Randy Wittman took over a laughing stock post-Gungate team with the stink of poop-shoes still reeking on it – and completely turned around the culture and identity. When given the right kind of players, his teams were some of the best defenses in the NBA.
In 2013-14, with John Wall, Nene and Trevor Ariza in the lineup; he had three stalwart defensive players. The Wizards ended up 8th in the League in opponent points allowed. They were good defending the 3-point line, forced a ton of turnovers (2nd in the League in TO%) and they were one of the better defensive rebounding teams in the League.
In 2014-15, Ariza was gone, but Nene still anchored the Wizards defense. The starting five of Wall, Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce, Nene and Marcin Gortat still held opponents under 100, and the Wizards overall defense was still top-10 in the League (9th in opponent points allowed) – They were still forcing turnovers and were one of the best defensive rebounding teams, but you could see that Ariza leaving had a negative effect on the defense. The Wizards weren’t as good defending the 3-point line (16th in the League), and the overall opponent field goal percentage had crept upwards.
Now fast forward to 2015-16 season – and Nene is no longer starting. Ariza is gone. Pierce is gone. Half the team is injured for the first half of the year. The biggest drop in stats is in defensive 3-point percentage as the Wizards drop to 28th in the League (from 6th in 2013-14). Teams just bombed away from deep…. as the Wizards guards and wings had to help down low with defensive wimps Gortat, Humphries (and later Jared Dudley) manning the paint.
Here’s a BIG SURPRISE. With the soft as down pillow players that Ernie Grunfeld provided Wittman this season, before the All-Star break the Wizards were dead last in opponent field goal percentage, giving up almost 39 percent to opponents from behind the arc. And they were last BY A LARGE MARGIN to the next worst team, the Phoenix Suns.
After the All-Star break, the Wizards defense was once again stingy in allowing uncontested 3-point shots. After the break, the Wizards were tremendously better defending the 3-point line, allowing only 34.5 percent. That is a HUGE difference.
The reason? Personnel. Ernie finally pulled the trigger to get a decent Power Forward. Markieff Morris can defend guys in the paint, and at the perimeter. Guards and wings didn’t need to help = fewer scramble rotations = guys sticking closer to their opponent = more contested shots = lower opponent field goal and 3=point percentages.
Unfortunately, Randy Wittman never had a chance to coach a roster full of All-Stars (like Coaching geniuses Steve Kerr, Greg Popovich or 2010-2014 Eric Spoelstra). He wasn’t given an opportunity to coach a perfectly constructed roster where every player meshed perfectly (like Atlanta or Toronto).
Instead, the roster his General Manager gave him looked more like the Pelicans or Kings. One All-Star surrounded by a couple good role players (forced to be starters), some decent bench fodder (forced to be starters and regular rotation guys), and the rest garbage (forced into the rotation).
The point is (and yes, I have one after this long ramble) that given actual GOOD players, Randy Wittman can coach.