The Wizards were the final team included in the NBA's restart in Orlando, FL and with that brought some potential pitfalls, some of which Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans certainly weighed for themselves before choosing not to go. There is also the potential they hurt their lottery odds or even get screwed by the league's adjusted lottery rules.
But the Wizards chose to look at the situation as glass half-full and not half-empty. They embraced the opportunity to play more basketball and viewed the final 11 games (three exhibition, eight real ones) as a unique circumstance for player development.
On Monday in their loss to the Pacers, we saw a perfect example of that. They played a certified perennial playoff team, one with an airtight defensive structure. And they were able to push them at the end while using a lineup completely full of young players.
The final lineup for the Wizards, from the 5:56 mark on, had Troy Brown Jr. at point guard, Jerome Robinson at the two, Isaac Bonga at the three, Rui Hachimura at the four and Thomas Bryant at center. All five players are 23 or younger and Bryant, now in his third NBA season, is the most experienced of the bunch.
Head coach Scott Brooks saw immense value in that stretch where he was able to put some of the Wizards' youngest players into unfamiliar roles.
"We have to see what we have in a lot of different positions. These are great minutes," he said. "That's why we're here. We're here to get better and we're here to improve."
Most notable was the backcourt. Though Bonga, Hachimura and Bryant have taken on more responsibility with Beal and Bertans out, they have played those positions in crunch time before.
For Brown and Robinson, it was a different look from what they are used to seeing. Robinson would normally be sitting in favor of Beal and Brown would not be playing point guard. Ish Smith or Shabazz Napier would instead be out there, depending on who had the hot hand.
Brown has played plenty of point guard in his life, and he holds a preference for the position. But he has only played it sparingly so far in his two NBA seasons, not enough to even register on his Basketball Reference position estimate breakdown.
On Monday, Brown got to let loose and be the floor general. He responded well with three points and three assists during the final six minutes. The Wizards were down 13 when he checked in and cut the lead to seven before Indiana closed them out.
"I enjoyed it," Brown said. "For me, it felt natural. Today, I had more turnovers than I would like. But I feel comfortable calling out the offense, bringing the ball up and just initiating the offense and getting us into a flow."
It wasn't much, but it may have been a preview of more to come. Brooks, in fact, suggested Brown could start at point guard in one of the team's remaining five games.
"There might be another game where Troy maybe starts at the point, you never know. He has to be ready," Brooks said. "We have played him in that before. We did it during the season and I wouldn't be surprised if we did it sometime during the next five games."
Brooks wasn't asked about Brown potentially starting at point, he brought it up himself. If he does go that route, it would make plenty of sense.
The Wizards are using their time at Disney World to develop young players, which they have plenty of. But they don't have one in their usual point guard rotation. Brown can play the position, so if they fully commit to playing youngsters, he would be the guy.
The Wizards' final five opponents are tough ones: the Sixers, Pelicans, Thunder, Bucks and Celtics. Those teams feature some really good point guards like Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Eric Bledsoe, Jrue Holiday and Kemba Walker.
But two match-ups stand out as arguably the best for Brown. With Ben Simmons now playing forward, he could try his hand against Shake Milton of the Sixers, whom the Wizards play on Wednesday.
Or, what would be really intriguing is when the Wizards play the Pelicans in their following game, on Friday. New Orleans has Lonzo Ball, who is about Brown's size and would be great barometer for him on both ends of the floor.
Either way, if Brooks does indeed give Brown a game to start and play heavy minutes at point guard, the Wizards' time in Orlando will all of a sudden become a lot more interesting.
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