Don’t mess with the Washington Wizards bench

Washington Wizards Moritz Wagner (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Moritz Wagner (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards should not fear sitting their starters. This bench unit is excellent.

Davis Bertans. Moritz Wagner. Troy Brown. The Washington Wizards’ bench is not full of household names. But they are effective, and that’s what matters.

We are still just six games into this Washington Wizards season, but some trends can’t be ignored, even if we’re working with a small sample size here.

One such trend has been the play of Washington’s second unit. When the starters sit, this team rarely misses a beat. In all but two games this season, coach Scott Brooks has gone with a ten-man rotation. Some of that has been due to injuries and unfamiliarity to start the season. But the reserves have also been good. Really good.

Per, the Wizards rank around the middle of the pack in terms of bench minutes. Their second unit guys play about 19 and a half minutes per game. Twelve other teams are leaving their benches out there for longer. However, the Wizards are far from the middle of the pack in other important categories.

Bench scoring, they’re second (behind the LA Clippers) with 49 bench points per game. Through the first six games, the bench has scored 294 of the Wizards’ 701 points, or 42 percent of the team’s total points.

They rank third amongst bench units in field goals made and second in three-point field goals made. Their field goal percentage, 49.8 percent, is third-best among all bench units, as is their three-point shooting percentage of 42.9 percent.

They shoot well, they move well, and they share the ball well, averaging 9.7 assists per game. Only the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, and Memphis Grizzlies move the ball better without their starters. All of that results in the Wizards bench having the fourth-best plus/minus of any bench in the NBA.

So who’s driving this surprising second-unit success? Well, most of it is thanks to the unlikely frontcourt pairing of Davis Bertans and Moritz Wagner. Neither looks like the most menacing of post players, but with Bertans at the four and Wagner at the five, the Wizards bench has bullied their foes.

The 6’10” Bertans does his damage away from the rim, hoisting up seven three-point attempts per game. It’s hard to argue with that strategy when he’s making them at a 50 percent clip. Bertans leads the non-starters in scoring, averaging 13.5 points per game. More than half of those come by way of the three-ball.

While Wagner can also stretch the floor and knock shots down from deep, it’s his close-range game that’s been expertly complimenting Bertans’ barrage of threes. While Bertans leads the team in three-point field goal percentage, Wagner holds the team crowns for two-point, overall, and effective field goal percentage, per Basketball-Reference. All that helps Wagner average a hyper-efficient 11.7 points off the bench. Per 36 minutes, he’s averaging 22.1 points on 62.8 percent shooting from the field.

So far this season, Wagner has never posted a negative single-game plus/minus. He’s a member of the three most effective 5-man, 4-man, 3-man, and 2-man combinations that the Wizards have trotted out this season. And it’s not just because of his offense. Wagner has improved on the defensive end each and every game. Against the Detroit Pistons, though, he took it to another level.

This stat from Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington says it all…

Aside from Bertans and Wagner, the Wizards have gotten solid contributions from other members of their bench. Troy Brown Jr has shown himself to be a swiss army knife in his sophomore season, doing a bit of everything in his first two games back from injury. We’ve only seen C.J. Miles once this season, but he quickly reminded us what he brings to this team: 16 points in 19 minutes versus Detroit. Plus with Isaiah Thomas now in the starting lineup, that should push professional backup Ish Smith into his proper role with the reserves. The rich, in a sense, are getting richer.

Next. Isaiah Thomas is rewriting his narrative with the Washington Wizards. dark

For now, the Wizards won’t have to hold their breath when the starters sit. By the looks of it, this bench mob can take care of things.