The biggest differences between the Wizards of last year versus this year
The Washington Wizards are one of the more interesting teams in the NBA this season. They entered the season coming off an impressive 2014-15 playoff run in which they finished with a 46-36 record and upset the fourth-seeded Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, things have taken a bad turn for the Wizards thus far in the 2015-16 NBA Season.
For a team that had such high hopes entering this season, the Wizards currently have a 23-28 record, and are close to not even being a top 10 team in the Eastern Conference. At this point last season, the team was 31-20 and had plenty of momentum going into the All-Star break. Now, if the season ended today, the Wizards would not even be in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at some of the glaring differences between the production of last year’s Wizards compared to that of this year’s squad.
The Wizards’ main issues this season have been their defense and their inability to stay healthy. Regarding their defense, there really is no place for the team to go but up. For starters, they are giving up 105.5 points per game on average, which is the fifth-highest allowed in the league. This is because the Wizards are allowing their opponents to shoot a high percentage of 47.1 from the field, and 38.8 percent from the three point line. The team ranks last in the league in both of the above percentages, which is totally unacceptable for a team with playoff potential. One of the main reasons for their poor defensive stats is the team’s questionable decision making on offense. The Wizards are making bad decisions at an alarming rate this year, and average 14 turnovers per game. These turnovers consistently lead to odd-man fast break opportunities for opponents, which are always very difficult to defend. It is also worth noting that the Wizards only allowed 97.8 points per game last season and were a top 10 defensive unit.
Ultimately, injuries have played a large role in the team’s decline this season. Yes, the team also lost veterans Andre Miller, Kris Humphries and Paul Pierce in free agency, but none of them are defensive standouts at this point in their careers anyway. This being said, the Wizards’ starters’ inability to stay healthy largely explains the team’s defensive inefficiencies. Both starting shooting guard Bradley Beal and starting power forward Nene Hilario have both been sidelined for over a month due to injury. In addition, small forward Otto Porter Jr. has missed multiple games due to injury. The Wizards core consisting of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr and Marcin Gortat have been on the court together for just 24 of the team’s 51 games played this season. It is always difficult to establish chemistry on defense when a team’s starting lineup is always different due to injuries, and this is no exception
In addition to their problems on defense, the Wizards are also having difficulty when it comes to boxing out and getting rebounds. Gortat has been as consistent as it gets this year, grabbing an average of 9.9 rebounds per night. The rest of the team unfortunately has not been doing their part on the glass, for the team averages just 39.8 total rebounds per game and is ranked last in the league in this category also. Injuries have also contributed to the team’s lack of rebounding success. For example, Nene’s injury forced Jared Dudley to play significant minutes at the power forward position. The 30-year-old Jared Dudley is a proven veteran, however he primarily played the small forward position for most of his career. Dudley is 6‘7”, which is a good size for a small forward but undersized for a power forward. Over the course of his nine-year career, the most rebounds Dudley averaged in a season was 4.6. John Wall, the Wizards’ point guard, is currently averaging 4.5 rebounds per game. Granted, John Wall is extremely athletic, he should not be averaging as many rebounds as any big man who plays close to 30 minutes per game.
Overall, Wizards head coach Randy Wittman is not pleased with the team’s record heading into the All-Star break, but he understands that there is still plenty of basketball left to play.
“We’re not satisfied, obviously, with where we’re at,” Wittman said. “I think also, with all the injuries, it could have been worse. Again, you just hope we get back to a point here soon that we’ve got good health, then we can see exactly where we’re at.”
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