Washington Wizards: Build a Bench and They Will Come

WASHINGTON, DC -  APRIL 26: Bradley Beal #3 and John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards stand on the court during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Atlanta Hawks during the 2017 NBA Playoffs on April 26, 2017 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC. Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC -  APRIL 26: Bradley Beal #3 and John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards stand on the court during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Atlanta Hawks during the 2017 NBA Playoffs on April 26, 2017 at Verizon Center in Washington, DC. Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Washington Wizards players, coaches, management, and fans know one of the major downfalls of the team last season. Its lack of bench production. But the reasons go further, as the team has had difficulty over the years appealing to big time free agents as a worthy, and marketable destination.

Last season, I wrote about why free agents don’t view the Washington Wizards as a premier landing destination. The city has what other most big markets have – museums, theaters, universities, diverse cultures, restaurants, and as bonus, three major airports.

So, what is the most powerful city in the world lacking? Da bench.


Let’s look at it from a layman’s perspective, and by that I mean from a civilian point of view, and not that of an NBA player. Take for example, whatever line of work you’re in and you have an assignment. This particular assignment requires a team effort, and is comprised of 10 employees.

The assignment is due in a week. Now every team member has their own unique talent that they bring to the table, and everyone is depending on them to complete their assigned portion. When the assignment comes due, 4 of the team members don’t turn in any work. When you present your work, you have to carry the others who didn’t show up. So, in essence, you’re doing your work plus his/her work, but only getting your pay.

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Now, if the above example happens periodically throughout your employment, you’re going to build fatigue, and maybe even resentment, to say they don’t pay me enough, and eventually will move to other employment, where everyone carries their own weight.

The league is still trying to figure out how players can play less minutes, and one solution is to start next season earlier, so there are less back-to-backs.

A top free agent isn’t going to want to play for the Wizards, knowing that there will be no garbage minutes, because they have to carry the bench day in and day out.

The key to any professional athlete’s game is longevity, and they won’t find any rest with Washington’s weak second-unit. Hopefully, the addition of new bench players is an upgrade from last season.

John Wall was among the top-10 players in minutes played last season. And what was the end product? A player who was tired and couldn’t finish the fourth quarter in a pivotal Game 7.

Players around the league are taking note of this, and saying to themselves and their agents, “Why would I go there, when I’m just going to get burned out so early in my career?”

Not only has it been scientifically proven that more wear and tear leads to injury, a player doesn’t want to leave the game of basketball in his prime. Not to be extreme, but the Washington Wizards organization is a hazardous work environment, due to its bench.

It’s as if we have come to accept mediocrity in the second-unit. As long as we have 5 starters who can carry the team the entire 48-minutes, then it doesn’t matter who Washington has sitting on its bench. Well, it does matter to free agents.

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LeBron James was correct when he said, that the Cleveland Cavaliers were top-heavy. And so too are the Washington Wizards.

When Washington played Boston, the Celtics played almost their entire bench, and almost interchangeably with their starters. There were hardly any DNP-CDs (Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision) during the Boston series. In fact, the most DNP-CDs Boston would have per game, were two players.

Therefore, in elimination Game-7, Boston threw everything at Washington, including the kitchen sink and a bench who outscored Washington 43-5.

Because Boston could rely on its bench, it allowed their starters to rest and put in an optimum performance to close out the game, and to close the lid on Washington’s dreams of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Marcus Smart, during the game, saw that Wall was tired and worn down, and with that Boston smelled blood in the water and pounced. Since Boston knew that the Wizards did not have a reliable backup point guard for Wall.

Had Wall been able to rely on a backup all season-long, as Isaiah Thomas did, he wouldn’t have been worn down in Game 7. In fact, it might not have even reached a Game 7.

If Washington continues to live by a weak bench, they will lose by the bench.

A team is only as strong as their bench – San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Those three teams put almost as much efforts into their bench, as their starting lineup. The bench is not an afterthought.

What free agent wants to go into battle with Cleveland, with only half a team? Literally, you couldn’t pay a player enough to do so.

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The rest of the league knows that when they play Washington, they only have to worry about 5 players, and if Markieff Morris fouls out only 4. And if Otto Porter disappears again in the playoffs, which I don’t think he will again – 3. That’s what other teams see when they’re sizing up Washington – that they’re not playing against a full squad.

Wall has to put more wear and tear on his knees to carry Washington’s bench. That’s not fair to Wall, and not fair to the team. While other players throughout the league can sit out entire games, Wall only gets to sit a few minutes in a single game. How do you expect Wall to play against well-rested superstars with a strong bench?


Another reason, aside from the bench, why Washington isn’t a free agent destination is visibility. When I went home to Game 5, I had to tell my family who Wall was, and the rest of the team. I’m the only “girl” with 5 brothers. They could name other players on about every other NBA team, except the Wizards, although they’re all “nerds”.

With the exception of one brother, who when I asked to vote Wall to the All-Star team one year said, “no one wants to see Wall and his Dougie”. We came to blows.

Last season, after he got a chance to watch Wall when he visited, his opinion has markedly changed. And it was he who pointed out to me, while we watched Game 7, that Wall had no legs by the third quarter, and he cheered for the Wizards more than me that game.

Yet, there are still some in the D.C. area who can’t name Washington’s starting 5, with the exception of Wall, but are familiar with other teams.

Inside and outside of Washington, Wall isn’t a household name. Thus, in addition to longevity, free agents want to be able to monetize their name with endorsements. Because at some point in their lives, they must learn know how to live “away from the ball”.

At first, I didn’t agree with Wall, as to why he didn’t have any billboards in D.C. Now I understand his viewpoint, and he should have one.

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Why is it, that I only see Washington Wizards’ commercials on CSN Mid-Atlantic? No, need to advertise to us, we’re already on your station. Those commercials should be on other networks.

The Wizards brand is not even in the local community. Of course, there are the usual events for season ticketholders. Your targeted demographics should be those who don’t attend games regularly.

You never hear on local stations that the Wizards are holding a free basketball clinic. All Wizards’ events are paying events, either it’s for a season ticketholder or a basketball camp.

The Wizards are neither marketing their team nor their players locally. And if they’re not making an imprint in the local market, then forget about a national market. So, why would a free agent come to a big pond like Washington only to be a small fish?

Then what should Washington do to make John Wall and the Wizards a household name? Well, they have a Public Relations Department for that, and hopefully they will do a better job next season. (And I know they’re reading this, because I sometimes see some of my writing in their tweets).

Bottom line, free agents are not going to come to Washington until it has a solid bench. And their starters are allowed to get rest like the rest of the league, while the Wizards organization markets itself and its players better.

Next: How Will the Rotation Look Next Season?

Why should free agents come to a big pond to be a small fish, when they can be a big fish, even in a smaller pond than Washington?

Wizards build your bench, show you care about making a winning team, and they will come.