The Wizards have been playing very well of late, picking up wins on the road as well as at home. It wasn't so long ago that I was shocked to find out that John Wall had never been above .500 in the NBA, and now the playoffs don't seem so far away. With the holiday break, I have been able to watch some games and am heading to the Verizon Center soon. There are some things I have noticed so far and I would love to hear feedback from the BF community.
1) Randy Wittman has improved as much as anyone on the team. Last year he struggled with adjustments, running plays out of bounds, and clutch time. Tonight he made some great adjustments to stop the Detroit fast break and get the game close again. On a late possession where the game was within a point, Witt drew up a cross screen for Beal and Wall hit him in stride to extend the lead. He has done a great job making adjustments to the second unit to find the pieces that work best. He had the worst bench unit in the league just a few weeks ago.
2) Ariza has been absolutely crucial this year. His numbers are great, tonight he had 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 steals, but his impact goes far beyond the raw numbers. Clutch stops, corner threes, running the break, being a leader. I hope Otto can play this well one day soon, but if Ariza gets traded, I don't know that the playoffs are still within reach.
3) The flotsam have all had their moments and if they all leave during free agency it could take a while to find a working bench unit. Kevin Seraphin has found his game again, Trevor Booker gets big rebounds, Jan could be a great big man defender one day. I would not be opposed to bringing them back next season. Obviously if it comes down to a guy like Paul Millsap vs Booker I would be ok letting Booker walk, but we shouldn't be so ready to get rid of all of them.
4) Wall is great and getting better. The raw numbers are there, the wins are there, the advanced metrics support what we can see. I still think Randy Wittman can do some things to make it easier on Wall though. There were a couple plays where Beal came off screens for long twos. That is a really simple adjustment for a coach to make for a shooter like Beal. Because of limited athleticism in the frontcourt, the Wizards tend to get killed in the pick and roll against guys like Andre Drummond. If Wittman institutes some ICE principles, especially against bigs that can't shoot, the defense will be even better. The biggest issue with Wittman is he seems stuck in the past. His schemes are based concepts that were effective in the 80's and 90's. If Wittman is kept after the season, I would like to see some coaches brought in who can bring some more innovative concepts to both offense and defense.
5) This is going to be a very interesting offseason in Washington. Do they resign Ariza? Depending on Otto's development, Ariza could become expendable. Is there a big guy out there that can take this team to the next level? I have mentioned Greg Monroe in the past, but is there someone out there you guys would like to see brought in?
Overall I am very pleased with the way the season has gone so far. Wall, and Beal have made good strides, Gortat has worked out well, Ariza is playing out of his mind. The next year is going to be crucial in shaping the direction of the Wizards for the next decade.