The Wizards aren't very good right now, which is making people rather upset. When things don't go well, everyone gives his or her two cents on what the team's issues are and what needs to be done to fix the problem - because talking about problems is a great way to relieve anger. So with that in mind, here's a list of the biggest issues the team has been dealing with during their slump, ranked from most important to least important:
- The Wizards are paying the price for previous draft sins. It's unreasonable to expect the Wizards to hit on every draft pick they had while they rebuilt from 2010-2013, but if Kevin Seraphin is the third-best player to come out of the Wizards' great stockpiling of picks, that's a problem. Not only did the Wizards not get value to their team through those failed picks, but they weren't even able to flip most of the picks for veterans who were useful to getting the team where they are now.
The only key player the Wizards got from flipping a Leonsis-era young asset, was when the team flipped their 2014 first round pick for Marcin Gortat. But, speaking of the Polish Hammer...
- The Wizards have a $60 million problem. Look, we can understand some of why Randy Wittman might try to keep Marcin Gortat out of some fourth quarter situations. But the way he's been used this season should raise some major red flags for everyone involved. Clearly, the team just figured out a way to use him effectively when teams go small, and to some extent, it's understandable. Gortat's strength is pick and roll, and his mobility is negated when teams go smaller and faster at center, and just because the other team goes small doesn't mean Gortat can suddenly just back his man down and make more shots over his man. Just because the man guarding him is smaller doesn't mean the Gortat automatically becomes better.
That said, the Wizards can't just keep making reactionary changes to their lineup based on who the other team throws out there. If the Wizards are just going to take Gortat out every time the other team goes small, the other team's just going to keep going small. The Wizards' greatest strength is their depth up front. If other teams keep getting them to play away from their strengths, well, they're just going to keep doing that until the Wizards figure out a counter to that strategy.
My gut says the issue here is that the team is underestimating Gortat's value, despite the issues he might have against smaller lineups. But this issue runs deeper that just the team's struggles right now. If the Wizards can't maximize his value now, how are they going to use him as he gets older and slower, but his salary remains just as high?
- Shot locations. Yes, we get it, Bradley Beal is out, so there are less shooters on the floor. Once he comes back, that will help things to some degree, but they're still not getting the most out of where they take their shots. Some might say that it's hard to generate a high volume of good three point opportunities when you have Gortat and Nene on the floor so often. I counter with this:
Lineups per 100 possesions Lineups 3P 3PA 3P% PTS Plus/Minus Paul, Redick, Barnes, Griffin, Jordan 10.5 25.4 41.5 117.2 +16.2 Wall, Beal, Pierce, Nene, Gortat 7.6 19.5 39.0 108.7 +7.8
Look, it's an offense with two traditional bigs that somehow manages to get up nearly six extra attempts every 100 possessions than the Wizards, and wouldn't you know it - that lineup still manages to shoot the ball effectively from beyond the arc and the team is better for it. Yes, that's harder to do when you have Garrett Temple, Otto Porter or Rasual Butler in there, but that doesn't excuse why they don't do it more when everyone is healthy.
Turnovers. Yes, giving the ball up for free is bad. In a lot of ways, I still don't think we give turnovers the credit they deserve for how damaging they can be. But at the same time, turnovers are in part, a byproduct of spacing. If the spacing is bad, it forces players to fit passes in smaller gaps, leading to a greater chance of a turnover. You can't divorce the team's shooting struggles from their turnover issues, nor can you divorce it from their defensive struggles. More turnovers, mean more points off turnovers for the other team, and more time the Wizards have to spend defending, rather than attacking.
John Wall is struggling. When defenses don't respect the people Wall is passing the ball to, it makes it harder for John Wall to be effective. Yes, he's grown in so many areas, but he's still not at the point where he can take over the scoring load by himself. Since the All Star break Wall is 0-8 on three point shots and has only attempted three free throws in 101 minutes of action.
This weather, man. Winter is the worst.
The lingering effects of Wale & Kanye's announcement. The Wizards are 4-11 since Wale told ESPN Magazine he and Kanye were talking about designing new uniforms for the Wizards. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but we can't rule it out.