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    For the Wizards, This Season Might Come Down to Making Open Shots and Slowing Down the Tempo

    Things might finally be unraveling in Washington. The Wizards are off to a 2-7 start and the team appears to have chemistry and communication issues

    November 6, 2018

    Things might finally be unraveling in Washington.

    The Wizards are off to a 2-7 start and the team appears to have chemistry and communication issues across the board.

    Washington is 14th in the Eastern Conference through Monday’s standings and is tied for last in the league in points allowed. They’re also 24th in offensive rating and 28th in defensive rating through nine games and there doesn’t appear to be an easy fix in sight.

    The problems with the 2018-19 Wizards are largely the same as previous Washington teams. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been excellent, but the supporting cast has failed to show up. This time, their defense isn’t bailing them out like it did in years past.

    Kelly Oubre Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. have been particularly bad during the disastrous start. The duo is combining to shoot 42.9 percent from the floor and 31.1 percent from 3-point land. Given the small sample size, these percentages on their own aren’t concerning. Combine them with the quality of looks Oubre and Porter are getting, and the Wizards have a problem on their hands.

    Kelly Oubre Jr. (through Nov. 6)
    Closest Defender 3-Point Frequency 3-Point Percentage
    4-6 Feet (Open) 20 % 42.1 %
    6+ Feet (Wide Open) 23.2 % 27.3 %

     

    Otto Porter Jr. (through Nov. 6)
    Closest Defender 3-Point Frequency 3-Point Percentage
    4-6 Feet (Open) 22.7 % 29.4 %
    6+ Feet (Wide Open) 14.7 % 27.3 %

     

    Oubre is actually solid on open 3s, but Porter is missing too often. Because Wall and Beal draw most of the attention from opposing defenses, it’s imperative that Washington’s wing players can convert their opportunities, which naturally provides good scoring chances for the star guards.

    Oubre, who’s never been a strong shooter, can be somewhat excused because he plays a significant chunk of minutes when Wall and Beal are off the floor, but Porter’s numbers are a disaster considering his role and contract.

    Porter was rewarded with a long-term deal because of his previously lights-out 3-point percentage, but now that he’s struggling from downtown – despite playing most of his minutes with Wall and Beal – the contract looks questionable.

    There are also legitimate concerns about head coach Scott Brooks’ future with the organization after this rough start.

    The Wizards regressed by six wins in Brooks’ second year and their overall defense has slipped considerably this season. This could potentially be due to Washington’s increased pace. Because of Washington’s offensive struggles, their increased pace doesn’t result in the additional points it normally would. This, in turn, puts extra pressure on their defense.

    We’ll see if Brooks slows the game down to give the Wizards more energy defensively.

    Year Pace Defensive Rating
    2016-17 97.4 109.3
    2017-18 96.6 108.7
    2018-19 (through Nov. 6) 103.2 115.5

     

    Brooks also needs to be better at managing the rotation. Of the Wizards’ 13 lineups that have played at least a quarter together through Monday’s games, only five have a positive net rating. Washington’s bench unit has been predictably mediocre, and the results have been particularly horrendous when Porter and Oubre are on the floor together without Washington’s talented backcourt.

    The two-man combination of Porter and Oubre has resulted in a 0.1 net rating over 82 minutes, a surprising result considering how bad they’ve been.

    5-Man Lineup Offensvie Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating
    Jeff Green, Kelly Oubre, Tomas Satoransky, Austin Rivers, Markieff Morris 112.9 109.7 3.2
    Jeff Green, Kelly Oubre, Austin Rivers, Otto Porter, Tomas Satoransky 111.5 148.0 -36.5

     

    Despite the Wizards’ early struggles, it’s not all doom and gloom in Washington.

    Dwight Howard’s return gives the Wizards a rebounding and defensive force in the middle, which should help them on both ends. The team is also forcing 16.1 turnovers per game, tied for fifth in the league. Eventually, the Wizards’ defense should return to at least league-average levels.

    But if the losing continues, Washington’s front office will have to make some tough decisions in the offseason.

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