No matter how much the Wizards continue to win, this question -- "What about the bench?" -- will persist until the boxscore pops with gaudier numbers. But there's ample evidence beyond those raw numbers to suggest the bench is adequate if unspectacular.
Only 18 points were scored by the resereves in a 112-107 win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday. Trey Burke had seven points and five assists in 14 minutes. Jason Smith had six points and two rebounds in 17. But the best player was Tomas Satoransky who produced less in terms of the stats with four points and one assist in 13 minutes.
Satoransky didn't attempt a field goal in the fourth quarter but he played seven minutes. At 6-7, his length and ability to stay in front of Rodney Stuckey aided in keeping the Pacers' guards from getting clean looks at the rim. He deflected an entry pass from Stuckey and then forced him into a traveling violation because of his ball puressure midway through the fourth.
Then Satoransky fought through Al Jefferson's screen and stayed on Monta Ellis' right hand to contest his errant jumper with 6:59 left.
"I thought this was one of his best games," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of Satoransky. "He played solid. ... He handled the ball under pressure which is something he's been working on. He's been improving defensively. He's getting better.
Ian Mahinmi's second consecutive game he played 13 minutes and didn't score. But to start the fourth he created a turnover with his ball pressure on Al Jefferson leading to an errant pass and blocking his drive to the rim. Both plays put the Wizards in transition to and led to four free throw attempts. It's a sign of what his understated impact can be when he's at optimum health since his knee procedures.
The way to judge the second unit -- currently Trey Burke, Satoransky, Kelly Oubre, Jason Smith and Mahinmi -- is how they play defensively first. Brooks will mix and match them with starters at times, too, but their offense will have to be jump-started on the other end of the floor.
Going into the Indiana game, the stats told a similar story about the reserves. And again, Mahinmi had only played once so the full impact of his presence still is to be determined. They could end up much better.
The net rating is determined by subtracting the defensive points allowed per 100 possessions by the Wizards' reserves from offensive points scored per 100 by them.
Previous 25 games (19-6): Plus-1.2 points per 100 possessions. 9th best net rating in NBA
Previous 18 Games (15-3): Plus-3.7 per 100 possessions. 8th best net rating in NBA
Previous 10 Games (8-2): Plus-9.3 per 100 possessions. 3rd best net rating in NBA
While there are benches in the NBA that play more minutes and score more points, they're not neessarily as responsible as this group on defense. Now that Brooks has developed one of the best starting fives in the league, he's figuring out how to get more out of his reserves.