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Early returns on the Wizards starters indicate change may be needed

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The Wizards' starting lineup flourished in the preseason, but that sample is not quite reflecting what is happening with their starting lineup now.

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The Wizards' offense is a thing of beauty when it's going right. But when it's not, things are a mess. The Wizards are averaging 19.3 turnovers through their first three games and are leading the league in total turnovers.

As our own Albert Lee points out, they are allowing 54 points total off of turnovers, which doesn't help their already struggling defense. If the Wizards can cut down on turnovers, they make scoring baskets more difficult for the opposition. The 18 points per game the Wizards are handing their opponents is paramount.

The team must take care of the ball for continued success at a higher level, and it all starts with the starting lineup. Out of the 58 total turnovers the Wizards have, the starting lineup has accounted for nearly half of them with 27 total turnovers. Most of those turnovers, 11, have come as steals with the opponent keeping the ball alive according to NBAWowy.com.

Turnover Details (Number/Percentage of total turnovers

Steal Out of Bounds - Bad Pass Traveling Bad Pass Lost Ball Out of Bounds Kicked Ball Offensive Foul
11 (40.7) 7 (25.9) 3 (11.1) 2 (7.4) 2 (7.4) 1 (3.7) 1 (3.7)

These turnovers are one of the reasons the starting lineup has an offensive rating of just 82.9 points per 100 possessions. Giving up the ball means less opportunity to score and the starters chronically turn the ball over.

Why do they do this? How can they fix it? These are all complex questions that need answering and we're going to do it. But first, we've got to look at how the starters are constructed and how the offense functions.

The Wizards' new offense, again, can be very dangerous. There are not really any set plays coming with it--it's just read and react. The system is comprised of a series of handoffs from side-to-side and flare action leading to potential backdoor cuts from the perimeter.

This is the stuff we've all been waiting for. As our own Umair Khan points out, NBA offenses cannot solely have pick and roll action going on during any given play. There have to be secondary actions occupying the defense.

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.

And here's what things look like when they're going well.

The flare action is what got Otto Porter that open three. John Wall coming off of a single-double and attracting the attention of the defense was initially the primary action.

Once he caught the ball he had two options: He could attack the defense, hit Porter after he receives the flare screen, or hit Jared Dudley in the corner. He chooses Porter.

But there's an issue with the offense, still. Even though the ideology behind it is fantastic and the action is great when it works, the Wizards still have four non-shooters on the floor at the same time.

The offense works to use cutting and movement to generate space, but teams have not been respecting Porter and Kris Humphries when they have been off of the ball.

Wall is the offense's primary ball handler, so it affects him to a lesser extent and Marcin Gortat is the Wizards' primary diver through the middle of the floor to create space. Their roles really don't require them to shoot from outside well, although it helps.

But Porter and Humphries are being depended on to hit shots from the outside and keep the defense from mucking up the middle of the floor. That simply has not been the case so far in the season and it's causing problems for the rest of the offense.

When they screen for other players on the offense, they're left open for double-team opportunities on the ball handler. Let's take a look at an example:

Bradley Beal receives a screen from Humphries to get to the corner is immediately ICED toward the sideline by the Bucks' defense. They're not afraid to leave Humphries open for a split second to ensure Beal does not get an open look.

Carter-Williams rotates away from Wall to Humphries to disrupt the flow of the play even more. But look at where Porter's defender, Giannis Antetokounmpo, recovers to after Beal is able to get rid of the ball.

Antetokounmpo already has both feet in the paint. Johnny O'Bryant is retreating toward the paint as well to block Wall's drive. Wall still drives into the paint instead of trusting Porter to make the jumper and ends up turning the ball over. Giannis ends up sliding out on Wall's drive, but if he gets the ball to Porter early the three point shot is still wide open.

Here's another instance where the paint is so clogged, Gortat cannot dive into the paint after giving Wall a drag screen. He ends up committing the offensive foul because he rolls into Kristaps Porzingis, who is supposed to be guarding Humphries as a trailer.

Both Porter and Humphries' shots have betrayed them so far in this season. It's a small sample, but throughout the three games, Porter has an effective field goal percentage of 31 percent with defenders six feet or more away from him. With a defender six feet or more away from Humphries more than 10 feet away from the rim, he has an effective field goal percentage of 38 percent.

But Humphries also has a different problem contributing directly to the turnovers. He's averaging 1.3 turnovers per game in just over 18 minutes per game. That is not a glaring amount, but it still is problematic when he averaged just .7 turnovers last year in 21 minutes per game.

He's having to create more off of the dribble when teams attack him on close-outs, and that is not something he is used to. He tries to go baseline here and deliver the ball to the left corner, but the pass ends up going out of bounds.

Here's another play where he ends up traveling because a hard close-out forces him to pick up his dribble.

It's tough to ask a player who's been playing inside the paint all of his life to play from the outside and have more of a perimeter presence. It's only three games in, so there is definitely time to improve, but this could be cause for concern moving forward.

Turnovers have been a problem, but they do not have to be. Before making lineup changes, the Wizards should play through these issues to see how things turn out. It preserves their older bench in the long-term and allows their current starters to build a rapport with one another.

Also, the team has to consider these things: They're still 2-1 with these turnover issues. They've still got a functional offense even though their starting lineup has been turnover-prone and an offensive negative. Their defense will improve as their turnover problems begin to improve as well.

We'll see how the team functions moving forward. But if they don't improve, we could see some changes along the way to the starting lineup.