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Bench experience helped the Wizards. What about next season?


Bench experience helped the Wizards. What about next season?

There are no NBA awards for best overall bench. Even if such a thing existed, the Wizards' second unit wouldn't have made the cut.

Scoring punch lacked. No rim protector or drive-and-kick point guard existed. Other than second-year forward Otto Porter and center Kevin Seraphin, there wasn't much in the way of upside potential.

What Washington had was experience. That's another way of saying one of the oldest rosters in the league. But what this veteran presence lacked in highlight reel moments, it made up for in professionalism. It's not enough to put on the uniform each game. Each night, including those where it's possible the coach never looks your way, sometimes the key is simply being ready when it's your turn. 

Depending on what transpires during the offseason, that might element might not be in such abundance next season.

Drew Gooden, Rasual Butler and Will Bynum are free agents, along with Seraphin, who will likely sign elsewhere. Garrett Temple has a player option for next season.

No doubt most are focusing on what starting forward Paul Pierce does with his player option. But as we saw throughout the 2014-15 season, contributions from others up and down the roster helped Washington record its most wins since 1978-79.

"It's your experience. Being in situations, understanding the only way to be prepared to play is to be professional," Butler explained to reporters following the season. "This is our job. Like you guys go home, do your work, your due dilligence to make sure you're prepared. We have to do the same thing as basketball players. You want to be prepared when your team needs you."

Temple admirably filled the starting wing guard void when Bradley Beal missed early games with a wrist injury. Even when the minutes vanished, the lengthy defender could always be counted on to take on the toughest scorers. Temple played so little in Game 6 against Atlanta that the box score didn't credit him with a full minute of playing time and yet he sank two free throws in the waning seconds to keep hope alive.

Gooden, 33, played more minutes on opening night due to Nene's suspension then he did all of January. Yet when Kris Humphries suffered a groin injury in late February, Gooden stepped in without any sign of rust. At times, he was Washington's second best big man and certainly the best one when it came to stretching the floor with his shooting ability.

Butler, 36, barely made the team out of training camp and entered the season deep on the depth chart. Two months later, the swingman became an unlikely source for potent perimeter shooting. Even though his aim wavered as the season progressed, Butler shot 53 percent from deep in April as the Wizards tried finding some momentum before entering the playoffs.

Bynum, 32, arrived in late March after playing in China. He barely played any significant minutes - or at least his minutes were not in significant moments - until the playoff series against the Hawks. With John Wall sidelined, coach Randy Wittman turned to the instant-offense guard in Game 3 and 4. Bynum delivered 19 points in 27 minutes.

Expect Temple to opt-in, but the others are certainly no locks to return. Based on pure talent and potential, the Wizards can do better. They can certainly go younger. More professional, doubtful. 

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Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard out against Wizards

Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard out against Wizards

The Wizards will catch a break on Saturday night when they host the Toronto Raptors in the second game of their regular season, as Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard is being held out due to rest.

Leonard, who has been dominant so far for the 2-0 Raptors, is being limited in back-to-backs after he missed 73 games last season due to a quadriceps injury. The Raptors played the night before against the Celtics.

With Leonard out, the Raptors will likely rely on C.J. Miles and O.G. Anunoby at the small forward position. Shooting guard Delon Wright is also out with a shoulder injury.

Though Leonard and Wright are out of the mix, Toronto still has plenty of talent including All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry is averaging 21 points, seven assists and 3.5 rebounds through two games. 

Serge Ibaka has been their third-leading scorer with 15 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds. They also acquired Danny Green in the Leonard deal and he's off to a strong start with 12.5 points and five rebounds per game.

Leonard's absence may be noticed more on the defensive end, as he is one of the best in the NBA on the perimeter. That could make things a bit easier for Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr.

The Wizards and Raptors next play on Nov. 23. That game is in Toronto.



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Three things to watch for in Wizards' first matchup with Raptors

Three things to watch for in Wizards' first matchup with Raptors

John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Once again, we await word from head coach Scott Brooks on the status of Dwight Howard. Howard, who missed all of the Wizards' preseason with a piriformis injury, was a gametime decision for the opener on Thursday. He ended up not playing, but appeared very close to finally making his debut.

Saturday night could be a different story, though we won't know until shortly before gametime. The Wizards' training staff will evaluate him pregame and make the call. If he can't go, Ian Mahinmi will get the nod as starter like he did against Miami.

Need more Otto

Though it wasn't the reason why the Wizards lost to the Heat, it certainly stood out in the box score how Otto Porter Jr. went without a three-point attempt in the opener. Porter finished third in three-point percentage last season with a 44.1 clip. He simply has to be more involved in the offense.

It will be interesting to see what adjustment the Wizards make to create more opportunities for Porter, and how Porter responds. All parties involved insist it is a mix of several factors, including a need for Porter to simply be more aggressive. That won't be easy against a tough Raptors defense, but expect Porter to get up plenty of threes in this one.

Leonard is out

This game was set to be the first matchup between the Wizards and the revamped Raptors, who added perennial All-NBA selection Kawhi Leonard in the biggest trade of the offseason. But it turns out, Leonard will not play.

Toronto is resting Leonard, who played in only nine games all of last season due to a quadriceps injury. It's understandable, given the Raptors played the night before against the tough Boston Celtics.

With Leonard out, All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry will be a big focus. They also got guard Danny Green in the Leonard deal and he's off to an excellent start. He's averaging 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals while shooting 50 percent from three so far. Getting him in the trade was a very underrated move by Toronto.