Wizards experiencing depth issues as injuries pile up

Wizards experiencing depth issues as injuries pile up originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Wizards’ loss to the Miami Heat on Friday night was one of those games where if just one more player found a rhythm offensively, Washington likely would have pulled out the win.

They had Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma each score 28 points, plus Kristaps Porzingis add 18, albeit on not his best shooting night (7-for-18). But no one else on the roster reached double-figures, as their offense stalled to score 48 points in the second half after a hot start in which they scored 38 points in the first quarter alone.

In the starting lineup, Corey Kispert shot 2-for-9, including 1-for-7 from three, while Deni Avdija was 2-for-8 and 0-for-4 from long range. The bench amassed only 20 points collectively with Will Barton going 1-for-8, including 1-for-5 from deep.

Give the Heat credit for making the proper adjustments to neutralize the Wizards’ offense after their first-quarter barrage. But the top-heavy box score for the Wizards illustrated well their lack of depth at the moment.

Injuries are a big reason for that. With Monte Morris (ankle) and Delon Wright (hamstring) missing for Friday’s game, the Wizards were without each of their top-two point guards. Beal had to start at the point, which he can do but the Wizards prefer him at the two.

Rui Hachimura (ankle) was also not available, leaving the Wizards without their top bench scorer. And 10th overall pick Johnny Davis (groin) was down as well, as he deals with another obstacle as a rookie.

All those injuries left head coach Wes Unseld Jr. with few options he could trust for Friday’s game. Only nine Wizards players saw the floor in Miami and only six of them played more than 17 minutes. Daniel Gafford played only eight minutes, while Anthony Gill played 13 and Barton played 16.

Unseld Jr. additionally handed out four DNP-CDs (did not play, coach’s decision); Taj Gibson, Isaiah Todd, Vernon Carey Jr. and Devon Dotson. Gibson is the one guy most likely to get the nod as the other three would usually be playing in the G-League if the Wizards weren’t so banged up. Their even being available is in itself a sign of the times.

While Jordan Goodwin made some plays and Gafford had some loud dunks, overall the Wizards’ bench was not a strength in their loss to the Heat. You could argue that has been a trend so far this season.

While injuries offer key context, those who have been healthy and available have not collectively reached their potential. Barton has really struggled compared to his career norms, this year averaging just 8.2 points on 37.9% shooting from the field and 34.8% from three. He has a +/- for the season at -4.9, regularly representing a weak link in that category.

Barton is part of the only three-man Wizards trio among the 14 who have logged the most minutes with a negative point differential per 100 possessions. Barton, Hachimura and Gafford are a -8.5 and they have been the core of the Wizards’ bench this season.

The overall numbers aren’t great, either. The Wizards’ second unit is 20th in net rating (-1.2) and 26th in +/- (-3.3). The main problem is their offensive efficiency, as they are 25th in offensive rating (108.6) compared to ninth in defensive rating (109.8).

Reports out of Miami suggest Morris, Hachimura and Davis were close to playing on Friday night before the Wizards’ training staff thought otherwise. Taking that as an indication they are close, perhaps the Wizards will be welcoming all three of them back in the coming days. Morris and Hachimura could be significant factors, as Morris helps stabilize their depleted point guard rotation and Hachimura is generally good for 10-plus points per game off the bench.

Wright is still weeks away due to a hamstring strain and his loss has been a tough one for the Wizards. He is their best guard defender and brings a lot of value due to his versatility to play both positions in the backcourt.

The Wizards, though, have managed alright without him, especially ever since they found out they had something in Goodwin. It’s not one player whose absence has diminished their depth. It’s just a matter of injuries piling up and those remaining struggling to find their shooting stroke.

On Friday night, it was just a little too much to overcome.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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