The injuries to John Wall and Dwight Howard have left the margins thin for the Washington Wizards, producing a noticeable lack of depth in recent weeks as Markieff Morris was also sidelined with a neck injury. The pair of trades they made this week, however, have already helped stretch out their rotation.
They lost a very good player in Otto Porter Jr., who was shipped to the Bulls. But in return they received two players who have already produced in Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker. Their other trade netted Wesley Johnson, who so far has proven at least good enough to hold a rotation spot.
Given Morris wasn’t playing, the Wizards essentially lost one member of their rotation and added three in the two trades. That trade-off was clear in their 134-125 win over the Bulls on Saturday night.
They may lack high-end talent with Porter, in particular, now gone. But there is something to be said about strength in numbers, especially when they play teams like the Bulls that are bad in part because they don’t have the necessary depth to compete for a full 48 minutes.
Against Chicago, the Wizards had a 64-38 edge in bench points. Four of their reserves reached double figures and two – Parker and Chasson Randle – dropped 20 apiece. For Randle, that was a career-high.
The Wizards’ bench nearly matched their starters. The Wizards’ starting five had 70 points compared to the 68 for their bench, about as balanced an effort as one team can have.
Two games are not enough to draw real conclusions from the new-look Wizards and specifically how Portis, Parker and Johnson will affect the overall cause.
The team still has some obvious defensive limitations. Though Portis can help with rebounding, they are still likely to struggle overall on the boards. One man alone can only do so much for a team that ranks 30th in total rebounds and 27th in rebounding percentage.
Praising the Wizards' depth may look foolish in just a few days when they go to Toronto on Wednesday to see the Raptors, arguably the NBA’s deepest team.
But Parker already looks to potentially be the best bench scorer the Wizards have had maybe in years. This is a guy who put up 20.1 points per game just two seasons ago. That was also one ACL tear ago, but the skillset is still there.
He can score inside and out, has a quick first step and is aggressive off the dribble in the halfcourt. He can finish with power and finesse.
Parker’s three-point shot hasn’t been falling this season. His percentage dropped to 31.7 after an 0-for-3 performance from long range against the Bulls. But the previous two years, he shot 37.1 percent on 3.2 attempts per game. Despite the injury, that was across 82 games, not a small sample size.
The Wizards have lacked scoring punch off their bench for what seems like forever. There were those few months Bojan Bogdanovic gave them a lift in 2017, but otherwise they haven’t enjoyed consistent bench scoring with anything that has resembled efficiency in a long time.
Portis, as he showed with his 30 points against Cleveland on Friday night, can also fill it up. And Johnson, who scored 14 vs. the Bulls, can contribute as well.
Both have already proven they can get hot from three. Portis went 4-for-6 vs. Cleveland and Johnson hit 3-of-4 against Chicago.
The Wizards have won each of their games since Portis, Parker and Johnson made their debuts. But they remain eight games under .500 with 2 1/2 games separating them from a playoff spot.
There is plenty of work to do to close the gap, but the added scoring to their bench may help their chances.
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