By the numbers: Wittman's ideal playoff rotation

By the numbers: Wittman's ideal playoff rotation
April 7, 2014, 6:00 pm
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Wizards waste opportunity vs. Bulls

Nene's return to full practice on Monday means - knock on wood - a return to the lineup, perhaps for Wednesday's matchup with the Charlotte Bobcats. Whenever the Brazilian big man makes an appearance and in whatever role, the Wizards' rotation faces a tweaking.

Then again, with the playoffs less than two weeks away, coach Randy Wittman already has some playing time decisions to ponder.

Last season Wittman rarely had enough healthy or viable bodies to cobble together a true rotation. Back in January 2013 I asked the Wizards' coach a question about his ideal rotation from a number's standpoint

"I think nine," Wittman said. "Obviously you get a more veteran group, probably eight or nine the ideal. Nine to 10 during the course of the year. Then you get closer to the playoffs, gets down toward the end of the year and into the playoffs, it's usually eight-man." 

The question asked about an ideal scenario. Nene having at most five games to get into playing condition for the East's current sixth seed is not ideal.

Then again, look at last season's No. 6 seed. The Atlanta Hawks played a six-game first round series against the Indiana Pacers. Only eight players for the Hawks participated in each of the six games.

So, let's play this out and project a potential 8-9 man rotation for the playoffs regardless of matchup. 

Backcourt locks: John Wall, Bradley Beal (starters); Andre Miller 

* Wall runs the first unit, Miller the second with Beal as the scoring link between both. Martell Webster swings down as needed. Garrett Temple enters for the occasional defensive scenario or against bigger guards (Toronto's Greivis Vasquez). This part is easy enough. 

Frontcourt locks: Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat (starters); Martell Webster 

* Assuming Ariza's current bout with the flu doesn't turn into something epic, these are indeed the only players currently assured of steady minutes in the postseason. Nene makes this trio a quartet by Wednesday or whenever he's able to go. How long he can is the question. 

Bench mob: Garrett Temple, Otto Porter, Chris Singleton, Glen Rice Jr. 

* Wittman rarely turned to members of this group with double-digit leads in the fourth quarter during the regular season. 

TBD: Nene, Trevor Booker, Al Harrington, Drew Gooden, Kevin Seraphin 

* Now things get interesting. If we assume Nene is back, that means seven players are in the minutes mix with room for only other 1-2 (if we're talking 8-9 man rotation). Booker has started with Nene out. He's also the one most likely phased out the rotation with a healthy Nene back. Booker's a rugged player who can get out on the break, but he's also undersized relative to most NBA power forwards and doesn't provide much offense.

That's where Harrington, Gooden and Seraphin enter. However, Seraphin, who has never played in the postseason, lacks experience compared to the 30-something tandem. Gooden is averaging 9.2 points and 5.6 rebounds since March 1. Uncle Al is a 3-point threat with leadership intangibles.

[RELATED: Ariza takes day off for the flu]

Now, if Nene can't play his usual 25-35 minutes or Wittman chooses to bring him off the bench, then the idea of 8-9 player rotation evolves into one 10 men seeing time. In other words, Booker could start or could sit altogether. 

Two other Wittman quotes from the same article are worth noting now: 

* "I'm going to play guys that are going to play the way we've been playing here the last couple of games: ball movement, player movement, getting out and defending. Those guys are the ones that are going to play." 

* When asked specifically about the frontcourt minutes, Wittman said, "Some guys are not going to get the minutes they are accustomed too."

Over the course of the season, Wittman's go-to move involved using veterans over those still learning. Factor in this is his first playoff appearance as a head coach and Washington's first since 2008, look for the older guys to get the call while the younger bigs might not get the minutes they are accustomed too.