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Morning tip: Wizards figure out 'death lineup' with Bojan Bogdanovic

Morning tip: Wizards figure out 'death lineup' with Bojan Bogdanovic

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.

RELATED: WIZARDS RESPOND AFTER SCOTT BROOKS LETS THEM HAVE IT

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Wizards were reportedly unwilling to trade Bradley Beal in potential Jimmy Butler deal

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Wizards were reportedly unwilling to trade Bradley Beal in potential Jimmy Butler deal

A sluggish start and a handful of woefully inefficient defensive efforts had the Wizards looking for answers early into the 2018-19 NBA season.

But making a major trade was not something the Washington front office was willing to do. As the Jimmy Butler saga reached its climax in Minneapolis, the Timberwolves reportedly attempted to strike of a conversation with the Wizards regarding Bradley Beal.

The details, reported by Marc Stein in his latest New York Times newsletter (via ProBasketballTalk), are minimal, but it sounds like the Wizards quickly brushed the discussion aside as Beal has remained off-limits in their eyes.

Word is the Wolves did try to engage Washington — another team falling well short of expectations — in trade talks for the sharpshooting guard Bradley Beal. But the Wizards have kept Beal off limits amid their 4-9 start. They would naturally prefer to trade the struggling Otto Porter, or perhaps even John Wall, but both possess hard-to-move contracts. 

Otto Porter, like many of his teammates, started the season in the wrong direction. But trading Porter is a tricky situation, one the Wizards organization probably doesn't want to pursue given the contract he was signed to just over a year ago. Trying to trade John Wall would be even more difficult.

Ultimately, the Timberwolves dealt Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Wizards rattled off weekend wins over ht eHeat and Magic, and while not equal to making a blockbuster trade, it does show that the Wizards can make an internal fix to what ails them. 

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Otto Porter Jr., Ian Mahinmi react to new reality under Scott Brooks where minutes aren't guaranteed

Otto Porter Jr., Ian Mahinmi react to new reality under Scott Brooks where minutes aren't guaranteed

Through his first two seasons in Washington, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks was not known to make significant adjustments to his lineup. In his first season coaching the Wizards, 2016-17, he didn't really need to. They had the best season for the franchise, 49-33, since the 1970s.

Last year, the tweaks he made were largely by necessity. John Wall missed 41 games and he had to adjust.

What Brooks has been doing in recent games with his Wizards' rotation are something we haven't really seen before. First, he benched Ian Mahinmi for three games. Then, he sat Markieff Morris and Otto Porter Jr. in the fourth quarter. 

Morris returned to play fourth quarter minutes on Monday in their win against the Magic, but Porter remained on the bench, sitting in the last seat on the end with a towel over his head, rising periodically to clap and cheer on his teammates.

Such is life for the Wizards right now. They are off to a 4-9 start, well below their standards, and Brooks is doing whatever he can to right the ship. So far, those decisions have paid off, as they have won two straight games for the first time this season.

"We weren't winning, so I had to make some changes," Brooks said.

Brooks, it appears, has reached a new point in his tenure with the Wizards. He is willing to sit key players in his rotation, and ones that happen to make a good deal of money. Porter is the highest-paid player on the team, carrying a salary of $26 million and Mahinmi is not far behind at $15.9 million.

As Brooks insists, it isn't quite as simple as him deciding to bench a player. It has much to do with the flow of the game and how he simply has more options at his disposal this year.

Instead of Morris and Porter, he has rolled with Austin Rivers and Jeff Green in the fourth quarter. Both Rivers and Green weren't on the team last season.

Rivers gives them more speed in a three-guard lineup and plays physical defense on the perimeter. Green has been shooting lights-out and is one of their most versatile players on both ends of the floor.

The added depth on the Wizards' roster has set in a new reality for Brooks. The players are beginning to understand that.

"We do have depth. That's the thing," Porter said. "We have so many good players that are interchangeable. We're just finding ways to win."

"It is definitely evolving into something different that I haven't seen before," Mahinmi said. "I remember a few years back, it was a defined first unit and second unit. If the second unit was going, he would let them run and let it ride. With this roster, we have even more flexibility than last year."

Porter played just 22 minutes against the Magic. He has been held to under 24 minutes in three straight games. The lack of playing time has crushed his numbers. He has just 21 total points in those three outings.

Mahinmi is averaging only 14.1 minutes per game this season, his fewest since 2010-11. And that number is skewed by the fact he started six games to begin the year with Dwight Howard nursing an injury.

The evolving rotation has required an adjustment for the players. Though it doesn't change how they prepare for games, they now understand that surprises can happen.

"He's made a whole lot of change from a game-to-game basis. I'm with [everyone else]. I'm seeing it has it goes," Mahinmi said. "[It's like] 'I guess I'm not playing tonight.' Just stay ready. That's part of being a professional."

Mahinmi says he and other players aren't owed an explanation from Brooks when he makes those changes. And he is quick to say it doesn't bother him.

"As long as we win, I'm happy," he said.

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