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Washington's new read-and-react system showed promise in preseason opener

We take a look at how Washington's new offense stood out against Philadelphia in their preseason opener.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Washington's long-awaited debut of their revamped offense couldn't have gone any better, nor come against a more ideal opponent in the Philadelphia 76ersRandy Wittman finally got a chance to make good on his commitment to a more modernized offense, one that grants his players more freedom and less structure -- a complete 180 from how his teams have operated in the past.

We saw that on their very first offensive possession of the game, with Otto Porter bringing the ball up along the right side of the floor and pitching it to Bradley Beal, who was waiting for him on the wing.

As this happens, Kris Humphries will screen for John Wall on the weak-side in order to spring him free.


Both Wall and Beal's momentum is leading them to the middle of the floor where they'll converge, allowing them to quickly execute a second dribble-pitch, this time at full speed.

pitch 2

Running this at full speed is important here because as soon as Wall gets the ball, he'll be met by a second screen at the elbow, this time from Marcin Gortat. And because the screen occurs below the three-point line, defenders will have a harder time committing one way or the other. Do I crash down on Gortat, who innately has a shorter roll to the hoop than a standard high pick and roll, or trust my big to recover in time?

pitchh 3

Watch the other three players not involved in the pick and roll. Porter had already drifted into the strong-side corner by the time Wall received the pitch, but the other two smartly follow suit, with Beal drifting to the opposite corner and Humphries popping out above the break.

pitch 4

Wall threads the needle to Gortat, who draws a foul at the basket. Here's the play in real time:

It's not enough to run standard pick and rolls anymore because of all the various coverages a defense can throw at you. They can ICE it by pushing the ball handler away from his screener and toward the sideline, they can blitz it by trapping the ball handler, or simply zone it up and force the ball handler to take a mildly contested midrange shot. But if you can get enough movement before running it and all sorts of good things can happen, this play being a prime example.

This wasn't limited to finding the roll man either. In fact, that will often be a ploy to get the help defenders crashing down into the paint, in which case Wall can hit one his shooters dotting the perimeter.

It encapsulates everything that the Wizards are wanting to do with this new offense. It's chock-full of different options which allows players to read-and-react to the defense as opposed to running structured sets, which appears to be what Garrett Temple alluded to here, when he discussed how things work with Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post:

"Witt probably doesn't want to hear this but it feels like we're playing kind of pick-up with principles. It's natural. That's why it has the natural feel to it. You're just playing basketball off feel of your teammates and we have teammates that know what you want to do and make it easier. That's why it was kind of surprising that we were able to pick it up off the first game. Usually, it takes a while to get that feeling."

Sets no longer have to be run a certain way. Watch Beal ad-lib the first half of this set, ignoring the pitch to Sessions up top and running an improv pick and roll between him and Gortat.

Randy Wittman will continue tinkering with his offense this preseason, but so will his players. The more comfortable everyone gets with this free-flowing system, the more diverse the playbook will appear. But right now, it's really only a handful of sets Washington is really using, and that's the beauty of it.