Stat: The Washington Wizards’ best five man unit is a lineup consisting of John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Chris Singleton, Trevor Booker, and the recently acquired Nene. The quintet’s one year adjusted plus/minus of +16.56 is the only number for any Washington grouping that’s played at least 50 minutes greater than +.58.
Take: The Wizards have played 18 games since acquiring Nene at the trade deadline for the mercurial Javale McGee, and their dismal 5-13 record since then hardly indicates significant improvement. Of course, that’s looking at things through too broad a lens. Nene’s been inactive due to nagging injuries for all but 12 of those contests, and when he’s played Washington has been far more competitive than at any other time this season.
With Nene in the lineup the Wizards went just 2-4, but have posted a scoring margin of +4.83 per game. They opened the Nene era with a 19 point beatdown of New Jersey on March 21st and closed it by easily dispatching Philadelphia by 21 before he was shut down for the season. In between those outlying wins – despite the fact that all four games were losses – was a sign of good things to come for the Wizards. They lost games to the Pacers by two and four points, one to Atlanta by three points, and the other to Detroit by just two.
Obviously, all this needs to be taken with a grain of salt considering the miniscule sample size and vastly underwhelming quality of Washington’s opponents with Nene in the lineup. Still, for a season in which there’s been little optimism – John Wall’s lack of a big leap most concerning – this is reason for Wizards fans to smile.
And it looks even better considering Washington’s best lineup all year long has been the aforementioned quintet that consists of three sophomores (Wall, Crawford, and Booker), a rookie first rounder (Singleton), and the franchise’s trade deadline coup (Nene). While Wizards brass would no doubt prefer the inclusion of high lottery pick Jan Vesely in lieu of either Singleton or Booker in this group, that these guys will have at least two more seasons (all three sophs are team options for ’13-’14) to grow more comfortable with each other is something for this woebegone organization to build and count on in the future.
So while the Wizards aren’t reaping the benefits of the Nene/McGee swap right now, both statistics and the eye-test indicate they will in coming years (provided Nene’s health, of course). And when they do, don’t be surprised if Wall-Crawford-Singleton-Booker-Nene is the team’s most effective lineup.