When you look at the Washington Wizards roster, you see plenty of offensive firepower. John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Marcin Gortat all can score, as each has averaged double digit scoring per game this season. Despite this scoring prowess, the Wizards are 4-9 on the season and the reason is simple – they can’t play defense – at least not consistently. If they want to compete for a playoff spot in an Eastern Conference that should be easy enough for them to finish in the top eight, they are going to have to start stopping opponents from scoring with such ease, because offense alone won’t get it done.
Case in point, the Wizards are 2-5 in games where they have lead by as many as 10 points. Additionally, in seven of their 13 games, they have allowed opponents to score more than 100 per game and they are 2-5 in those games. The Wizards have been struggling on defense all season for many different reasons, all of which seemed to be on display in a 114-111 loss to the Miami Heat. Not coincidentally, the Heat scored 19 points above their season average in that game.
The team defense has been so bad that even when Beal went off for a career-high 42 points against Phoenix, the Wizards only won 106-10. When Wall put up 23 points and 11 assists, the Wizards luckily ran into a Knicks team with a seemingly worse defense than their own, as they escaped with a 119-112 victory.
To fully understand how the team has become so bad defensively, you have to go back a few years. In former Head Coach Randy Wittman’s first season, the Wizards were 29-53, but they could defend, thanks in part to players like Nene, Trevor Ariza and a backup guard most people have probably never heard of in Garrett Temple. But that was 2013 and none of those players are still on the roster. Strong defense and a patient half-court offense were scrapped last year in favor of an up-tempo style. It was thought that new head coach Scott Brooks could find the happy medium when he arrived in Washington, but so far, that hasn’t happened.
The numbers don’t lie. The Wizards average 102.6 points per game and give up 106, which and paints a very clear picture. Washington cannot achieve success this season if their plan for each game is to see which team can get to 120 points first. If they want to turn their season around and make the playoffs, they must take Brooks’ desire for them to play defense and turn it into a reality. If not, the confusion players expressed after watching Miami hit open threes like they were uncontested free throws, will become the norm.