Starting lineup changes coming for Wizards versus Jazz?

Starting lineup changes coming for Wizards versus Jazz?
November 17, 2012, 2:30 pm
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Through seven games, Randy Wittman has sent out the same starting five, stating a desire not to become a constant lineup fidgeter. To provide a sense for role stability and comfort for the young and new players.

Heading into Saturday night's home matchup with Utah (6:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet), Wittman may have finally moved past reservations of any change for the sake of change thoughts. Starting 0-7 and sitting one loss away from matching last season's franchise-worst start to a season will do that.

"I’m trying, but it becomes a point where you have to give something else a try too," said the Wizards coach following Friday's practice.

To date Emeka Okafor, Trevor Booker, Trevor Ariza, Bradley Beal and A.J.Price have been the opening tip five. More often than not this season, the reserves have outscored them, sparked rallies after early offensive sputters. Seeing as Washington ranks 27th league-wide in scoring, the collective combinations are not exactly humming. The urgency for a win makes waiting on injured stars John Wall and Nene an improbability.

"As a coach, you search to try to find that right mix and I haven’t been able to do that," Wittman said. "We got to get to that point, where you’ve got five that are starting and you’ve got a rotation coming off the bench who knows when they are coming in. that’s what we’ve got to get to. That’s when you become a consistent team. And we’re not even close to that now."

As for what to change, let's start with the starters. This unit had the look of an offensively challenged group from the start as only the rookie Beal is a natural scorer. Seven games in, that perception remains.

Okafor's a capable mid-range shooter, but offers little post-up production. Booker's active approach combined with minimal one-on-one skills screams high-energy reserve. Credit defenses with the ball finding Ariza open beyond the arc far more than the Wizards wish it would. Though his assist totals are solid, Price's failing perimeter accuracy can offset his willingness as a facilitator.

Without reason to double team elsewhere, defenses are free to harass the 19-year-old Beal, who is a staggering 4 of 25 (16 percent) over the last two games. Both big and small picture, putting more shooters on the court with Beal seems reasonable. Don't want the prized prospect to lose confidence and the current formula isn't working.

The obvious move involves swapping Booker for Kevin Seraphin, the only Wizard averaging at least 10 minutes per game and making over half his shots (53.7 percent). The 6-foot-10 center makes buckets with an array of interior moves, commands defensive attention and while there's definite room for improvement he's becoming a more willing passer (1.5 assists, up from 0.6 last season). Okafor's defensive and rebounding heavy game offsets Seraphin's weaknesses in those areas.

Want the best backcourt scorer on the roster on the court from the start; sit Beal for the confident-rich Jordan Crawford, though this brings up a "Beal is benched" narrative that some might run with. Surrounding Beal with shooters and playmakers is wise regardless of his first or second unit status. Crawford's good either way, though ultimately is a classic instant-offense type reserve.

Want another shooter; insert Martell Webster for Ariza, though at least the ex-Hornet appears past his early funk. Defense has kept Washington in games when the offense disappeared and this is where Ariza and Okafor contribute most. Despite Cartier Martin's 3-point barrage against the Mavericks, Webster's superior all-court game makes him the more viable starter alternative, though both warrant minutes so long as the offense sputters.

Want a true pass-first point guard running the attack; ramp up newly signed Shaun Livingston's preparation and start him over Price. It would be stunning to see the 6-foot-7 Livingston's second act in Washington start with a start, but this winless run is more jarring. Should Wittman tighten the guard rotation, we could see more Beal and Crawford with Crawford running the show with Livingston's size giving up a leg up as the third guard.

As for last season's first round picks, the aggressive tenor of Chris Singleton game makes for a nice impact off the bench, but minutes the improved one shall receive. While a Seraphin move could provide a role for Jan Vesely as the second team center, his decent instincts and hustle cannot make up for being an offensive liability (1 of 9 on free throws), not now, not at 0-7.
Specifically against Utah and its sizable frontcourt of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors, Seraphin's height and bulk paired with Okafor makes sense on both ends of the court over the 6-foot-8 listed Booker. For a lineup shakeup, this is a worthy start. If Wittman desires more, he's got options.