When Scott Brooks was hired as the coach of the Washington Wizards replacing Randy Wittman there were a few nostalgic dreamers who thought this was a reincarnation of the Brooks Wonder Years in OKC. There were vague similarities. An offense based on two perimeter talents. Stars not in their prime. But the difference is more night and day than water and ice. The Wizards are an incomplete team without an identity and three max players that don’t compliment each other. Think OKC 2017-18 without the perennial All-Stars. Brooks, of course, was supposed to fix that. But here is the problem with the Wizards and their two star talent roster. Neither of the talents are playing like stars. Stars lead.
It’s a tough situation for Brooks. He coached two of the greatest players of their generation. Under Brooks, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were versatile, gritty, competitive and exhibited strong intangibles in the area of leadership. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were dominant and elite players. Bradley Beal and John Wall are not. Their games are marked by inconsistency and inefficiency. Scott Brooks was always going to be less than he was in OKC.
Let’s start with the roster.
Bradley Beal had a good year and when John Wall was out he was de-facto point guard. Despite what Beal believes, he needs a point guard. The biggest problem with Beal is his defense. His lowest defensive rating of 105, a solid number, was four years ago. His playoffs defense was miserable. It couldn’t make up for his offense which was the usual Beal efficiency with low moments sprinkled in. At this stage, Beal is a one way player.
His backcourt partner, John Wall, played half the season. His shooting took a dive this year, a six year efficiency low, despite career highs with the three ball. His ppg dropped off. It mattered because the Wizards don’t have offensive depth. Wall’s playoffs fg% went way up as did his ppg but his three ball was miserable, 18%. The Wizards weren’t going to beat Toronto with those numbers. Their problem was closing out in the 4th. Shotmaking closes out games.
Forgotten as usual, Otto Porter set screens, hit open shots, camped out on the three point line waiting for the ball to swing his way and often it didn’t. It’s a major problem when John Wall takes 21 shots, Bradley Beal takes 18 shots and Otto Porter takes 11 shots. That’s imbalance and is the fault of Scott Brooks, John Wall and Otto Porter. Porter can’t be passive. He has to demand shots. Wall is the point guard who has to make sure Porter has a lot of touches and Scott Brooks has to design an offense that works for everyone, not just Wall and Beal.
The Polish Hammer Marcin Gortat is more Wizards problems. Gortat isn’t the modern NBA. He doesn’t space the floor, block shots or lose defenders with his explosiveness. The Wizards should play fast but they don’t, they can’t with Gortat. Until they get younger up front, the Wizards are going to be this hamster on a wheel, losing when they should win. Underachieving repeatedly.
2017-18 Wizards Weaknesses: 23rd: 3-Point Attempts. 22nd: Defensive Rebounding, Blocks. 21st: Total Rebounding.
2018 Free Agents: Mike Scott, Ty Lawson, Tim Frazier
Player Options: Jason Smith, Jodie Meeks
2018-19 Highest Salaries: Otto Porter, $26,011,913. Bradley Beal, $25, 434,263. John Wall, $19,169, 800.
As for the rest of said team? You mean Mike Scott and Ty Lawson and Markieef Morris? Or do you mean Tomas Satoransky? Who cares.
At this time of year, talk of breaking up Wall and Beal is always the convo. But consider that after the 2019-20 season, John Wall will be paid $40 million dollars. He’s untradeable. Though big payments are due them, Porter and Beal, at their contract high, are still paid in the twenties. If someone is going, it is one of them. But you have to ask, what are you getting back?
It is clear that Scott Brooks isn’t a miracle worker. He can’t turn water into wine. He can’t make John Wall and Bradley Beal into Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. He can’t turn average to below average players into offensive sparkplugs or defensive stoppers. There has to be something there to work with. Can you score on the move? Do you have a shot that works in times of stress? Can you make an open look? Do you move the ball? Can you guard pick and roll?
Talk about the Wizards bench is often ignorant of the numbers. The Wiz bench averaged more points than Golden State and Boston. It’s less about the subs and more about the starters and how they move the ball in critical moments. Despite Wall and Beal’s collective effort, the Wizards backcourt is only the 8th best scoring backcourt. Their frontcourt was responsible for 60 points a game, 20th best, meaning the guards were getting assists off of passes to guards. The Wizards points in the paint was also pretty miserable and landed them at the bottom of the league and was more evidence that if it’s not happening on the perimter, it’s not happening for the Wiz.
And so that’s how you have a broken team outsed in the first round and unable to win an elimination game at home. They underachieved all year long. Because of John Wall and Bradley Beal, expectations to be better than what Scott Brooks can make them with a roster that can’t do much but try to tread water is the definition of insanity.
The Wizards are a team of inconsistent players that Wall, Beal and Brooks have to legitimize with flawless execution. But flawless means near perfect.
As you know, nothing is perfect in the District.