The Wizards have raced off to their best start in decades, where they are currently 12-5, second in the Eastern Conference. Furthermore, they are currently on a four-game winning streak, and look better on offense after each and every night. What's been going on over these last four games, and who has stepped up?
Four Factors and Team Ratings
On November 25, we previously examined how the Wizards stacked up against other top NBA teams right now, including the Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, and Portland Trail Blazers, who are all among the NBA's best teams based on record.
Let's take an updated look at these numbers between the Wizards and these teams. We'll also add the Houston Rockets, who are currently tied with the Grizzlies with a 15-4 record, but are second in the Western Conference. Therefore these numbers include those from the top two teams in the East and the top four teams in the West:
|OFFENSE FOUR FACTORS||DEFENSE FOUR FACTORS||RATINGS|
|Team||eFG%||TOV%||ORB%||FT/FGA||eFG%||TOV%||DRB%||FT/FGA||OFF RAT||DEF RAT|
|Wizards||50.7% (11)||13.6% (14)||25.7% (18)||20.9% (15)||47.4% (6)||14.6% (10)||76.7% (8)||24.6% (24)||106.5 (16)||101.7 (5)|
|Blazers||50.8% (10)||12.8% (10)||26.3% (13)||19.2% (24)||45.9% (2)||10.9% (29)||76.9% (7)||19.9% (8)||109.4 (6)||101.4 (4)|
|Grizzlies||49.8% (16)||12.4% (6)||25.7% (17)||23.8% (6)||48.3% (8)||14.7% (8)||73% (25)||18.2% (2)||108.7 (8)||101.7 (6)|
|Raptors||51% (8)||10.5% (1)||26.1% (15)||26.9% (2)||51.3% (23)||14.8% (7)||73% (26)||21.9% (19)||115.7 (1)||106.3 (16)|
|Rockets||50.5% (13)||16.2% (29)||28.7% (2)||22.7% (11)||46.3% (3)||15.1% (5)||73.2% (23)||22.4% (20)||105.1 (20)||100 (3)|
|Warriors||54.2% (2)||15.2% (27)||23.3% (23)||20% (22)||44.7% (1)||13.7% (15)||75.1% (12)||20.6% (14)||108.8 (7)||97.6 (1)|
To find out where these numbers are coming from, check out Basketball Reference.
Like our piece back in November, most of these teams are among the NBA's best defensively since everyone except Toronto has a Top-10 defensive team rating, where they fell from 5th on November 25 to 16th on December 6. And as you might expect, most teams on this list also are Top-10 offensive teams, except the Wizards and Rockets. To be fair, the Wizards have managed to improve their rating offense where they jumped from 20th on November 25 to 16th on December 6. In fact their ranking improved on defense as well, from seventh to fifth in the same timeframe.
Now that I mentioned that the Wizards' offense has improved, just how much has it improved during their current winning streak?
Wizards' key stats during their four-game winning streak
Let's start with Washington's Four Factors' numbers for each game during their winning streak:
|Average of Last Four Games||54.78%||12.65%||27.89%||19.73%||43.67%||12.98%||20.79%||22.28%|
As you can see, the Wizards have improved significantly in their effective field goal percentage -- the most influential of the Four Factors -- where they are averaging 54.78%, though their season average is only 50.7%. How good is an eFG rate of 54.78%? It would be better than the Clippers' season average of 54.6%, who currently have the NBA's best effective field goal shooting rate. In addition, they have had turnover percentages below their season average in each of the three wins where they won by double digits.
What makes the Wizards' offensive improvement notable is also the fact that they have continued to perform consistently on the defensive end. In fact, part of the reason why their defensive rating ranking has improved is because they've held their last four opponents to a very stingy effective field goal percentage of 43.67%. That rate is also better than the Warriors' season average of 44.7%, which is currently the best in the NBA.
When you combine the Wizards' improved eFG% and rebounding percentages, along with their already-stout defense, blowout wins like the ones we witnessed against the Heat, Lakers, and Nuggets are to be expected.
So what specific factors are driving the Wizards' improved play, especially on offense? Here are some things that are helping or hurting them.
Plus: Improved three point shooting frequency and accuracy
In our last piece, the Wizards were second to last in three point shooting attempts per game though they were slightly above average in percentage. Here's what happened during their winning streak:
|Average of Last Four Games||7||17.5||40.00%|
Washington has attempted at least 19 threes during each of their last three games, and their three point shooting percentage over the entire winning streak is at 40%, above their already season average of 37.7%, which is fourth in the NBA.
Hopefully, Washington can average around 20 good three point shot attempts a game from here on, considering how good they are from three. When Bradley Beal, Rasual Butler, Paul Pierce, and even John Wall are able to make long shots at a decent clip, there really shouldn't be any reason why they can't find a way to get 20 three point shots up per game.
Plus: Strong shooting efficiency from close range
Who says that all two pointers are bad? Two pointers shot at point blank range are also a very effective way to get buckets and increase a team's regular and effective field goal percentage. Washington is currently 7th in the NBA for field goal percentage for shots less than five feet (61.7%). Both the Clippers and Warriors, the teams with the best eFG's, just happen to have the NBA's best shooting percentages from here as well.
Plus: Rasual Butler's hot shooting
Butler has been averaging 14.5 points a game during the Wizards' four-game winning streak, and 17.8 points per game during the last three wins which were all blowouts. In that time frame, he has shot 56.4% from the field on 22-of-39 shooting, and 50% (8-of-16) from three, all of which has significantly helped the team's effective field goal percentage rates.
Wing players who play on the Wizards, and with John Wall especially seem to find a way to become stronger three point shooters. It's great to see that Butler is taking advantage of that, considering that Trevor Ariza is gone, Martell Webster has still yet to get back into action, and Garrett Temple has quickly fallen out of the rotation.
Plus: Bradley Beal's three point shooting consistency
Beal has made at least two three pointers in each of the four games in the winning streak, and shot at least 50% from three during all four wins. Beal has also scored in double figures in all but one game he has played this season, which just happened to be the win against the Heat last Monday.
Plus: The Wizards still played well on defense without Nene
Nene has established himself as the Wizards' best low post defender during his time in D.C. Though he was out of action due to plantar fasciitis until Friday's game against the Nuggets, Washington didn't suffer defensively, at least from a statistical standpoint.
Minus: Still soooo many long-twos
Washington is fourth in 15-19 foot shot attempts, and only 14th in shooting percentage from that range. Fortunately, their shooting percentage from close and long range is mitigating this, but at some point, Randy Wittman should consider designing plays and directing players away from those spots. But it is just one negative in an otherwise positive piece.
The Washington Wizards have played their best basketball this season over the past week, where they beat other quality opponents like the Pelicans and Heat, and ran the tables on lower-tier teams like the Lakers and Nuggets. It remains to be seen if they can keep up their quality of play on offense like this over the long haul. But at the same time, it feels really good to see that the offense has made significant improvements nevertheless as the season wears on.