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John Wall Says Wizards Bench Was ‘Downfall’ vs. Celtics

John Wall did not mince words about Wizards bench

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Keith Allison/ Flickr

If the Washington Wizards are still trying to figure out what it will take to get John Wall to sign designated-veteran-player extension, the four-time NBA All-Star may have provided a hint. Recently, Wall sat down with CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Chris Miller, and among other topics, he let loose on the Wizards’ woeful bench.

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told Miller via NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.
I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.”

Yes, Wall missed his last eleven shots in the Wizards’ Game 7 loss to Boston. However, he was right that not having a reliable backup to spell him throughout not just through the series against the Celtics but throughout the season, hurt him in the long run. He, along with Bradley Beal, logged in large minutes due to their lack of support off the bench.

Kelly Oubre is expected to have PRP injections in his knee — a development revealed after Washington was eliminated from the playoffs. Maybe head coach Scott Brooks opted not to play one of the Wizards’ top on-ball defenders due to the injury. Nonetheless, Oubre would have certainly helped more so than Jason Smith did in that game.

Unfortunately, Smith’s effectiveness may have been limited due to the lack of minutes he played. When Brooks turned to the bench, it appeared for whatever reasons, he ignored one of his more consistent reserves. Keep in mind, every addition the team had this season did not pan out. For that, the blame should solely be on the team’s general manager Ernie Grunfeld.

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If Grunfeld wants to keep his star player intrigued in the possibilities of staying in Washington, he better figure out how to fix the depth of the team. The Wizards’ starters were one of the most productive starting lineups in the playoffs, outscoring opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions. However, the bench was the worst performing benches in the postseason, getting outscored by 15.5 per 100 possessions.

Meanwhile, Brooks leaned heavily on the starters. Washington’s starters played together 34.2 minutes per game in the playoffs — only second to the Indiana Pacers’ 34.5. That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s hard to believe the team will retain Brandon Jennings, who they acquired on March 1 after he was waived by the New York Knicks. Jennings shot 27.4 percent from the field while with the Wizards during the regular season, and a dismal 15.4 percent from three-point range during the postseason. Meanwhile, Trey Burke more than likely is out as well. He essentially fumbled his opportunities as Wall’s backup early in the season, causing the team to be forced to turn to Jennings.

Bojan Bogdanovic was a disaster defensively. He also did not shoot well enough to overcome his defensive deficiency — shot 41.4 percent from the field and 35.6 from three. Bogdanovic, who the Wizards traded a first-round pick to Brooklyn for at February’s trade deadline, had a net rating of -12.7 during the playoffs.

Ian Mahinmi was shell of himself. Not only did he miss 51 games during the regular season and eight in the playoffs, he had a net rating of  -27.1. He often times was just too slow stepping out to defend bigs on the perimeter or holding off guards like Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart on the pick-and-roll.

Coincidentally, neither Oubre nor Smith was much better. Oubre had a net rating of -25.6 while Smith was a -12.2.

The Wizards starters were only second to the star-studded Golden State Warriors as most efficient in the NBA during the regular season. Unfortunately, their bulk load of work throughout the regular season and playoffs ultimately led to their fatigue that cost them the Eastern Conference semifinals series to Boston.

If the Wizards want to keep Wall happy enough that he commits to an additional four years beyond the two remaining on his existing contract, they will have to address his concern of the bench. It’s not like he’s alone on the matter, just ask Marcin Gortat. It appears the possibility of winning a ring is Wall’s priority more so than the potential of earning roughly $42 million per season with an extension, at least for now. And it’s now, that the Wizards have to prove to him they are worth the commitment.

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