home 2015-16, Blogs, Game Coverage 3’s, D, and the Demise of DC

3’s, D, and the Demise of DC

Defense wins Championships. Defense builds Dynasties.

  • The 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors ranked 1st in the NBA in defensive rating.
  • En route to five championships, the San Antonio Spurs ranked 1st, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, and 4th.
  • The LeBron Ring-winning Heat ranked 4th, and 7th.
  • The KG anchored Boston Celtics ranked 1st.
  • The 22-0 Golden State Warriors currently rank 5th.
  • The 18-4 San Antonio Spurs currently rank 1st, with a 92.0 defensive rating that would rank among the best of All-Time over a full season.
  • The 2015-2016 Washington Wizards currently rank 24th out of 30 NBA teams.

After finishing 5th in the NBA in defensive rating last season, the Wizards have dropped to the bottom of the league. At 24th in the NBA, this current Wizards team risks ranking as the worst defense of the John Wall era. And if the Wizards porous defense continues, this team risks missing the Playoffs in an improved Eastern Conference for the first time in three years. So what’s going? Where are the massive holes causing the Wizards to hemorrhage points and losses? And just how critical is their current condition?

Simply put, the Wizards are sitting in the ICU, waiting for an urgently needed heart transplant. While great offense is largely skill, great defense is largely effort, intensity, discipline and heart, and the Wizards simply aren’t pumping. And in a league driven by spacing and three point shooting, the Wizards greatest wound is behind the arc, creating a debilitating and depressing illness without a current cure.

(CAUTION: The remainder of this column contains graphic and explicit visuals that may not be suitable for all audiences. Proceed at your own risk)


What if I told you that instead of shooting 33.3% from three point range, John Wall was going to start shooting 39% from three, immediately? What if I told you Bradley Beal would transform from a 41% three point shooter to a 46% three point shooter? You’d be ecstatic right? a 5-6% increase in any shooting percentage, much less three point shooting percentage, would be a dramatic and game changing shift in performance.

Well, per NBA.com tracking stats, the Washington Wizards currently have a +5.6% opponent three point shooting differential. In other words, Wizards opponents are shooting 5.6% ABOVE their season average when compared to their normal performance throughout the season. This 5.6% differential is BY FAR the worst in the NBA. The difference between the Wizards and the New Orleans Pelicans, who sit at second worst, is greater than the difference between the Pelicans at second worst, and the Nets at tenth worst. Teams are consistently shooting dramatically better versus the Wizards, night after night after night, than they shoot on a regular basis. They rank seventh worst in the NBA in three point attempts allowed, and second worst in the NBA in three point makes allowed.

This was not the case last season, when the Wizards had only a 0.4% three point differential. Part of this is a new small ball scheme, that encourages opponents to play smaller, and results in more three point shooting all around. But a large part of it is a decline in defensive performance and intensity. Missed rotations. Poor discipline. Poor decision making regarding who you close out on, and who you leave open, and where you leave them open. And part of it is poor effort, leading to failure to close out or rotate at all.

Take a look at this Exclusive Hoop District Shot Chart, reflecting Opponent Shooting Vs. the Washington Wizards this season:


In summary: 🔥


Although every three pointer is worth exactly three points, not all three pointers are created equal. Corner threes are more valuable per shot, due to their shorter distance. Thus, preventing corner threes becomes a critical aspect of NBA basketball. And the Wizards are failing critically in this aspect. Although they are holding opponents to about a league average three point percentage from the corners, they are among the worst in the league at denying these shots. They sit at 5th in the NBA in left corner 3’s allowed, and tied for 4th in the league in right corner threes allowed. If you’re not accustomed to considering all these three point shooting stats, and prefer a more old-school ball approach, think of it like this: If a team played “average defense” against dunks and lay-ups, but gave up a ton of dunk and lay-up opportunities, this would be a huge problem right? Well the corner three is the modern day layup equivalent.

Exhibit: A, B, and C? Wes Matthews first three makes this past Sunday:

Every team in the NBA would salivate at those open corner threes, even for an average 3-point shooter, much less a professional 3-point archer like Wes Mathews. And his next seven (yes, SEVEN) makes from above the break? Yea, those are problem too.

The Wizards guard corner threes with mediocrity, but allow them excessively. They allow above-the-break 3’s with mediocrity, but guard them horrendously. Opponents are hitting 40.8% of their 3’s from above-the-break (basically all threes other than “corner” threes) against the Wizards. Only the Pelicans, at 41.3% are worse. Watch the Robin Hood Highlights above, and you can see why. Those are WIDE OPEN looks. Those are the types of looks that create a +5.6% differential and a 24th ranked defense. Those are the types of looks that create losses. And those types of looks are far to easy to come by night after night against DC.


Wide open 3-point attempts were not just an anomalous event versus the Dallas Mavericks. This story has been developing all season. The Wizards are giving up far too many look with defenders four feet or more away, and teams are knocking down those looks against the Wizards at a high percentage. Images like this are the rule, not the exception:

Newsflash: The Wizards are an NBA team, playing against other NBA teams. NBA teams are going to make these shots.


So WTF is going wrong? Everything. We can’t put all the blame on coaching, particularly when defense is such a product of nightly effort, intensity, and discipline. Watch the Wizards, and all too often we see players jogging on close outs, or closing out cautiously, worried about a lack of help behind them. We see Wizard defenders sticking close to the wrong guys, and helping off the wrong guys. It’s impossible to imagine Randy Wittman told his team, “don’t worry about Wesley Matthews walking into a 3 in transition,” but that’s exactly what happened, and he’s not the first. Remember Paul George and CJ Miles flame-throwing show earlier this season? Yes, a lot of those shots were simply unguardable, but the open shots that allowed them to find that unstoppable rhythm were unacceptable.

On the flip side, the coaching staff is responsible for preparing the team on a nightly basis, and adjusting their struggling scheme as needed. The staff needs to be identifying opponents best shooters, and their hottest and coldest areas, and stressing these strengths and weakness to their players, while the players internalize this information. And the staff needs to be ready to make in-game adjustments, be it personnel or schematic, to prevent this defense from getting violated over and over and over again. If the Wizards are going to lose, they need to MAKE teams beat them, not let teams beat them.

Time is of the essence. The Wizards have to plug these glaring defensive holes soon, before they get left home for the post-season prom. They currently sit at 9-10, 11th in the Eastern Conference, the ugly, late blooming boy struggling to find a date. There’s only one solution to turn things around, to give this season a sorely needed makeover; A makeover that ensures a climatic ending that leaves the players, the coaches, the organization, and the fans satisfied and lusting for more.

It’s time to give em the D.

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