Up until suffering a groin injury on Feb. 25 at Minnesota, Kris Humphries was arguably pound for pound the second best player on the Washington Wizards this season. The "pound for pound" distinction is important. In this case, we mean the relative weight of his role on the team. As a second-unit forward tasked with providing rebounding, energy and secondary offense, Humphries consistently did his job better than all besides John Wall.
The injury put him in street clothes for the next games 16 games until he returned for the final two weeks of the regular season. In that span, Drew Gooden re-emerged as a headband and Wizards jersey wearing 6-foot-10 long-ball threat.
During the regular season, coach Randy Wittman game planned with his roster in mind. In the playoffs, he has made adjustments based on the opponent. The playoff path put the Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks in Washington's way. Those teams use perimeter threats at power forward. That's meant more Gooden and Paul Pierce at power forward and less, much, much of Humphries, who works best against fellow bangers. He's played five minutes in eight postseason games.
The Wizards swept through Toronto before there was even time to miss Humphries. In the current series, which Atlanta evened at 2-2 Monday night, interest is growing as to why Washington's best per minute rebounder during the regular season now racks up DNP-CD each game.
Nene went two full games without making a field goal against the Hawks. Marcin Gortat labored badly on both ends in a Game 4. Gooden scored 12 points in the series opener. He had 13 in the next three games plus a playoff-low three rebounds in Game 4. Though he's had spotlight moments in the postseason, Kevin Seraphin has played one minute combined in the last three games, which is one more then Humphries.
So, why not Humphries? One look at regular season stats against the Hawks might help explain why he is now the fifth option in a (sometimes) four big-man rotation.
Field goal percentage
Nene (3 games): 67.9
Gortat (4): 54.5
Seraphin (4): 53.3
Gooden (3): 41.2
Humphries (4): 17.6
- Yikes. Humphries went 3 for 17. All five players attempted at least 15 shots.
Net rating (Points allowed/scored per 100 possessions when a player is on the court)
- Humphries had the second worst individual offensive rating (76.6) on the team behind Garrett Temple.
Worth noting that Humphries and Temple were the only players with a defensive rating under 100. That's positive, but doesn't offset the negatives offensively. It also overstates Humphries' defense. Solid and helpful, but he's no rim protector and not the ideal candidate for chasing shooters outside. Those are the traits needed in this matchup or perhaps an Eastern Conference finals series against the Chicago Bulls.
Mobile big men Paul Millsap and Al Horford are tough matchups for most teams and the Wizards in particular because of their ability to shoot from the perimeter. Nene and Gortat are best served staying in the paint. They're also Washington's best interior options on both ends, something boo birds should consider next time before voicing a specific kind of unhappiness.
Gooden and Pierce help spread the court offensively in their stretch-4 roles. Maybe Humphries could as well, though he went 0 for 7 from beyond the arc during the season.
Wittman is clearly up for new looks, but Humphries as a 3-point threat this series is a stretch. In this matchup, freaking out about his lack of use overall might be as well.