on-court relationship with Wall, who he recently called the “best point guard he’s ever played with.” Establishing this type of rapport prior to the playoffs is important and will bode well for all parties going forward.
Bojan Bogdanovic on playing with John Wall: "I've never played with a better point guard in my career." pic.twitter.com/cHodTF3msi
— WizardsXTRA (@WizardsXTRA) March 6, 2017
It took the Wizards to relinquish a first round pick to get Bojan Bogdanovic, but so far that investment has proved to be a wise one for a team looking to step into the Eastern Conference Finals arena for a showdown with (presumably) the Cleveland Cavaliers. The title for “second-best team in the East,” is wide open, so why not roll the dice and take your shot?
Washington’s bench still isn’t great, but they’ve improved from being stationed in the doldrums of the league. We’ll have to monitor Bogdanovic’s shooting for the remainder of the season to see if it remains at this level, but anywhere close to it might just be good enough for the Wizards.