Should the Washington Wizards be in Panic Mode?

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John Wall and Bradley Beal
WASHINGTON, USA - January 16: Washington Wizards' John Wall (2) and Bradley Beal (3) celebrate against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Verizon Center in Washington, USA on January 16, 2017. The Wizards defeated the Blazers 120-101. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

It may be early in the NBA season, but the wheels might already be falling off in Washington, D.C. Despite coming into the season with high hopes and a retooled roster, the Washington Wizards sit at just 2-7 in early November. Only the Bulls and Cavaliers have worse records. But even as John Wall and Bradley Beal call out anonymous players (most likely named Otto Porter) in post-game interviews, there might be some truth and solace in what players and coaches have been saying. All is not lost. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played. Plenty of time to turn things around. 

Should the Washington Wizards be in Panic Mode?

What’s Wrong with the Washington Wizards?  

Looking at the Wizards’ season thus far, there’s one obvious reason for the slow start. The frontcourt is in shambles. It was an issue last year, one that John Wall couldn’t help but talk about to the media (sensing a pattern with Wall?). But Washington thought it had fixed its big man issues after signing Dwight Howard in the offseason.

Only now there’s a bigger issue: Dwight Howard’s butt. Thanks to a long plane ride from China, Howard has been sidelined with a back/glute injury and has yet to see the court in a Wizards uniform. Thus, Washington’s been forced to rely on Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith as their big men. But foul troubles and matchup problems have made Coach Scott Brooks get creative with lineups. The result: lots of small ball with Jeff Green and Markieff Morris tasked to fill the 6’11”, 265 lb hole left by Howard’s absence.

So far, they simply haven’t been able to do so. And it’s most glaringly obvious on the boards. The Wizards have been dominated on the glass, giving up an average of 53 rebounds per game while only grabbing 41. Even worse, opponents are grabbing about 14 offensive boards per game vs Washington. That’s a lot of potential second-chance points. It’s hard to truly identify a rebounding leader on this team seeing as how Morris, Green, Porter and Kelly Oubre are all averaging around 5.5 reb/game. That lands you anywhere between 75-85 on the NBA leaderboard. Until Howard returns, don’t expect that to improve.

But look over at the backcourt and you’ll see all-star guard Bradley Beal doing exactly what he should be. Beal has scored at least 20 points in all but one game this year. He’s shooting his three’s at a higher clip, attempting 10 or more three times this season. And Oubre has shown signs that he’s progressing as you’d hope a young, promising player like him would. See not everything is terrible?

The optimist hopes a Dwight Howard return can have the same kind of domino effect his absence has had, only in a positive direction and not a cataclysmic one. But maybe even this problem is too much for Superman.

New Wizards, Same Problems. 

Although some of the Wizards’ early struggles can be explained away due to injury or just early-season rust, this year’s team looks a lot like last year’s. The roster might have some new pieces, but the problems are largely the same. 

It took less than one (1) month for John Wall to start calling out teammates in the media.

Maybe Marcin Gortat wasn’t the root of last season’s locker-room tensions? And for all of Wall’s finger pointing, maybe there needs to be some self-assessment, too. While Wall has looked great at times throughout the start of the season, he’s also looked like a statue on offense when he doesn’t have the ball. His defense looks lethargic at times (unless a chase down block opportunity arises), full of lazy switches and slow jogs that leave his team defending 4 on 5. And the turnovers, which have long been a problem for Wall, are still alive and well. Wall’s play is explosive and exciting, nobody is denying that. Yet sometimes the Wizards’ best stretches come when their super-max point guard is on the bench.

However, it doesn’t all fall on Wall. Not by any means. The entire offense still looks stagnant in the half-court. This was one of the Wizards’ major issues last year: They look great in transition but often seem stuck when the game slows down. It has also been a familiar problem for Brooks, whose half-court offense has been questioned as far back as his time with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden in Oklahoma City.

Plus, it’s not just offense where they look less than enthused. The defense this season has been, in a word, bad. So bad, in fact, that Kevin Durant requested to be subbed out after a monstrous dunk vs Washington earlier this season.

Through their first 7 games, the Wizards have had the worst defense in the league, allowing opponents to score over 122 points per game, on average. Through October, no one allowed more.  

And let’s not leave Porter out of this? The often-criticized max wing who vowed to be more aggressive and mirror Klay Thompson throughout the 2018-19 season. That all sounded great before the season started.  The problem is, he hasn’t quite done it. Porter’s taking less shot this year than he did last season, and has only taken 10+ shots twice through the first seven games. Ideally, Porter would be great in a Thompson-like role for Washington. We just haven’t seen it…or anything remotely close.

Get Your Popcorn

So is it a case of early season misfortune with sunnier horizons ahead? Or is it just a new year with the same old problems, the same old Wizards? Washington has yet to put out their ideal starting lineup, so it’s hard to truly judge what they are. If you’ve already given up, though, we don’t blame you. Either way, keep your eye on these guys. If the games aren’t any good, the drama surely will be.

1 COMMENT

  1. The Wiz seem to have had the life sucked out of them ever since Gortat left. Maybe the team chef should have cooked with a bit more garlic, as no amount of silver Rolex’s given to the team by John Wall was able to save this teams chemistry from that bite.

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