Who Are the Toronto Raptors Up Against? Washington Wizards Lineup Analysis

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John Wall and Bradley Beal
WASHINGTON, USA - January 16: Washington Wizards' John Wall (2) and Bradley Beal (3) celebrate against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Verizon Center in Washington, USA on January 16, 2017. The Wizards defeated the Blazers 120-101. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

With their first-round playoff series beginning today at 5:30 p.m. EST, Toronto Raptors fans are anxious, as usual, about their match-up with the Wizards. Let’s try to ease that anxiety with a quick breakdown of the Washington Wizards lineup data from the regular season.

Washington Wizards Lineup Analysis

Washington’s rotation

The Wizards’ rotation is currently projected as follows:

Starters: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat

Bench: Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr., Mike Scott, Ian Mahinmi

Washington also signed Ty Lawson for the post-season, but it would be shocking if he’s effective – he probably shouldn’t even play at all. Lawson had a net rating of -27 in Toronto’s first-round series against the Indiana Pacers two years ago.

Scott is questionable for the series, as he’s been undergoing the NBA’s concussion protocol. If he sits, the Wizards may replace him with Jason Smith, or just shorten their rotation. Smith hasn’t played enough for there to be any significant lineup sample sizes.

Wizards lineups

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. Wall didn’t play in any of the four match-ups between these two teams, so for the most part, we can toss those games out the window. Looking at the bigger picture, the Wizards played 12 different lineups at least 60 minutes during the regular season. Out of those lineups, three included either Tim Frazier or Jodie Meeks. We’ll ignore those because Meeks was suspended for the playoffs for failing drug tests and Frazier fell out of Washington’s rotation to end the season. Here are Washington’s other nine lineups, sorted by net rating:

Washington Wizards lineups, sorted by net rating
A comparison of the Washington Wizards’ lineups in the regular season, sorted by net rating.

The 2015 nightmare lineup

Washington’s best high-minutes lineup in the regular season was the current projected starting lineup, but with Oubre Jr. in Morris’s place. That slots Porter at the power forward spot. It’s reminiscent of the Wizards deadly lineup from their 2015 series against Toronto, when they often played Paul Pierce next to Wall, Beal, Porter, and Gortat. That lineup gives Raptors fans nightmares. This version, with Oubre Jr., had a net rating of 14.8 (points per 100 possessions minus opponents points per 100 possessions) in 204 minutes this season. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Raptors stick to their regular lineups, featuring two big men, or if they slot OG Anunoby or another wing at the four.

The importance of Otto Porter

Only three of the nine main Wizards lineups didn’t include Otto Porter. Porter, who suffered a calf strain Tuesday and is questionable for Game 1,  will be a huge factor in this series. He’ll be tasked with guarding DeMar DeRozan, which he has done well in the past. Two of the Porter-less lineups struggled immensely – the starters with Oubre Jr. in his place had a -2.4 net rating, and that lineup was a -7.4 with Mike Scott in Morris’s place.

The only non-Porter lineup that did was well was, surprisingly, a bench mob that played alongside Beal. Take this with a grain of salt, because they only played 75 minutes all season, but the combination of Satoransky, Beal, Oubre Jr., Scott, and Mahinmi had a net rating of 15.4.

Much like the Raptors’ bench units led by Kyle Lowry, these players thrived on ball movement. They also benefited from the spacing of Scott (40.5 percent from three) at the power forward spot. It’ll be interesting to see if Washington’s coach, Scott Brooks, goes to the bench-heavy lineup in the playoffs, when rotations are often shortened. We know the Raptors will roll out their full five-man bench unit, at least to start the series.

Small, switchable, but susceptible to JV

The top lineup, by far, included Satoransky in Wall’s place and Oubre Jr. in Gortat’s spot, making it one of Washington’s smallest and most switchable groups. While it only played 89 minutes, this lineup had a monstrous net rating of 25.9. Oddly enough, the same lineup was atrocious with Wall in Satoransky’s place – it had a net rating of -3.0 in 87 minutes. The Oubre/Porter/Morris frontcourt is skilled and allows Washington to switch screens with ease, but it will also give Jonas Valanciunas, who struggled against Gortat during the regular season, a chance to assert his presence inside. The question is whether Valanciunas can guard any of those guys on the other end.

Other notes and takeaways

  • The Wizards’ projected starting lineup had a net rating of 6.0 during the regular season. Meanwhile, Toronto’s starters – Lowry, DeRozan, Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, and Valanciunas – had a net rating of 11.2. Going head-to-head, these groups are likely to be pretty much even. Wall was in and out of the lineup during the regular season – and when he played, he didn’t seem to be 100 percent – so most of the lineups featuring him did worse than expected. The real stark difference is that Toronto’s starters played 801 minutes together, despite Anunoby starting only 62 games, while Washington’s starters only played 484 minutes together.
  • The Wizards’ most used lineup – the regular starters with Satoransky in Wall’s place – had a net rating of 8.5 in 526 minutes. With no back-to-backs, and two days of rest between three of the series’ first five games, Wall is likely to play in every game, meaning it’s unlikely that Satoransky plays much with the rest of the starters.
  • None of these lineups included both Wall and Satoransky. With the Raptors’ tendency to play three-guard lineups featuring a combination of Lowry, DeRozan, Fred VanVleet, and Delon Wright, don’t be surprised to see Washington try out Wall-Beal-Satoransky lineups, especially if the Wizards struggle early on.

That’s it for the lineup analysis! All we can do now is watch the games and see how this fascinating series plays out.

 

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