Wizards head coach Scott Brooks has floated possible changes to his starting lineup periodically all throughout the 2017-18 regular season. During their lowest moments, he often said he would find five guys to give him the effort and execution he was not getting from his starters.
All season-long those amounted to empty threats, but now he might be ready to pull the trigger.
That's not speculation. It's what Brooks said at the podium following his team's 130-119 loss to the Raptors in Game 2 of their first round playoff series, a defeat that has them now starting at an 0-2 deficit.
Brooks needs to make some adjustments and it may be time to go big. The idea wasn't even prompted by a question. Brooks was asked about Mike Scott's play at center.
"Who knows, he might be a starting five," Brooks quipped.
Is it time to shake up the starting lineup? If he switches it up at center, that would mean Marcin Gortat taking a seat.
Gortat started all 82 games this season at center, but as we saw in Game 2, he hasn't always received starter's minutes. Gortat played only 12 minutes against the Raptors in Game 2 and went scoreless with three rebounds.
Despite starting every game, Gortat was sixth on the team in minutes. Kelly Oubre, Jr. played more often than him and of his 81 appearances, only 11 were starts.
Scott got extended time at the five position in Game 2. He played 27 minutes and was second on the team with 20 points. He went 7-for-10 from the field and 4-for-5 from three. With 14 points in the series opener, Scott has clearly outplayed Gortat.
Scott has also outshined Ian Mahinmi, the Wizards' backup center. Mahinmi played only two minutes in Game 1 and in Game 2 he played 15.
Mahinmi, though, did play well in Game 2. He managed 12 points, three rebounds and a steal. He was 4-for-4 from the field and 4-for-5 from the free throw line.
If Brooks does make a change at center, and that remains a considerable 'if,' Mahinmi probably makes more sense to get the nod. If Scott goes into the starting lineup, that would shake up the rotation in an awkward way. Brooks would then have two centers on his bench in Gortat and Mahinmi that can't really coexist on the floor at the same time.
Would it send a message? Yes, but it might complicate matters to an unnecessary extent to do so.
Taking Scott out of the starting lineup would also remove the spark he provides off the bench. The Wizards need scoring in their second unit to counter one of the Raptors' biggest strengths. Gortat would not help that cause.
All that said, it's very likely we see Scott more at center. The Raptors have a big front-line with Jonas Valanciunas, a 7-footer, and Serge Ibaka, who tops out at 6-foot-10. At 6-foot-8, Scott helps the Wizards go small and that can have its advantages.
Scott feels ready to step in if needed.
"When I am at the five, I know I have to rebound, stay solid and stay off those pump fakes from [DeMar] DeRozan," he said.
Whether it's Scott, Mahinmi or Gortat; clearly Brooks is weighing his options for who to start at center. Perhaps this time he will indeed make a change.
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