If we learned anything from last season, it’s that it’s never a good idea to get too caught up in a team’s success in exhibition games. On the other hand, sometimes preseason struggles can be the first warning signs that a team is going to have some issues once games start to matter.
Through the Wizards’ first five preseason games, two concerning trends have emerged: Defense and outside shooting. It’s probably a little too early to say whether or not the defense is a real issue, considering how Scott Brooks has shuffled through plenty of different lineup combinations as he tries to give players on unguaranteed deals a chance to shine and work around the injury issues that have popped up. The three point shooting on the other hand, that might be a bit of an issue based on the early results.
Remarkably, the Wizards have struggled even though they’ve had some outstanding outside shooting performances in the early going. Bradley Beal, the Wizards’ best shooter, has been on-point during the preseason, making 9 of his 15 attempts. Better yet, Andrew Nicholson has been a very solid 6-14, which is big for a team that needs someone to fill the team’s need for a stretch four. Kelly Oubre (5-13) and Marcus Thornton (4-11) have been solid as well.
Other than those four, the Wizards have been a hot mess. The rest of the team is 9-64 on threes through the first five games. Yes, part of the problem is several of the players on unguaranteed deals are struggling (Danuel House, Jarell Eddie, and Sheldon McClellan are 3-21 so far during the preseason) but some of the key cogs are struggling as well (John Wall, Otto Porter, and Jason Smith are a combined 1-17).
The good news is, we’ve probably seen the worst of what we’ll see from the team’s outside shooting. Remember, this is a very small sample size and it’s one where Wall has only been on the floor for 54 minutes to help other players get shots. There’s no question the Wizards’ shooting will improve once the regular season begins and the team starts playing their normal rotations.
However, there’s a difference between bouncing back from a rough start and being good. The Wizards may not have been high-volume three point attack under Randy Wittman, but you could count on them to be effective when they did get those shots up. Based on the early returns, you have to at least be a little concerned that won’t hold up this season.
John Wall has spent his NBA career creating great outside shooting opportunities that have helped turn questionable shooters into players competent enough to be dependable. This year will be no different. But based on the early returns, Wall might be facing a more difficult challenge getting the Wizards above water than previous years. Not only will he be working with some less dependable outside shooters this season, but the players backing him up have struggled to generate quality looks for others when he is off the floor. If either one of those trends hold up once the regular season starts, it’s going to be hard for the Wizards to stay competitive, no matter how great their defense may be.