- The Washington Times - Friday, November 18, 2016

Another night, another rotation adjustment. Rookie Sheldon McClellan and Trey Burke were out of the rotation on Thursday night in the second night of back-to-back games. Burke is not a surprise. That McClellan was out — fully out in a game the Wizards once led by 27 points — was.

McClellan started twice in place of the injured Bradley Beal, and played well enough both times to merit more minutes. His starting debut in Chicago was excellent: 15 points on a night he capably guarded Dwyane Wade. In his second start, he was less effective offensively (2-for-7 in 20 minutes) and part of the crew that was blown out in the first quarter-and-a-half by the league’s worst team, which was playing without its best player. Perhaps that influenced Brooks’ decision.

The only thing defined about the bench, at this point, is Tomas Satoransky. He’s emerged as the Wizards’ clear sixth man. Center Ian Mahinmi is in the fifth week of his 4-6 week timeline since knee surgery Oct. 15. He needs to return to practice, then find some rhythm on the floor.

Mahinmi’s process could be long. He missed much of the preseason and will have to adapt to new teammates and a new system. If Brooks continues to pick and pull with the bench rotation, that will be all the more difficult. Mahinmi has been taking “mental reps” by using the team’s virtual reality programs. That surely is not the same as being prepared for a point guard turning a corner on a high screen and coming downhill.

When Mahinmi returns, Brooks will finally have two settled bench pieces. That leaves him two more to find in his preferred nine-man rotation. McClellan would help push a defensive identity with the second group — that is at the core of what Mahinmi does, and, at 6-foot-7, Satoransky can guard multiple positions. Kelly Oubre Jr. has been touted as a potential top-tier defender since he was drafted in 2015. To this point, that has just been talk.

Veteran Marcus Thornton is the only bench player to consistently be on the floor since the season began. He’s shooting just 36.6 percent from the field, a number bumped by Thursday night’s 5-for-7 performance. He’s also a poor defender.

Otherwise, the fluctuations for the bench have been vast. Here’s a look at playing time:

Oubre: 22, 15, 7, 0, 17, 14, 3, 21, 9, 4, 23.

Burke: 18, 16, 6, 7, 16, 6, 17, 22, 17, 5, 0.

McClellan: 4, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 3, 12, 35, 20, 0.

Andrew Nicholson: 19, 25, 9, 7, 10, 0, 5, 0, 0, 13, 6.

Jason Smith: 9, 5, 0, 14, 11, 11, 14, 15, 17, 3, 11.

One lineup Brooks should never use again is Burke, Thornton, Oubre, Morris and Smith. That group has been outscored by 90.5 points per 100 possessions while on the court. Swap Nicholson for Smith and the results are almost equally dire: That ensemble has been outscored by 67.3 points per 100 possessions.

Unsettled doesn’t begin to explain the Wizards’ bench rotation. Once Mahinmi is back, Brooks will finally be at seven defined players, assuming John Wall and Beal remain healthy. That leaves him two choices to make: one for another player to have consistent minutes, and a final matchup option depending on opponent, health and game flow. However, after 11 games, he remains far from that state.

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