The year 2015 has finally come to a close. In the past week, we've gone through a review of our best FanPosts, tweets through analytics and our staff's evaluations, and video highlights. Now we want to share with you the first of a two-part series on the best stories of the year that was.
In this part, we will review the top team/player analysis, play breakdown, and interview stories of the 2015 calendar year. We hope you enjoy.
Best regular season team and player analysis stories in 2015
Geoff Burke, USA Today Sports
The core of our site centers around Wizards team and player analysis from the fan perspective. We've produced a ton of content throughout 2015, all of which I think is great. But doing so would turn this piece into a novel.
I'll highlight two or three stories that we found particularly notable in detail and list a few others as well for more reading.
John Wall's yo-yo dribble is unstoppable, by Ryan Gracia
Over the course of the 2014-2015 regular season, Wall performed an unconventional dribble several times, which faked out opponents and opened up space for him to take shots like this:
After a January 13 win against the Spurs, Ryan asked Wall how he makes crazy moves like that. Here's his response:
"It's just something I've worked on in practice. Me and Drew [Gooden] talked about it and [he] helped me. Just an opportunity to get guys off balance and try to make a play."
I haven't seen Wall perform this dribble as much in the 2015-16 season. Much of that is because he is attempting considerably more three-point shots this season (4.3 per game) than last season (2.7 per game). But then again, he did cross over Evan Fournier on New Year's Day 2016.
The Evolution of John Wall's shot distribution, by Akbar Naqvi and Mike Sykes
Akbar and Mike teamed up to provide what was -- in my opinion -- the best player analysis piece of the year involving the Wizards' franchise star. As I mentioned in some other pieces, Wall is shooting considerably more three-pointers this season (4.1 per game) than last (2.7).
At the time, Wall was playing at his best when he was taking more mid and close range shots, as both Akbar and Mike noted. He wasn't super-efficient from mid-range, but shot 40.4 percent at the midseason mark last year, slightly above average. Wall was also taking more close range shots where he made 49.5 percent of his shots 8-16 feet away at the mid-point area this season.
With the Wizards not playing as well as they did last season, it may not be a bad thing if Wall is shooting a little less from three and more from the 8-16 foot range area.
The 2015-16 Wizards aren't as bad as you think, by Mike Sykes
The Wizards this season are 15-16 as of January 2, 2016. Both their offensive and defensive team ratings are in the bottom third of the NBA which is a major concern.
However, if you are an optimist, Mike wrote a solid analysis on why the Wizards -- at least when they have a full rotation-- aren't so that bad.
First, the Wizards inserted Jared Dudley into the starting lineup in late November which has paid dividends for the starting lineup. Wall also had an excellent December where he averaged 22.6 points, 11.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game. Finally, the frontcourt was exceptionally thin when Nene, Kris Humphries, and Drew Gooden were all out simultaneously in early December while Marcin Gortat missed several games to attend to a family emergency.
Notable team and player analysis stories that were Trending/Best of SB Nation NBA
- The Wizards' defense thrive with Paul Pierce despite losing Trevor Ariza, by Jon Munshaw
- The issue with the Wizards' long twos isn't the quantity, it's the quality, by Jake Whitacre
- Who is benefitting most from the John Wall Effect?, by Jake Whitacre
- The Wizards found a small ball unit that works, by Jake Whitacre
- Evaluating whether Bradley Beal is worth a max extension, by Umair Khan
- John Wall needs to take advantage of opportunity to show he's the best point guard in the East, by Alan Jenkins
- Paul Pierce's departure can still be a blessing for the Wizards, by Albert Lee
- Playing faster doesn't mean that the Wizards will win more games, by L.W.
- Assessing where the Wizards stand at the start of December and if it's time to panic, by L.W.
More notable team/player analysis stories
- Five key questions for the Wizards in the 2015 offseason, by Albert Lee
- Wizards need breakout season from Bradley Beal to keep pace in East, by Jake Whitacre
- John Wall and Bradley Beal's usage habits are changing in new Wizards offense, by Quinten Rosborough
- Why Jared Dudley must start for the Wizards, by Akbar Naqvi
Best 2015 Play Breakdown and Clipboard Stories
Kevin C. Cox, NBA/Getty Images
Umair Khan and Mike Sykes have done a fantastic job breaking down plays for us this past year. I strongly encourage you to bookmark our clipboard section so you can check out the X's and O's on how the Wizards execute their game plan on both ends of the floor.
Below are a couple clipboard pieces our staff especially enjoyed over the course of the year.
The Wizards are playing at one of the fastest paces in the NBA, something the team wanted to do since the preseason. However, their defense is currently one of the worst in the league.
In the preseason, the Wizards' offense looked quite promising, but Mike diagrammed many warning signs on defense in an October 9 loss to the New York Knicks. Of the red flags, the Wizards' posts issues of playing in space and their transition defense were most concerning. Unfortunately, many of those issues carried over into the regular season as the Wizards adjust to playing at a faster pace.
The head coach has been oft-maligned throughout his tenure leading the Wizards. But he has shown a considerable amount of progress in designing after timeout plays (ATO's). Umair explained why ATO's are important here:
Why is an ATO so important? It's an opportunity to swing the momentum of the game in your favor, to stop an opponents' 10-0 run or at the very least cool them off by the sheer nature of stopping live game action. It's a way of jumpstarting your offense or providing your team with a set play, complete with counters and secondary actions, to get your team a bucket in the late stages of a game. In the NBA, each team is entitled to one 20-second timeout per half and six regular timeouts per game. That's a total of seven possessions in the game, more than enough to swing the outcome of a game.
From there, Umair showed five situations where the Wizards have successfully executed plays after timeouts. You may be frustrated that Wittman doesn't have the "buzz" that someone like Luke Walton or Jason Kidd do. But Wittman has developed as a coach himself over the past several years, and deserves credit for the Wizards' successes.
Notable play breakdown and clipboard pieces that were Trending/Best of SB Nation NBA
More notable play breakdown and clipboard pieces
- Exploring the art of John Wall's jump pass, by Mike Sykes
- How the Wizards are getting creative with John Wall's scouting report, by Umair Khan
Best 2015 Interviews and Features
At Bullets Forever, we have also had a number of interviews with players and covered other Wizards events in the past 12 months. Here are a few of the best interviews and features from the year that was:
Former Wizards swingman Martell Webster didn't just work on his three-point shot while in Washington. He also worked on his rap music career, under the stage name Sui Generis.
The piece focuses on Webster's development as a musical artist. It began in his childhood when he would write rap verses privately. But after he began his NBA career, Webster began to network with music producers behind the scenes and eventually release his music to the public.
You can watch a music video of his first single "Disposition" below. Note that there is NSFW language:
Jules is a Wizards fan born and raised in the Netherlands. Nearly a decade ago, he interned in Washington, where he got hooked to the team during the height of the Gilbert Arenas Era.
After going back to the Netherlands, watching the Wizards online was a tall order. The Dutch are six hours ahead of the Eastern U.S. time zone, which caused him to have some sleepless nights:
"I had to get up at two o'clock in the morning, go back to bed around 5, 5:30 and wake up at 7 to go to work...In between, I was following the team on Bullets Forever, Washington Post and NBA.com. So I thought I had to come back, and so that's why I made this trip.
The Dutch are also lukewarm about basketball, even compared with most Europeans. As you might expect, soccer runs the show where AFC Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, and Feyenoord Rotterdam are not unlike the Los Angeles Lakers, Chciago Bulls, and whatever team LeBron James plays for here in America.
Today, Jules lives in Brussels, Belgium and he decided to make a trip back to D.C. to see Game 3 of the Wizards' playoff series against the Raptors. The Wizards won the game and made his trip worthwhile.
This was my favorite feature of 2015. It is a living testament that the Wizards have fans like Jules and some of our commenters are die-hard Wizards fans who don't live in the United States who will make a trans-Atlantic journey to see their favorite team play at Verizon Center when time permits.
The Wizards fanbase and Bullets Forever community run worldwide indeed!
John Wall shows off his true legacy during Ride of Fame, by Courtney J. Ward
On October 26, John Wall was inducted into the Washington D.C. Ride of Fame, where a double-decker bus was dedicated for him. commemorating his accomplishments on and off the court.
Courtney had a chance to attend the induction ceremony to cover the event for us. While there she also had a chance to see Wall get on the bus, and had children do a screaming competition in order to win an autographed basketball.
Though he was on the bus for a short time, Wall stayed as long as he could to pose for pictures with the kids. From the piece:
Wall stayed outside for as long as he possibly could, posing in front of the bus for pictures with excited fans. One mother put her head on his shoulder and the young boys screaming and laughing earlier could not stop smiling. The energy was contagious and evident that they did not want the moment to end -- Wall and the kids -- and so, he had to be pulled away by security in order to leave. And as his young fans watched him go, they smiled the big smile of the NBA dream.
If Wall wasn't taken away by security, he may have been there all night. That said, I don't think Wall would have complained. He doesn't roll that way.
The Ride of Fame Bus honor was just one accolade Wall received for his community service to the D.C. area. He also received the NBA's Community Assist Award for his work in October.
Notable interview and feature stories that were Trending/Best of SB Nation NBA
More notable interview and feature stories
- John Wall proves the doubters wrong and shows his value as a leader, by Ryan Gracia
- Catching up with Bradley Beal at the D.C. City Slam, by Albert Lee
- Randy Wittman shows a different side after tough, emotional loss to the Knicks, by Nick Bilka
- In the absence of veterans, Oubre has stepped up for the Wizards, by Michell Northam
- Hard work finally pays off for Garrett Temple, by Mike Sykes
In Part 2 of our series, we will review our best NBA Playoffs, Mystics, KD2DC, and miscellaneous features from the year that was.