The Washington Wizards lost 106-95 to the Chicago Bulls without John Wall (rest) and Bradley Beal (hamstring tightness) on Saturday. The defeat itself wasn't surprising because of the absence of their two best players, but it dropped the Wizards to 2-7 on the season and again exposed their lack of depth. Frustrated, center Marcin Gortat ripped the team's bench and overall effort afterward, via Candace Buckner of the Washington Post:
"It's a tough loss. We can't get used to it. We can't get comfortable with that," Gortat said. "We've got to do something about that right now. It's not fun anymore. It's not fun. I mean, it's bad."
"What can we do? Well, we've got to play better. We've got to compete," Gortat said. "We need energy. We need effort. We've got to make shots. I think there's a lot of things we can do better. I think right now, as far as I know, I think we've got one of the worst benches in the league right now."
Gortat is correct. Washington's reserves have been awful. Outside of some highlights from rookie Tomas Satoransky, there has been nothing to look forward to when the starters go to the bench.
When guards Trey Burke and Marcus Thornton have shared the back court,the Wizards have been outscored by 28.1 points per 100 possessions. When Burke and big man Jason Smith have been on the court together, they've been outscored by 17.9 points per 100 possessions. Andrew Nicholson came to Washington on a four-year, $26 million contract in the summer to be a stretch 4, but he hasn't even been able to hold down a spot in coach Scott Brooks' rotation -- Nicholson didn't play against Chicago or against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
This is a serious problem, especially because the Wizards' starters haven't been good enough to make up for it. Brooks must be desperate for center Ian Mahinmi to recover from knee surgery and get on the court, as he is their only defense-first backup. Washington has struggled on both ends, though, and Brooks might have to get creative in order to find lineups that work together.
It's too early to write the Wizards off, but it's not too early to be concerned. Late last November, Gortat made similar comments about a lack of fun, and while they improved in the second half of the season, it was not enough to make the playoffs. The front office failed to make a big splash in free agency this past summer, instead betting on Brooks and minor moves leading to more cohesion. There's no evidence of this happening yet.
The good news: Washington's schedule is about to get much easier. Its next five games are against the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic. The bad news: If the Wizards keep playing like this against that competition, it's panic time.