LAS VEGAS -- The Washington Wizards were playing their third game in three nights at the Las Vegas NBA Summer League. The NBA D-League Select squad was playing their first. Let's just say it showed. The Wizards struggled with the D-League Select's defensive pressure the entire game, finally losing their legs entirely sometime in the third quarter in an 85-78 loss.
The result was obviously disappointing, but hopefully it becomes instructive. Three games in three nights is tough, but it's clear the Wizards' level of conditioning needs to improve. That's a process that has hopefully already started and will now need to continue with more urgency.
This is true of Bradley Beal in particular. He managed to find 20 points, getting out in transition for layups, forcing his way to the free-throw line and coming alive a bit late, but this game, against an aggressive, hungry group of D-League players auditioning for jobs, wore him out. His jump shot were all missed short, which is the biggest indication of tired legs. Now he knows what it takes to be well-conditioned in this league.
More notes below the jump.
- The Wizards got off to a really, really sluggish start early on. Bradley Beal made a couple early mistakes, surrendering way too much middle on a drive by Andre Emmett. He was also a beat late to a loose ball, which nearly led to another layup. One day after showing a take-charge attitude early, he was a bit too passive.
- Shelvin Mack was ... really, really bad early on, as if he's never seen a press. Every pass he made was several beats too slow, and every decision he made required too much thinking. At this point, it all has to be way more instinctual.
- Worse, Mack started to force stepback jumpers in a misguided effort to be more "aggressive." That's not how you do it. That's forcing things instead of quickly making decisions.
- Holy wow Chris Singleton.
- It was really interesting to see Singleton dribble the ball so much up the court. I noticed some mixed results here. One time, he threw a nice lookaway pass to Garrett Siler that ended in a foul, but another time, he nearly got his pocket picked because of loose dribbling.
- Singleton's handle really does need to improve. This is a good illustration of that for him.
- Beal's start was definitely a bit too passive for my taste. The one nice play he made was a steal that set up a pass to Ravern Johnson, but that happened after he got lucky reaching in to steal the ball from a guy that got by him. This is the downside of Beal sometimes: there's a very fine line between fitting into a team setting and playing passively.
- Beal's handle can sometimes be a bit loose, but it was nice and tight on two full-court drives.
- The Wizards took too long to get into their sets in the first quarter. The D-League pressure was tough to deal with, but it'll be tougher on the NBA level. Mack and Tomas Satoransky have to be able to manage it better.
- One thing you have to say about the D-League squad: they are playing really hard. They aren't always playing together -- the sets they're running are really basic, if they're sets at all -- but they are digging in defensively. The non-starters struggled even more than the starters against this.
- Beal's defense improved in the second quarter against Emmett. He started sliding his feet to cut off moves on isolations, and he managed to deal with Emmett's weight advantage pretty well. Disappointed in all his missed shots though.
- I'm pleasantly surprised by Beal's body control in the open court. Perhaps the fouls he keeps drawing won't be there in the NBA, but he's putting himself in good positions to draw them.
- I wish Mack was more vocal on the court when he ran the point. He's the on-court leader; he needs to be louder.
- I liked how the Wizards contested shots around the rim during the second quarter. The D-League all-stars aren't exactly great finishers, but the Wizards still managed to do a very nice job of contesting around the rim without fouling. That's a major development for a guy like Jan Vesely, who struggles to contest without fouling.
- Not in love with the way Singleton started the second half. He shut down after a pick and roll offensively when he should have rolled, then threw a bizarre behind-the-back pass in the paint that went out of bounds. He also too often waited to react on the help side defensively until the ball is coming. He should be anticipating the action and cutting it off instead of thinking his athleticism can make up the gap.
- Vesely's aggression covering pick and roll has hurt him throughout the first three games. He needs to get better at his hedging angles. Too often, he strays too wide, allowing the ball-handler to split towards the middle. It's almost like he is trying too hard to divert the ball-handler's path too much.
- I was disappointed to see fewer pindowns for Beal. Perhaps this was a game to test other things out, or perhaps Beal's struggles with his perimeter shot convinced the Wizards not to run as many plays where a perimeter shot is the outcome.
- Both Mack and Satoransky struggled to get the Wizards into their sets again. Both simply need to be much more aggressive attacking their primary defender. They need to figure out where they want to go and seize the moment getting there instead of letting their defender dictate things. Be the actor, not the reactor.
- The Wizards crashed the offensive boards a bit too much in the third quarter. This includes Beal, but he was hardly the only one. Sam Cassell was shouting at them to get back on defense.
- This was not Vesely's best game. I didn't count a ton of breakdowns, but he was also pretty ineffective offensively throughout the game. One of the consequences of him working on his shot is that he's always taking it even when he's not open. This pendulum swing is necessary for his shot's long-term development, but in the short term, he's probably not making sound decisions when he shoots.
- There's enough concern over Satoransky's foot speed offensively, but he's also struggling to stay in front of quicker point guards. Combine that with his inability to actually come to the ball, and all the concerns we had after his first game resurfaced.
- It was disappointing to see the fast pace from the previous game get lost in a sea of defensive pressure. There wasn't nearly enough advancement of the ball by the pass in the third and fourth quarters, which is especially concerning because that's exactly how you beat pressure.
- Those legs died at some point in the second half. Three games in three nights is tough, but that just shows they need to get in better shape.
- This is especially true of Beal, who missed several jump shots short. This is what Summer League is for, though, and hopefully Beal now knows firsthand how different this level is than college.
- I did like the way the Wizards finished the game, fighting through tired legs to make it close. That doesn't make up for the sequences they gave away before then, though.