Grading Randy Wittman's Season for the Washington Wizards so Far

Jonathan Munshaw@@jon_munshawCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2014

Randy Wittman looks well on his way to taking the Washington Wizards to the playoffs this season, but has he performed well enough to get himself a new contract at the end of this season?
Randy Wittman looks well on his way to taking the Washington Wizards to the playoffs this season, but has he performed well enough to get himself a new contract at the end of this season?Mark Duncan/Associated Press

The Washington Wizards are one of the rising teams in the NBA behind John Wall and Bradley Beal. But next season, is Randy Wittman going to continue to rise with them? 

His contract is expiring at the end of this season, but the Wizards are on pace to make the playoffs and have the making of a team who could win a first-round series. Is that enough to convince team president Ernie Grunfeld that Wittman should be around for another couple of years?

This season, Wittman has been a solid coach, working with a good mix of young talent and veteran players in the locker room. 

But with the way that Wall is playing, Wittman could easily just be along for the ride. 

If Wittman is going to be the coach of the future in Washington, then it will be important to look back on how he has done this year in one of the Wizards' best seasons as a franchise in the last eight or so years. 



Wittman has been inconsistent at times with his rotations this season, switching between an eight-man rotation earlier in the season to now playing every guy on the roster. 

To better break this down, we'll split it up into the pairings of the different players and then look at the minutes distribution. 

For a few games, Wittman experimented with an eight-man rotation to get Washington some much-needed wins, but has since switched to playing almost every player every night.
For a few games, Wittman experimented with an eight-man rotation to get Washington some much-needed wins, but has since switched to playing almost every player every night.John Bazemore/Associated Press

For strictly the rotations, Wittman is doing much better now than he was two months ago. There was a span of games back in January when Wittman was only playing eight men, which in an 82-game season obviously raises some red flags over fears of injuries and fatigue. 

Wittman went with Wall, Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene and Marcin Gortat as the starters. Then, he only went three-deep into the bench with Trevor Booker, Garrett Temple and Martell Webster. For the playoffs, that is a solid rotation.

But at the time, it was a dangerous thing to start at only the halfway point of the season. 

Bullets Forever's Mike Prada wrote after one of the eight-man rotation games,

I worry that shortening the rotation now is akin to your boss taking on all parts of a task that he really should be passing off to you. Doing that might ensure that the specific task is completed effectively, but it doesn't help you do future tasks any better, potentially breeds mistrust between you and them and will only drive the boss crazy if he continues to do the work of two people.

It wasn't a phase that stuck around, and recently Wittman has been mixing up his pairings, especially after the trade-deadline acquisition of Andre Miller at point guard. 

This gives the Wizards the starting five (with Nene hurt) of Wall, Beal, Ariza, Booker and Gortat. Without Nene, Wittman has been experimenting with a smaller lineup and playing Wall, Beal, Ariza and Webster around the perimeter and Gortat down low. 

That's an exciting lineup to watch, and it plays to Washington's strength this season of three-point shooting. 

By adding Miller, Wittman can also use the rotation of what he called the "AARP group" of Miller, Al Harrington at power forward and newcomer Drew Gooden at center. 

“The good thing is that we’re in a winning situation and whatever it is for me to help this team reach their goal, I’m going to do it. Whatever my role is, I’ll accept it and use that to my full potential,” Gooden said in the press conference after the game. 

Wittman's rotations are looking good right now, even without Nene, and the Wizards have to feel good about shortening the rotation in the playoffs. 

Grade: B+


Distribution of Minutes

The other part of the rotation discussion is the actual distribution of minutes. In this aspect, Wittman is struggling. 

Under him, first-round draft picks like Kevin Seraphin, Booker and Jan Vesely all took steps back, and he is having a tough time finding real minutes for Otto Porter Jr. this season. 

Up until Nene's injury, Seraphin was hardly playing. In November, he was only playing 8.8 minutes per game. In the month of February, Porter, the third overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, only appeared in two games and played in just a total of seven minutes, both according to ESPN. 

Washington Wizards Bench Players Distribution of Minutes
Martell WebsterSF/SG27.8
Trevor BookerPF20.5
Al HarringtonPF14.8
Jan Vesely (Traded to Denver)PF14.2
Andre MillerPG13.7
Kevin SeraphinPF/C12.2
Chris SingletonSF/PF11.9
Drew GoodenPF/C11
Garrett TempleSG10.8
Glen Rice Jr. (Sent to Iowa Energy in D-League)SF9.9
Eric Maynor (Traded to Philadelphia)PG9.3
Otto Porter Jr.SF9.3

The same went for Vesely last season. Even when the Wizards weren't playing well, Vesely didn't find much time on the floor and was just traded by the Wizards. 

Currently, the focus needs to be on getting Porter more minutes. After missing most of the offseason with an injury, Porter really hasn't gotten his NBA legs under him. 

Wittman and Grunfeld decided to send Porter's fellow draft pick Glen Rice Jr. to the NBA Development League, but Porter continues to just toil away on the bench and pick up three or four minutes per game. Just listen to how excited the fans in the Verizon Center got when he completed the simple task of making his first NBA three-pointer. 

Seraphin has shown that when he gets playing time, he can perform. The same goes for Booker this year, who has really had a standout season. Wittman gets some credit for finding room in the roster now for those two.

But seeing the lack of performance of these recent draft picks under Wittman, as well as the well-documented struggles of Porter this season, has to downgrade Wittman. 

Grade: C-


Game management

It's hard to really classify Wittman as a game manager. He is one of the louder and more impassioned coaches in the NBA, but he's not much of a game manager. 

Wall is the leader of this team, and he is the one the players are looking up to for guidance. 

The good thing with Wittman is that it's tough to find one game when he blew the game from either a poor timeout or for sitting Nene at the end of the game when the Wizards needed a stop.

Wittman can do the basics of game management, and he has been able to draw up plays at the end of games for Wall. 

But Wittman isn't going to win the Wizards any games by his coaching. 

At the end of games, John Wall will take over as the leader of the team, and Wittman has a tendency to fall back.
At the end of games, John Wall will take over as the leader of the team, and Wittman has a tendency to fall back.Evan Vucci/Associated Press

He has good control of the locker room, and the players have stood up for him so far this season. 

Prior to the All-Star break, when the Wizards were on a slide, the players took the blame for themselves and directed it away from Wittman. 

After dropping a key game to the Cleveland Cavaliers that dropped the Wizards below .500, Gortat stood up for Wittman. 

"I speak for myself, but I don't think coach has to do anything different with me. I motivate myself for the game. I don't need anybody to motivate me," Gortat said in the press conference after the game. "I take everything seriously. Obviously, not every time I'm playing the best basketball but to me each one of us has to find a way to get ready for the game and focus and try to play the game like it's the last time you're playing in your life. Sometimes, we don't do that."

To sum things up in this category, Wittman isn't going to lose the Wizards games any time soon with his game management, but it seems he takes a back seat to Wall at the end of games, so it's a wash. 

Grade: C+


Overall performance

There have been a lot of strong first-year coaches in the NBA this season, making the idea of trying to find the next Jeff Hornacek pretty exciting. 

But going forward, Wittman should be Washington's guy. Grunfeld really needs to think about potential candidates who could take over for Wittman. 

Unless he is somehow going to go out and convince Phil Jackson to come out of retirement, Wittman is jelling well with this group of players. 

Wall and Beal seem to respect him, and Wittman has done a good job getting the best out of his players. 

Even with Nene out, who could be considered Washington's second most valuable player, Wittman is getting the older guys to step up and take some of his minutes to get the Wizards much-needed wins at this point in the season. 

Wittman very well may just be along for the ride, but he is doing a great job of steering the Wizards' car in the right direction. 

Grade: B


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