Wizards

Wizards

The area where the Wizards have struggled in the last few years to find an identity is with their lineups to close out games.

With the Golden State Warriors, for instance, when they won their NBA championship in 2015 and an NBA record 73 games in 2016, it was Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green.

With the Wizards, it appears to be John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Bojan Bogdanovic and Markieff Morris following Sunday's 115-114 comeback win over the Orlando Magic

They flipped Bogdanovic as the "stretch" option at power forward rather than  Porter, a role he'd been filling earlier this season with Kelly Oubre as the small forward. But Porter and Bogdanovic are interchangeable. They can swap positions based on the matchups between the three and four spots.

Oubre's recent struggles, however, have kept him on limited minutes but in Bogdanovic they have a 6-8, physically stronger player than Porter. And they have a more consistent three-point shooter than Oubre.

If coach Scott Brooks wants to go to a more traditional big to stabilize them defensively vs. the opponent's small-ball lineup, he can still go with Ian Mahinmi.

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While the backup center to Marcin Gortat isn't a threat to score from distance he provides them with the best pick-and-roll coverage and can switch out onto guards more effectively.  And they surround him with four shooters where he can post up smaller defenders (as he did successfully vs. Aaron Gordon) or have the rebounding edge to clean up the misses. 

 

The Wizards' plethora of shooters proved to be Orlando's undoing. Porter is the NBA's most accurate three-point shooter so when he got the ball Evan Fournier and Gordon ran to him. Coming off his shallow cut, Porter made the extra pass to the corner for Bogdanovic where he nailed what proved to be the winning shot with 46.8 seconds left. The scenario played itself out repeatedly down the stretch as the Wizards overcame a 17-point deficit.

"They put four three-point shooters out around one of the best point guards in the world," Magic coach Frank Vogel said. "We got switches, which they're supposed to do and he still got points racing down the lane. We over-helped a little bit, not a lot and weren't able to get to the shooters.”

 That's what a "death" lineup does. It forces switches and rotations, putting the opponents in scramble mode and making them more prone to have a lapse or miscommunication.

Under previous coach Randy Wittman, the Wizards tried to make this system work. Instead of Bogdanovic, he used Kris Humphries in that role. He shot 31.5% from there last season. Drew Gooden dropped from 39% in 2014-15 to just 17% in an injury-plagued 2015-16. Jared Dudley became the best option but he was undersized, couldn't rebound or contest shots on the other end to create misses. Plus unlike Bogdanovic, Dudley couldn't beat closeouts off the dribble to finish at the rim.

Now Brooks has several viable options at the stretch four in Bogdanovic (38.2%), Porter (45.3%) or Morris (36%). Or he can play them all thre simultaneously with two guards with Morris as the spread five option. 

Either the perimeter opens for threes or the driving lanes open for Wall to get to the rim.

Or in Sunday's case, both.

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