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Wizards Revamp Bench to Keep Pace in the East

The Wizards have made moves to shore up their bench – will they pay off?

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Every contending team in the NBA needs to have a talented roster in order to chase championship dreams. Having an All-Star or two, or three, or four like the Golden State Warriors certainly helps. But one thing that all contenders need that often gets overlooked is a solid bench. Sure the Warriors have a lot of star power, but do they still win their most recent titles without the contributions of key bench players such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston?

One team that is looking to take a step forward in terms of elevating themselves to contender status is the Washington Wizards. For the past few years, the Wizards have had a pretty solid starting lineup. John Wall is arguably a top-five point guard in the NBA. Bradley Beal is blossoming into an All-Star caliber player himself. Otto Porter has made several strides since being drafted with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft and was rewarded with a nice new contract this summer.

But one of the areas that has plagued the Wizards in recent years is inconsistent bench play. This summer, the Wizards looked to remedy that problem by making a few under-the-radar moves that may ultimately pay off big time as they look to take that next leap in the Eastern Conference. The free agent additions of Jodie Meeks and Mike Scott, as well as the trade with the New Orleans Pelicans for Tim Frazier, gives the Wizards a very underrated and potentially solid bench.

Meeks, once one of the premier sharpshooters in the NBA, has suffered through several different injuries the past few season with the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic. Since the 2014-2015 season, he’s only played in 99 games total. Despite that, he’s still managed to keep his shooting touch intact. He shot 39.7 percent from the three-point line in over two years in Detroit, and last season despite suiting up in only 36 games for the Magic, he shot 40.9 percent from downtown.

In preseason so far, Meeks has looked healthy and has given the Wizards a much needed outside threat in the second unit. He’s averaged 10.4 points over five preseason games through Friday night on 41 percent shooting from three-point range. The last time he was fully healthy was back during the 2013-2014 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, when he ended up having the best season of his career. He played in 77 games and put up 15.7 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting from the field and 40.1 percent from downtown. If he can give the Wizards similar production to what he’s shown in the preseason so far, it’ll go a long way to shoring up their bench.

Scott had carved out a nice niche for himself in Atlanta the past five years as a dependable stretch big man off the bench before a knee injury limited him last season. The Hawks traded his expiring contract at the trade deadline to the Phoenix Suns who immediately cut him. He was a major part of the eighth-seeded Hawks who pushed the top-seeded Indiana Pacers to seven games in the 2014 playoffs. The following year, he was a key contributor to a Hawks team that won 60 games and was the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Like Meeks, Scott has looked fresh this preseason and recovered from the injury that caused him to miss most of last season. He’s put up nine points per game and while he hasn’t shot particularly well, he’s looked capable of being that stretch big man off the bench. His preseason production has been similar to the level of production he put up in Atlanta. A return to that form would be a very welcome addition for the Wizards.

Frazier has flown far under the radar the past few years. He’s been perhaps one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets. Since coming into the league during the 2014-2015 season and playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, and New Orleans Pelicans, Frazier has displayed a very good playmaking game. He has a career average of 4.4 assists per game, and he did average 7.5 assists during a 16-game stretch with the Pelicans two years ago. Last season, he put up 7.1 points per game and dished out 5.2 assists in 23.5 minutes.

He hasn’t been able to play much during this preseason due to a groin strain, but he got his first action with his new team on Wednesday night against the Miami Heat, when he scored four points and dished out nine assists. He also played Friday night against the New York Knicks and finished with eight points, four rebounds, and four assists. The Wizards have long struggled to find a capable backup to Wall. Neither Brandon Jennings nor Trey Burke was able to get the job done last season. While not quite a household name, the Wizards may just have found their answer in Frazier.

Only time will tell if the Wizards’ new additions will help elevate them to a new plateau. If past history is any indication, however, these three new players will give the team something they’ve lacked for quite some time: a capable bench to give the starters a breather. All three additions are very low-key but could end up paying huge dividends. If the Wizards hope to keep up with the top of the East, they’ll need it.

David Yapkowitz has been a staff writer for Basketball Insiders since 2017. Based in Los Angeles, he focuses on the Pacific Division as well as the NBA at large.

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