The Dunkyard’s NBA season preview continues, with the Washington Wizards.
Last season by the numbers
- Record: 41-41 (10th East)
- Offensive rating: 102.9 (19th)
- Defensive rating: 103.6 (14th)
- Pace: 100.6 (5th)
- True shooting: 54.4% (14th)
- Turnover rate: 13.1 (15th)
- Offensive rebounding: 20.6% (25th)
- Defensive rebounding: 77.7% (7th)
- Giveashitameter: 16th
- Highest PER*: 19.8 (John Wall)
(*) – minimum 1,000 minutes.
At a glance
(Converts the above rankings into a rating out of 10).
The Wizards strategy last season involved persisting with Randy Wittman and the same core group of players minus Paul Pierce (who sadly can no longer play basketball at an NBA level). As a result, the Wizards went backwards from their previous season’s 46-36 record and missed the playoffs.
So what went wrong?
Wittman aside, it didn’t help Beal was injured yet again, playing in only 55 games – of which he only managed to start 35. However, the biggest difference came on the defensive end, where the Wizards went from ranking 5th the season before, to 14th last season.
Chief among the problems was the perimeter defense, which ranked 27th in three point accuracy allowed and 20th in overall three point makes allowed. While Beal is hardly the second coming of Tony Allen, replacing his lost minutes with traffic cones like Gary Neal, Ramon Sessions and Marcus Thornton was costly. When Beal did play, he was also clearly off the pace.
The Wizards more or less held their own on the inside, posting league-average metrics in two point attempts and percentage allowed and free throw attempts allowed. Gortat deserves particular credit for holding the fort together here – especially given that his main company down low consisted of a yet-again injured Nene, the focus challenged Morris and undersized Dudley.
One area the Wizards excelled in was forcing turnovers, which they were 3rd best in the league at.
The offense was more or less the same as the year before: in other words, below average. While the Wizards were reasonably accurate from the field (11th in three point accuracy, 9th in two point accuracy), they let themselves down by not getting to the line enough (24th on FTA/FGA). And when they did finally get to the line, they were poor, ranking 25th in free throw accuracy (73.0%). The result was a league average true shooting percentage and a stunted offense.
Reasons to be optimistic
Randy Wittman is finally gone.
The acquisition of Burke for a second round draft pick was a steal. Burke will never be an All-star and probably isn’t far off his maximum potential at the age of 23 (PER 14.06 last season). While it makes his credentials as a starter highly questionable, he’ll be one of the best backups in the league next season and cost only $3.4m in salary.
John Wall is pissed off. He’s 26, not in the superstar conversation (deservedly) and his legacy is now on the line more than it ever has been. Will he be a perennial All-star and possibly a superstar? Or will he be yet another talented player who never achieves any major success? To top it all off, he’s officially getting paid less than Beal. If there ever was a time John Wall puts it all together and gives his detractors the middle finger, it’s now.
Reasons not to be
The Wizards’ best player is a borderline All-star who has yet to figure things out. Their perceived second-best player* posted a league average PER last season (a career best), constantly misses games and will be paid $128 million over the next five years. For good measure, those two players don’t think very highly of each other. Beyond that, the lineup hasn’t meaningfully changed over the last two seasons.
If the Wizards are going to make any significant improvements, they’ll need Wall to make a leap, Beal to show up to the games and play a lot more efficiently, Porter to reach another level, Morris to stop being a wing-nut and the entire team to play their hearts out on the defensive end for new coach Scott Brooks. That’s asking for a lot.
The Wizards traded away their first round pick in this year’s draft to Phoenix to acquire Morris. The Suns managed to turn that pick into Marquiss Chriss. This one could get ugly.
The Wizards replaced one coach with
shitty highly questionable tactical ability with another in Scott Brooks. That said, to be fair to Brooks, if I coached OKC over the last few years, I’d also have told everyone to give the ball to Durant and Westbrook and get the fuck out of the way.
(*) NB: Gortat was actually the Wizards’ second best player last season.
Trey Burke, Ian Mahinmi, JJ Hickson.
Randy Wittman, Nene, Ramon Sessions, No. 8 draft pick.
The Dunkyard’s recommended ‘death’ lineup
Despite Wall and Beal’s best efforts to play down any rift between the pair, it sounds a lot like that mate who says he goes to Hooters because he enjoys the food – everyone knows it’s bullshit. Just having both these guys staying healthy should go a long way towards improving the mood in and around D.C this season after the 2015-16 disappointment.
If Scott Brooks can make an impact, if the stars stay healthy, if Oubre and Porter evolve into quality players, if new signings Mahinmi and Burke contribute, if ownership switches back to the beloved ‘Bullets’ nickname, then a return to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals wouldn’t be out of the question. Unfortunately that’s a lot of “If’s”.
Forecast record: 42-40
The Dunkyard sees more of the same for the Wizards this season. At best, they’ll scrape into a 7th or 8th seed and, at worst, have another season like the last one.
Not enough has changed and we’ll believe the Wizards are a serious team when we see it.