Ranking the Utah Jazz bench among next season’s best

Utah Jazz (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Rui Hachimura (Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports) /

4. Washington Wizards

Remember that Russell Westbrook trade that depleted the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench?

Since moving on from the mercurial point guard, the Wizards roster at least 9 players who could theoretically contend for starting positions on teams across the National Basketball Association. Furthermore, this sudden influx of depth comes on the heels of a 2020-21 season wherein the Wizards already ranked fifth in bench points per game, with 39.3 per contest. Given the facts, why doesn’t this Wizards club rank higher on this list?

Two factors explain their fourth-place finish: box plus/minus and general uncertainty. To get the more empirical observation out of the way, the Wizards may have thrived in terms of bench points last season, but they still finished a humble 16th in bench box plus/minus at -0.1. In other words, this team may have generated a lot of points off the bench, but they gave up too many to be considered an elite second unit.

The incoming talent should help. The operative word is “should”. Parsing out this team’s depth chart heading into the 2021-22 NBA season would require clairvoyance. Montrezl Harrell is likely to reprise his sixth man role: after all, he’s a mere season removed from Sixth Man of the Year honors, and fills the role well as a combo big who can man either the 4 or the 5 position for stretches. The backcourt also looks set, with Bradley Beal returning as the Capital’s best player and Spencer Dinwiddie set to return from injury in a new home as the starting point guard.

The forward rotation, on the other hand, is about as clear as morse code to an average citizen any time past the 1930s: not very.

Between Rui Hachimura, Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija, the Wizards have three young(ish) wing/forwards who will all require considerable time at both the 3 and 4 positions. Meanwhile, Davis Bertans figures to maintain his starting power forward position, for his career 40.4 three point accuracy if not his $16 million per year contract. That’s a lot of mouths to feed over the course of 48 minutes per night.

Meanwhile, the big man rotation has similar, albeit lesser, logjam potential. While Harrell projects as this team’s sixth man, he’ll still need close to 30 minutes a game, at least 10 (and likely more) of which are likely to come at center. Meanwhile, Thomas Bryant is set to return from injury, but may not be assured a starting job given Daniel Gafford’s high level of play after joining the Wizards after the trade deadline.

Can a team be too deep? That’s a question the Wizards may be set to answer throughout the 2021-22 season, and until they do, they don’t earn a placement ahead of the Utah Jazz or a couple of other squads in these rankings.