Are The Wizards Cursed?
If I told you that an NBA team had a backcourt duo, one averaging a 20 point triple double and another pouring in 35 POINTS A GAME, how many wins do you think they would have after 10 games?
The answer to that question is 2..... Washington DC isn't the place you want to be right now for many reasons. One of them is because their basketball team is atrocious as of late. The Washington Wizards are 2-8 in their first 10 games of this budding season. What we are going to look at is why they are this bad and what they need to do to improve in the future.
The Positives of This Team
If we are going to look at the negatives, you have to start with the positives. This team can score the heck out of the basketball.
In this season, the Wizards are putting up the second most points per game with 119.7 (according to teamrankings.com). They also have been shooting with efficiency with a 47.4% shooting percentage, which ranks them 11th in the league.
With players like Russell Westbrook giving you a 20 point triple double every night and Bradley Beal giving you 35 a night as well, we can expect a good offense. The frontcourt has been producing points as well. Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura both are adding in about 15 points as well.
We know what this team is good at, but the problem is that they seem to struggle at EVERYTHING ELSE on the court.
So it is obvious that defense is the main issue with this team. But what kind of analysis would it be if i just said "All the Wizards need is better defense and they should expect to see improvement"
1: No Rim Protection
The bigs on this team are scaring nobody away from scoring at the rim. In the words of Shaquille O'Neal, that paint is "Barbecue Chicken." The Wizards are the second worst team when it comes to Blocks Per Game. Teams are just getting to the basket with ease and are able to score on these bigs without breaking a sweat.
It also goes to rebounding as well since the Wizards are 26th in Defensive Rebounding. Their bigs just aren't big enough to defend opposing centers and can't box them out either. Its demoralizing for the Wizards.
This is such a disadvantage for the Wizards. Opposing teams come into the game knowing that they will be able to score in the paint. There is no pressure of having to make outside shots because you can just throw it in the paint and let your centers eat up. This allows teams to score 48 points in the paint every single game.
2: 1st Half Struggles
We all know the saying, "It's not how you start, it's about how you finish." This saying is usually very accurate... Unless you are talking about the Washington Wizards. They have been horrible defensively in first halves. Their margin for the first halves is -5 and in their last 3 games, they have been -12.7. That means that at halftime, on average, they are down 12.7 points in their last 3 games.
In the second half, they actually do well. They are +2 in the second half. It's just unfortunate that they don't seem to care about defense until the game is almost over.
The big problem with this is the fact that this gives you little to no margin of error. You need to play perfect offense while focusing all of your efforts on defense. If they think that is a winning strategy, then they aren't winning any games.
3: The Team Isn't Built Correctly
It really all comes down to one thing. This team just isn't built to win NBA basketball games. If this were any other league, the Wizards probably would be at the top of the league.
This teams mentality is to win the game purely on the offensive end. You have uber offensive players who don't want to pay attention to defense. Effort is, in my opinion, the most valuable characteristic in a basketball game and these Wizards don't show any on defense. They are the 3rd worst defensive team for a reason.
Offensive teams always have defensive minded players that contribute to their success.
Here are a couple of those examples
1. Golden State Warriors (2015-2019)
If you want to talk offense, the warriors were the prime example when they were at the the top with Steph, Klay, KD, and Draymond. But Klay is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, Iggy was a great defender on that roster and Draymond was the DPOY.
2. Houston Rockets (2017-2019)
Yet another great example. These rosters had an immaculate offense for these 3 years. Every single year they were top 2 in offensive rating. This team did not lack defense though. These teams had players such as Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon and Nene. These players held it down.
3. Chicago Bulls (1991-1994, 1996-1998)
The perfect example are the Classic bulls squads. This team could destroy you on either side of the ball if they wanted to. They had no problem with the big names that we all know. But defense was a great strength of theirs as well. MJ was one heck of a defender and couple that with Rodman, Pippen, and Grant. That entire team was going to lock you up as well.
So the real question is, where do they go now?
4: The Future
I think this a pretty simple one, THEY NEED DEFENSE. This can come in a couple of forms though so let's go through them.
In this situation, they decide that they love the players they have because of the offensive threat that they are. They decide to actual put in the extra time and effort to develop a defensive scheme that works for them and is effective in the NBA because what they are doing right now will never produce wins against playoff teams. The probability of this strategy working is pretty low but is a possibility.
In this situation, they want to keep the players that they have but they need to change the identity and mindset of the roster. The play here is to let go of members of the coaching staff and bring in guys who will make them play defense. I like this strategy because they know what works for them on offense, they just implement that offense with the new coaches and then develop a better defense. This strategy is a little more likely but I feel like this last strategy is the most likely.
This one is the most extreme, but honestly, this is the best option. In this situation, the Wizards decide to rebuild their entire roster. They definitely need to pick a couple of players to keep (Beal, Hachimura etc.) and put everyone else on the trade block and build an NBA compatible roster. This team has a lot of really good offensive talents (Westbrook, Bryant, Bertans) that other NBA teams need. They will easily be able to get more valuable players that will effect both sides of the court. This is the most effective way if they want to become successful.
There are other obviously other possible routes but a full rebuild is probably the answer.
Is this all an overreaction to a poor start to a new season? It could be.
Is time the answer? Maybe the roster just needs to still learn each other and gel. They are all possibilities but at this rate, it is looking slow. Especially when you are losing games after a 60 point game from Bradley Beal.
I hope the Wizards figure it out because they honestly are fun to watch. Something needs to change soon if they intend to get out of this "curse" they have on them right now.
Those are just my thoughts on the current state of the Washington Wizards. This team wasn't expected to be amazing in the beginning of the year but they were not expected to be this bad. Let me know what you guys think on my Twitter @GabeZoda.
All of the stats that I used in this article can be found on Teamrankings.com.