After two losses to begin their season, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks sees room for improvement from all over his roster, including his new-look bench.
With several new faces working to find a chemistry together in their second unit, the results have been a mixed bag, particularly on defense where the Wizards as a whole have so far allowed opponents to shoot an NBA-high 47.2 percent from the field.
"Defensively, we have to get better," he said. "That second unit, I thought did not respond defensively after a missed shot. You can't get down on a missed shot. You've got to play defense, get back and try to score the next possession offensively."
Brooks pointed to the absence of rim protector Ian Mahinmi as a major factor in their struggles on that end of the floor.
Instead of Mahinmi manning the middle for their reserve unit, those responsibilities have fallen on Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith, two of the team's other free agent signings this offseason.
Mahinmi will be out two to three more weeks. For now, it will be up to others on the Wizards' bench to fill the void. One player Brooks is hoping to see more from is Trey Burke, the former ninth overall pick whom the Wizards traded for this offseason to be their primary backup guard.
"He has to continue to get better [as the backup point guard]. It's a role that I'm comfortable with him playing," Brooks said. "With John [Wall] coming back from his rehab and getting into better NBA game shape, there's minutes. There's 14-17 minutes in a given night."
Burke explained some of the second unit's struggles on offense after practice on Tuesday at the Verizon Center. Part of it is communication, which should be easier on Wednesday with the crowd behind them in their home opener against the Raptors.
"For the backcourt, for the second unit, we just have to be better at allowing the bigs to know what we are calling," Burke said. "Get into our sets quick. I think a lot of our trouble is getting into a play with 16 on the shot clock. Now we're fighting up against the shot clock. We'll have three or four seconds left and now we're just forcing up a shot. That's not good."
The Wizards' bench is so far shooting 45 percent collectively, but that is skewed by some garbage time buckets against the Hawks in their season opener. Guys like Burke (5.5 ppg) and second-year forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. (5 ppg) have yet to make their presence felt on offense.
"It's going to take time. Obviously, we've had all preseason and two games up to this point, but it's still going to take time, man," Burke explained. "It's a new coaching staff. We've got eight new players. We knew it wasn't going to gel right away. Obviously, the starting five, they were all here last year, so they are all gelling more than the second unit is right now… we have to be better as a second group and we will."
If Brooks is convinced to make changes to his rotation, he may have to turn to inexperienced players. Rookie Tomas Satoransky is one who could push Burke, in particular, but Brooks isn't quite ready to give him significant minutes.
It could also mean playing starters with bench players more often.
"We might have to experiment on mixing and matching some of our starters with that second unit," Brooks said.