Welp. Christmas break has come and gone, and we’re finally back to Wizards basketball. In this week’s roundtable, Jamal, Abdullah, and Charles discuss the state of Nene and his possible new role coming off the bench. Also, the Wizards look to continue their surging 3-game win streak tonight in Minnesota and we take a look at what’s been key for their recent success. Lastly, what’s up with the All-Star voting and why is John Wall being assed out of a spot to someone who’s barely played? Your answers below..
With Nene’s health seemingly in a gradual demise, he’s been back on a minutes limit and has been productive coming off the bench the last few games. Coach Wittman has recently stated that he is considering keeping Nene as the sixth man for the rest of the season. Should he?
Charles: No way. Martell Webster is the sixth man and Trevor Booker is not a starter. Sorry, Book. I’m fine with a strict minutes limit on Nene because he is as fragile as a ‘Christmas Story Leg Lamp,’ but why are these two things mutually exclusive. He can very well have a minutes limit and still be in the starting lineup. While Booker has exceeded expectations, he has no place as a starter on a playoff team.
Abdullah: There has been absolutely no doubt about the vitality of Nene in the Wizards rotation. The team clearly struggles when he’s not on the floor, winning only one out of eight games without him. However, it’s becoming more and more evident that Nene struggles to attain some sort of consistency in his health, and frankly, it’s something we just have to live with.
With all that said, it’s certainly reasonable for Wittman to bring Nene off the bench for as long as it works. Over the past few games, Trevor Booker has started for the Wizards and has provided some solid production. That certainly helps Wittman to make an easier decision on Nene. Over the past two games that Nene has come off the bench, he’s totaled 30 points on 10-for-16 shooting and 11 rebounds. His limited minutes off the bench has allowed him to remain fresh for late-game stretches, as evidenced by his 4th quarter production in those two games, where he’s scored 15 total points.
Jamal: I like the idea for a couple reasons:
1. In the immediate sense, Nene has become a valuable asset to offset the bench’s lack of productivity. With Nene in the second unit, he can not only anchor the reserves, but he can also mentor players such as Kevin Seraphin and hopefully Otto Porter (when he finally gets his bearings).
Also, adding Booker to the starting lineup seems to be working well for his confidence and productivity. He wasn’t contributing well off the bench (when he was healthy), so the starter role suits him well.
2. In the long-term, the 6th man role for Nene goes a long way to protecting one of our best assets. Nene has the talent of a starter, sure, but he’s also far from durable. At this point, I’d rather keep healthy a player with three years and $39 million remaining on his contract than continue to risk week-long absences due to injuries. Nene is very in tune with his issues, too, which leads me to believe he’d be fine with his new role.
Over the last three games, the Wizards have been very well-composed down the stretch and have been able to close out games strong. In your opinion, what part of their game has been most key to their recent success?
Charles: I think the biggest key to their success has been the return of Bradley Beal. While John Wall has increased his play tremendously, he has had a tough time closing out games. Bradley Beal has no such trouble. He has embraced the role of closer and seems to relish the big shot. While it would be nice to see our max guy close out games, I’m fine with Wall dominating for three quarters and Beal finishing ’em off. It’s certainly worked so far.
Abdullah: DEFENSE. The Wizards have made many timely plays down the stretch in all three games, but their defense has been the key difference. They’ve forced bad shots, created turnovers, and have resiliently kept their guard up despite any push by the opposition.
FREE THROWS. In the 4th quarter of these last three games the Wizards have converted 88 percent (23-for26-) of their free throws. As a team, the Wizards have shot just 73 percent from the line for the season, an area that has doomed them in winnable games. Knocking down their free throws in clutch moments is surely a confidence booster, and it’s certainly helped seal games for them.
Jamal: Here, I have to give Randy Wittman a lot of credit. He’s established a bench rotation that has proven capable of holding a lead or at least staying within striking position. Wittman experimented earlier this season with his rotation, working players such as Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, and Glen Rice, Jr. However, out of the selection, only Vesely appears to be getting minutes lately. The result is a solid group that controls the ball very well (6th in the League in turnovers) and continues to play great defense (12th in the League in defensive rating).
In addition, Wittman’s use of his starters late in games (somewhat due to minute caps) has worked beautifully. We’ll have to see how he adjusts when players return from injuries.
John Wall is currently sitting in 4th place in All-Star votes for the backcourt in the East, behind Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose (!?), and Kyrie Irving. With players like Rose, Rajon Rondo, and Deron Williams on the voter’s list despite their injuries, what’s your take on this flawed system?
Charles: The fan voting is a joke, and has been for awhile now. I can take some solace in the fact that he will most likely be a coache’s pick but the entire process is still laughable. John Wall is the only Wizard who’s going to get voted in and that’s a shame. The 9-19 Brooklyn Nets have four (!!!) players in the Top 25 of voting and the 9-19 Knicks have two… but Bradley Beal doesn’t make the list…SHENANIGANS.
Abdullah: The concept of fan voting has proved to be lame for two decades now, so seeing John Wall getting assed out of the competition is nothing new. I remember those stretch of years where Grant Hill played only two out of 6,000 games in the mid-90s yet still earned 1st place voting in the All-Star ballot. This season we’re seeing a similar trend with several injured players on the ballot and guys like Derrick Rose, a clear-cut fan favorite, well ahead in votes over Wall. It’s a disservice to real talent and a shame that players on less-favorable teams can’t yield the same respect.
Jamal: I’d like to see it revamped, honestly. Every season, we have good, difference-making players slighted due to fan voting.
Unfortunately, however, the NBA All-Star game is primarily geared toward entertaining fans, so it’s not likely the NBA implements any sort of change.