Every good team has a player that can come in and run a second unit. A player that can impact the game the moment he steps on the court. It is crucial to have a ballhandler that can confidently carry a second unit while the starters get a breather.
The Houston Rockets have Jeremy Lin. The Heat have Norris Cole. The Pacers have C.J. Watson (and Lance Stephenson, who starts but often runs their second unit). The Thunder have Reggie Jackson. The Spurs have Marco Belinelli and Manu Ginobili. The Clippers have Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford.
Yes, it is no coincidence that all these teams will be NBA title contenders come playoff time.
This is the biggest reason (among many) of why the Wizards are still an average team. They currently are a below .500 team with a 12-13 record. It is hard to imagine them consistently having a winning record as the season goes on because of the lack of a backup point guard.
John Wall and Bradley Beal have been awesome this season. Besides Beal’s right leg injury that forced him to miss nine games, it is hard to imagine a better start to the pair’s second year together. They currently average 39.2 points per game combined, which is one of the highest scoring backcourts in the league. The problem is that neither are Wilt Chamberlain and cannot play all 48 minutes.
This is where the issues arise.
Coach Randy Wittman had Eric Maynor penciled in as the man to back up Wall as the season started. Maynor had been a solid backup point guard in his previous stops with the Oklahoma City and Portland. Nothing great, but he was thought of as a competent backup point guard in this league.
Well, that theory has been been proven untrue through 25 games this season.
Maynor is averaging 2.6 points per game and 1.9 assists while playing 10 minutes a game. He is shooting an abysmal 30.9 percent from the field and brings nothing to this Wizards team. He cannot stay in front of opposing guards. He can’t beat opposing guards and find shooters, which is a huge part of the Wizards offense. He is good at missing floaters. So good that his floater game has become a running joke on Twitter.
In his defense, he blew out his knee while playing for the Thunder two years ago and has just never seemed to fully recover. Wizards fans, including myself, thought Maynor could provide depth behind Wall coming into this season, but were all wrong and it is a shame. He has seen not seen action in five games this season because Wittman has turned to another Wizard to man the second unit.
Enter: Garrett Temple
Temple has been just as bad as Maynor. He is averaging 1.6 points per game and one assist while playing a little more than 10 minutes a game. He has continued to shoot the basketball just as prolifically bad as Maynor. Temple is knocking down only 31.4 percent of his shots. He has worse point guard instincts than Maynor and fails to get the team into any offensive flow while he is on the floor.
The Wizards backup point guard situation is an absolute mess. It is the worst in the league. The only two teams that put up much competition are the Bulls and the Lakers. However, both teams are dealing with significant injuries that have put them in the Wizards backup point guard class.
Temple and Maynor are the only guards in the entire league who have played in 20 or more games while averaging 10 or minutes that have a defensive rating greater than 107 and an offensive rating of less than 85. For those of you not familiar with basketball analytics, you want a lower defensive rating and a high offensive rating. These two must have not gotten the memo.
I could on all day about how poor these two’s play has been, but I am really trying to stay somewhat happy for the holiday season. The biggest effect of the extremely weak backup point guard play is how the Wizards have one of the worst benches in the league. The Wizards’ bench averages 21.8 points in the league. The highest in the NBA? The San Antonio Spurs bench at 45.7 points per game. It is something that often separates the good teams from the contenders.
The thing that worries me so much about the Wizards literally get nothing from their backup point guards is the stress it will put on Wall. We all know Wall is injury prone. He missed significant time in two of his first three full seasons. Wittman will be forced to play Wall big minutes because of Temple and Maynor as well as the Wizards organization “win-now” mentality. There is a lot of pressure on Wittman to get this team into the playoffs. If he does not, he will most likely be jobless.
So, he is going to play Wall and he is going to play him a lot. Wall plays 37.6 minutes a game currently. That is the most of any point guard in the league. His minutes will probably continue to increase as the sample size continues to grow about just how incompetent Maynor and Temple are as backup point guards.
I am worried about Wall. The team already relies on him so much and need him to be at or near his best every single night for the team to have success. The Wizards go as Wall goes. That is no secret, but I just have a bad feeling with him having no depth behind. Hopefully, I never have to refer back to this column to say “I told you so,” but don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
The backup point guard spot will certainly be a priority for the Wizards this offseason. It is hard to imagine them making a move this season for someone, so it will be a point emphasis heading into next year.
The Wizards have one of the most promising backcourts in the league, but without someone capable of running a second unit this franchise will continue to be a mediocre team in this league. Garrett Temple and Eric Maynor aren’t taking you to the next level.