Led by John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, and Marcin Gortat, the Washington Wizards have had one of the most productive starting lineups in the NBA this season. With that said, their bench had become prone to squandering leads as soon as John Wall and Co. stepped off the floor, ultimately leading to Randy Wittman inevitably overplaying his starters to avoid dropping close games down the stretch. Washington lost multiple games early on in the season because of their reserves, but it seems like the bench is finally starting to turn the corner.
After trading Eric Maynor and Jan Vesely in exchange for veteran guard Andre Miller, the Wizards have finally gotten some consistent floor leadership once Wall takes the occasional breather. Miller hasn’t been putting up spectacular numbers, but he’s been leading the second unit and they’ve done a better job of taking control of leads as a result. Washington’s offense was a complete disaster once Wall was subbed out, but that hasn’t been the case since the team acquired Miller from the Denver Nuggets.
Washington had also relied on Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker on their second unit, but with Nene out, Booker is back in the starting lineup and the veteran forwards have been called upon to fill the void. Al Harrington, who missed the majority of the season to knee injury, has given the Wizards another scoring option off the bench. He hasn’t really filled the role of a “stretch 4″ as of late, but his ability to get to the basket has surprised some people, including myself. Like Andre Miller, Harrington doesn’t rely on his athleticism at all, but he’s still capable of beating his man off the dribble.
The Wizards also got some unexpected production from Drew Gooden yesterday after he scored 12 points on 6-7 shooting off the bench. With Nene and Kevin Seraphin out, Gooden has done a decent job of staying involved in all aspects of the game, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he could knock down the mid-range jump shot, which seems to be the go-to shot for the Wizards this season. Gooden has been known for scoring, but he also knows a thing or two about passing the ball. Check out this great pass to Al Harrington, leading to an easy dunk.
For a team that relies so much on their young talent, the Wizards have gotten some much needed production from their veterans this season. Small additions to the team like Al Harrington and Andre Miller have proven to be very important, especially since the Wizards are trying to make the post season for the first time in half a decade.
Even though I don’t expect players like Drew Gooden to score 12-points on a nightly basis, their presence on the team has made a huge difference. Washington has shown some resilience and grit this season, rarely losing in discouraging fashion. Al Harrington has taken some of the players under his wing and has provided leadership even when he’s been sidelined with injury.
If the Wizards continue to play over .500 basketball, they will probably have a legitimate chance at getting a first round playoff series victory and the addition of veteran players will likely play a big role in their postseason success.