After a 1-4 start to the Wizards’ 2016-17 season, there are many causes for concern while reasons for optimism are few and far between. Trying to make sense of it all, here are five takeaways from the Wizards’ first five games:
The Markieff Morris trade is officially a success
Ernie Grunfeld and the rest of the Wizards’ front office has received a lot of well-deserved criticism in recent years, but the Markieff Morris trade-deadline deal has proven to be a great one.
Washington shipped Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair and their 2016 first round pick to the Suns in exchange for the University of Kansas product. Humphries is currently struggling to find playing time on the Hawks, Blair is now in China and the Suns drafted Georgios Papagiannis with the Wizards’ 13th pick before trading him to the Kings. Papagiannis has just two points so far this season and looks to be a long way away from being a meaningful NBA contributor.
On the other side of the deal, Markieff Morris has been one of the Wizards more consistent performers, averaging 15 points and 6 boards in their first five games. While he is shooting just 42 percent from the field, far too low for a power forward, he has provided scoring the Wizards desperately needed at the four position.
Morris is also so valuable because of how much of a bargain his contract is. He is only due $24 million over the next three years and would more than likely be worth twice that in today’s free agent market.
Bradley Beal has not played like a max player so far this season
Beal is shooting well under 40 percent from the field, and is hovering around 30 percent from three. His lone highlight this season came in the Wizards win against the Hawks on Friday night where he put up 28 points, including some clutch second half play. But even then he struggled from the field, making just 6 of 16 shots and relying on 14 free-throw attempts for a lot of his scoring.
More than anything, the Wizards desperately need Beal to get going from behind the arc. Washington is among the worst in the league in three-point makes per game and three-point percentage. Beal is their best perimeter shooter at just under 40 percent from deep for his career, and he needs to start knocking down shots to open up the lane for his teammates.
If you don’t perform, you won’t play
Bradley Beal pretty much summarized the Wizards bench rotation in his postgame interview after the loss to the Magic on Saturday night:
More Beal: "If they want to play, Coach is going to play you and if you don’t, he’s going to sit you down."— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) November 6, 2016
Coach Brooks has already demonstrated that he has no patience for underperformers this season.
Kelly Oubre played 22 minutes in the season opener and was out of the rotation completely in the Wizards lone win against the Hawks Friday night, although he did give Washington solid minutes against the Magic on Saturday. Trey Burke started out the season as Wall’s primary backup, but with Wall out against Orlando, it was Tomas Satoransky who was given the start in his place after getting virtually no meaningful playing time in the first two games of the season.
Marcin Gortat is still Marcin Gortat
Gortat will turn 33 later this season, but he has yet to show signs of slowing down and continues to be one of the Wizards’ more reliable players.
His defensive limitations are clear, as Dwight Howard helped illuminate twice this season, but he has been a menace on the boards and already has three double-doubles this year. Gortat is currently leading the Wizards in minutes per game, and will continue to shoulder a huge role as the Wizards only active, competent center with Ian Mahinmi out.
The bench is struggling, and Mahinmi alone can’t fix it
One of Washington’s biggest early season issues is the lack of production from their reserves. They are dead-last in bench scoring, and are also giving up more than 40 points per game to opposing second units.
Considering the poor play from Jason Smith so far, the Wizards could definitely use their $64 million man, Ian Mahinmi, who has yet to make his Wizards regular season debut. But Mahinmi’s value lies in his defensive ability. The Wizards need a reserve to step up on offense as well.
There is no doubt that the second unit has run a little smoother with Satoransky manning the point, and Nicholson has looked adequate at times as a versatile four-man, but neither provides the scoring punch Washington needs. Don’t be surprised if Sheldon McClellan, one of the Wizards’ three undrafted rookies, gets some minutes soon if the benches offensive woes continue. While McClellan is unproven as a pro, he was one of the more efficient collegiate scorers in the country last season.