The Washington Wizards do not look to be a very good basketball team.
Only two games have been played thus far in an 82-game season, so it is important to keep perspective. After all, this is the same city which went into full-fledged panic mode when the Washington Redskins began their season almost two months ago in an 0-2 hole and managed to reel off four consecutive victories.
That disclaimer aside, again, the Wizards have not looked good. Their defense has been full of miscommunications, breakdowns, and sloppy play. They are giving up 113 points per game, good for 28th in the league. They are currently a league-worst in three point percentage allowed. It was a three-point shot from a Marc Gasol – a center – that sent their last game into overtime resulting in their second defeat. If a team is giving up three pointers to a center, they are looking at some serious deficiencies.
The defense being bad isn’t that big of a surprise. John Wall uses his speed to rack up steals, but he is an opportunistic defender; not a lockdown guard. Bradley Beal has been porous defensively since he entered the league, and while Gortat and the other bigs give good effort, it is nearly impossible to be a productive interior player when your guards can’t stop penetration. It is a recipe for confusion, unnecessary fouls, and a lack of cohesion as a defensive unit. Even still, the defense being a weak point wasn’t as big of a shock because it was never supposed to be the Wizards’ bread and butter. Scott Brooks certainly wasn’t going to change that.
The offense, on the other hand, is a different story.
Thus far, John Wall is the only one with any semblance of an All-Star caliber player. Bradley Beal, fresh off of his max-contract extension, is an anemic 38% from the field, 20% from three point range, averaging 13.5 points per game, 2.5 assists, and 1.5 rebounds along with 2 turnovers and 3 fouls per 32 minutes of play.
That is unacceptable.
Again, it is important to point out that we are only two games in. It is also important to point out that it should be an expectation of the fans, ownership, coaches, and fellow players to see Beal come out of the gates with a strong start. He should be using every minute of game time as an opportunity to silence the critics who laughed at the ridiculousness of his contract; myself included. So far, he hasn’t shown anything to back it up. That needs to change immediately if the Wizards want to have any chance of relevance. Wall can score 17 points per game and dish out 12 assists, but that will do little to compensate for the major lack of production from the wings.
Speaking of wings, it would be nice of the “Juniors” – Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre – to show up. As Beal can be critiqued for lackadaisical efforts through two, the Juniors should be criticized for a lack of production worthy of their respective draft statuses. Picked 3rd and 15th in the first rounds, neither has shown that they can be counted on as a dependable starter or contributor. Porter has averaged 12 points and 5 boards on 50% shooting. That’s suitable for a late first rounder; not a lottery pick entering his fourth year and playing in an offense in which he is the fourth option behind Wall, Beal, and Gortat. Opportunities to score, rebound, and assists teammates are plentiful. Porter will need to elevate his numbers to the 17-7-5 range to be seen as a salvageable player. Oubre Jr., has given the Wizards 10 points through 37 minutes on 30% shooting in two games. Make of that what you may, but a team simply cannot win with those kinds of numbers coming from their guards and forwards.
If this article seems negative and critical on the Wizards, it’s because it’s supposed to be. While there have only been two games played, it takes a blink of an eye before 22 have been played. Keep in mind that the Wizards’ next seven opponents over the next nine days are as follows: Toronto, Atlanta, at Orlando, Houston, Boston, Cleveland, and at Chicago.
In the NBA, like anything else in life, it’s best to not fall behind too early. The bigger the hole you dig today, the harder it will be to climb out of it tomorrow. The first two games should be a wake-up call for this unit. The plethora of disgruntled tweets and critical articles should serve as a reminder to this team that they do not have the luxury of relying on hall-of-fame players such as Paul Pierce to give them the guidance and motivation to right the ship.
This is John Wall and Bradley Beal’s team. For all the talk about money, contracts, endorsements, and who the alpha male is, it’s time for both of them to get control of this situation before it spirals out of their control.
The direction that this season takes, be it a playoff run or another season of underachieving and mediocrity, it starts with them.