To take a page out of Dan Gilbert’s book; the lowly Washington Wizards look like the Washington Generals so far this season. They are the bottom feeder’s of the league right now and it shows. The Wizards are off to their worst start in franchise history; they’ve started the season 0-6. To top it all off they aren’t even giving opposing teams any fight. Their average point margin in all of the losses that they have is 13. The team has just been an easy W on an opponents calendar. On NBA TV yesterday, during the highlights, the Wizards were called chicken soup. If your team is coming off of an L then they need to play chicken soup! Fix ’em right up!
The season started out with so much promise. Plenty of people were picking the Wizards to be a 30 win team in this 66 game season. The first quarter in the first game was excellent. There was a hot hand all around. The team was making shots, they were running, they were playing defense. There was beautiful ball movement and the next thing you know they were up 21 points. Then, the next thing I knew they had lost the game. They blew a 21 point lead and “Your Captain, Andray Blatche” was taking the Wizards struggles to twitter. He said he had a bad game but that’s because he doesn’t get the ball in the post. Chris Singleton said he isn’t trying to be a losing team; its for the birds. Singleton is right. Having a losing team in DC with all of the talent they’ve collected is pretty inexcusable. As a team, they’ve played horrible and that’s inexcusable.
There are a lot of blameable sources on this team. You’ve got to pin it down on Flip Saunders and John Wall though. They have a team that’s uncomfortable in its own skin right now. They’re a young team, one of the youngest in the NBA. The average age on the team is 25 and we can tally that up to outliers like Roger Mason and Rashard Lewis. Without them that would go down a few pegs. Right now they aren’t grasping Flip Saunders offensive philosophy. The Wizards need a change in philosophy to me. They work a lot out of half court sets. These guys are young, as I said before. Young teams typically aren’t good at half court basketball. This is a team that needs to get out and push the pace against the rest of the NBA. That may be a problem because of the jam-packed 66 game schedule, however, this team needs a win. That’s the style of play that they are best at. According to synergy sports, the Wizards are the 9th best team in the NBA when it comes to transition where they get 1.19 points per possession. This allows John Wall to do what he does best. When he is in that attacking role he is pretty hard to stop. He gets to the free throw line 8 times per game because of his speed and quickness alone. If he was allowed to attack more often than I think it would bode well for the Wizards.
One thing that they need to take out of the playbook are the pick and rolls. I understand that the PnR is a staple of the NBA game. The Wizards are terrible at it though. They average .66 points per possession when playing the PnR. John Wall is still learning how to operate out of the PnR sets that the Wizards have. It isn’t as easy as it looks; you have to make decisions on the fly. If your roll guy isn’t open after his dive to the basket you can’t force that ball. That’s what Wall, Crawford, and Mack tend to do. They try to force the play and if they don’t have it they’ll take a contested mid range jumper. That’s the lowest percentage shot in the NBA.
If the Wizards want to be a better team, it all starts with defense. If they can make plays on the defensive end they will be able to convert into transition more often than not. In Isolation situations, according to synergy, they rank 1st in the NBA when it comes to isolation situations. That’s the easiest type of defense to play. Where they struggle at is help defense. When teams are running sets on them they don’t help off the ball very well. Every player has to have a help man including the help man. That’s where the Wizards struggle. When you see the Wizards play, there has too often been someone open right at the rim. This is because either the help man hasn’t come back to his man yet because he got lost in the play or the help man’s help hadn’t come into the play. According to Synergy the Wizards rank 26th when teams hit an open cutter to the basket and they rank 27th when defending a spot up shooter. These are all situations where defensive rotation is key. If you aren’t rotating and communicating your team isn’t playing good defense.
This also leads to the team getting outrebounded because after the ball goes up every player isn’t accounted for. If you aren’t boxing out then you’re allowing someone a free chance at the ball. More often than not they’ll get that loose ball back for their team. This creates extra possessions for the opposition and demoralizes your defense.
Fixing the Wizards is definitely going to be a gargantuan burden on ownership. Getting the right pieces in the fold for this team will be the key. I don’t think that Flip Saunders is the right choice for this team. It’s not because he isn’t a good coach; I don’t think that Flip is a good teacher. That’s one of the things that you absolutely have to do as a coach. If you are going to progress a young team you must be a good teacher first. Flip is a great X and O’s guy but when it comes to teaching technique he has never been that good. If you look at Scott Brooks in OKC or Tom Thibodeau in Chicago they are good teachers of the game. I think Flip is a guy more suited to be the coach of a veteran team that already knows how to execute.
Hopefully, the Wizards get their first win soon. Maybe after a taste of victory, the team will be better. I think some pieces need to definitely be moved around and let go, but until then the team has to win with what they have. I just laid out somewhat of a blueprint on how to do it. Lets see if the Wizards can do any of this. If not, see you next year guys.