Before the season, the Washington Wizards had a set of expectations from their organization and fans to be a competitive basketball team, while also still trying to push for a playoff spot.
After getting off to a 3-8 start, the Wizards are left with more questions than answers on how to bounce back.
With any slow start, there are many factors that attribute to a team’s lackluster or struggling play. For the Wizards, there have been four specific factors that have played a big part in their struggles:
Reason No. 1
After receiving a 5 year, $128 million contract extension over the summer, Bradley Beal has been everything but consistent. His inability to create shots for himself and his ineffectiveness when John Wall is off the court has been alarming. Beal’s three point percentage has also dropped off as he is only shooting 32.5%. For a player who realizes on his three point shot like Beal those numbers are a cause for concern. The biggest concern however, is Beal’s inability to prove that he can stay healthy. Beal has already missed 3 games this season, due to a hamstring injury and his presence was missed in two close losses against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76er’s. This Wizards team almost always goes as their back-court goes, so a struggling Bradley Beal is not a winning recipe.
Reason No. 2
In the off-season, the Wizards went out and sign Ian Mahinmi in free agency, to be their rim protector. Unfortunately, Ian Mahinmi has yet to make his regular season debut for the Wizards and their paint presence has been nonexistent at times. This is not a knock on the Wizards starting center Marcin Gortat, but Gortat is not the ideal rim protector you want out there to do the dirty work. Bigger and more physical centers like Dwight Howard and Hassan Whiteside have given Gortat problems so far this season. Teams don’t fear the Wizards inside and they are taking advantage of that on a nightly basis.
Reason No. 3
With $120 million in cap space, general manager Ernie Grunfeld was given the task of picking the right pieces to fill out this Wizards roster. Subsequently, the way things have gone and how the Wizards have looked, Ernie Grunfeld is looking at a failed off-season. A team that desperately needed a solid third go to scorer and a revamped bench doesn’t look like they have either of the two. Instead, the Wizards are being forced to rely on journeymen like Marcus Thornton and undrafted rookies to play crucial minutes. The Wizards may be forced to make a trade here in the near future just for the main purpose of lighting a spark under this team. The lack of talent throughout the roster is undeniable and it’s shown.
Reason No. 4
The last and final factor to the Wizard’s struggles goes hand and hand with the lack of talent on the roster. The Wizards bench production has been one of the worst in the league and is averaging only 25.3 PPG, which is ranked 29th in the league. After a 106-95 loss against the Chicago Bulls, Marcin Gortat was quoted as saying ‘We’ve got one of the worst benches in the league’ said Gortat. Even the players themselves are aware of lack of bench production in Washington. Coach Scott Brooks has been forced to change the bench rotation numerous times because of their ineffectiveness. The only bench player who has impressed so far is European rookie Tomas Satoransky.
Because of his positive play, Satoransky has all but taken over newly acquired guard Trey Burke’s minutes, a player who the Wizards wanted to be Wall’s backup. Another struggling off-season signee who has found his way out of the rotation is Andrew Nicholson. Nicholson’s lack of minutes were said to be because of his struggles guarding the stretch four position. In a NBA that has all but transitioned to a more up-tempo game, why sign Nicholson in the first place? Similar to Marcus Thornton, the Wizards are being forced to play another journeymen in Jason Smith because of this. The Wizards bench has been abysmal at times and haven’t shown any signs of progress. Coach Brooks will have to continue to shuffle up rotations until they find a consistent and reliable rotation on a nightly basis.