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What we’ve learned about the Wizards through the first third of the season

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Washington Wizards
We’ve all had the same look watching this team this season
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

We are now one-third of the way through the Wizards’ season. Through the ups and downs of the first 28 games, it’s important to reflect on what we’ve learned about the team so far to better understand what to expect for the next two-thirds of the season.

This team is so, so inconsistent

It’s reasonable to expect a team to have bouts of inconsistency during an 82 game season, but watching the Wizards this season has been quite the emotional roller coaster. They’re the only team in the NBA currently with a winning record against winning teams and a losing record against losing teams.

We have seen the highs of watching Bradley Beal score a career-high of 51 points in Portland, and the emergence of their bench in recent weeks (more on this in a moment). We have also seen incredible lows, including a 47-point loss to the Jazz, a loss to the lowly Dallas Mavericks, and a 57 point onslaught by LeBron James.

The bench looks better!

One positive that we can take away from the season so far has been the play of the team’s bench. The bench currently ranks 12th in the league in point differential, which is a significant improvement after being ranked 23rd last year in the same category.

What is even more encouraging is that since Wall has been out, the bench has been the seventh-best bench unit in the league in that time period. Ian Mahinmi is looking better, Kelly Oubre continues to grow, Tomas Satoransky has been surprisingly productive, and the Wizards have also gotten some great contributions from newcomer Mike Scott.

The bench was an area of weakness for this team last season, and their inability to contribute played a big part in why they couldn’t get past the Celtics in the playoffs. Seeing the improved production is very encouraging and brings new hope that this team can build upon their success from last season.

We’ve learned more about how the team functions without John Wall

Unlike previous years when the team floundered without John Wall, the Wizards have been able to tread water with their star point guard out of the lineup. Still, the team showed a great deal of inconsistency, just as they did prior to his injury.

What has transpired is we have learned more about individual players. Both Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter’s production has dipped off the most, as both players struggled shooting the ball.

Difference in Kelly Oubre’s Shooting

Time eFG% TS%
Time eFG% TS%
Overall 49 54.2
After Wall's Injury 43.5 50.5
Advanced Shooting Stats nba.com/stats

Difference in Otto Porter’s Shooting

Time eFG% TS%
Time eFG% TS%
Overall 57.3 59.1
After Wall's Injury 48.3 50.9
Advanced Shooting Stats nba.com/stats

But the struggles didn’t just stop with Porter and Oubre. Both Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris took a dip in production as well. Gortat only shot 44 percent from the field while Wall was out, which is unbelievable considering he’s shot over 56 percent from the field during his time in Washington. He really missed the easy looks that came with the chemistry that he has formed with Wall.

Morris, who was already struggling to find a rhythm after missing the beginning of the season, did not fair much better. Although his dip in production was not as significant as the other players mentioned, he didn’t do anything to step up in his absence. Given Wall’s absence, one would have assumed that Morris would be one of those individuals who stepped up, but he did virtually nothing during this stretch of games to mitigate the damage. His numbers across the board either stayed the same or got worse in nearly every category.

On a bright note, Bradley Beal remained consistent with Wall out of the lineup. His efficiency took a dip with his increased usage, but he didn’t wilt under the extra pressure. His performance, combined with the increased production from the bench helped the Wizards survive what could have been a very rough stretch.

Looking ahead

The Wizards have an opportunity to make a run at the top level of the Eastern Conference. John Wall is back, the bench is better, and they already have both of their cross-country road trips out of the way for this season.

In order to capitalize on their opportunity ahead of them, they’ll need to address the following areas:

  1. To get more production out of Markieff Morris, who has struggled to be a consistent contributor. Having a starting power forward shoot 44 percent from the field and only average 4.2 rebounds per game is not going to cut it.
  2. This team needs to figure out a consistent rotation once Wall returns. Who is going to be his primary backup, Satoransky or Frazier? Will Jason Smith get any minutes going forward? Will Otto Porter get more minutes at the 4 spot?
  3. The Wizards also need to know how to handle the game down the stretch. Will this team continue to rely on isolation sets in clutch situations or will they start using their spot-up shooters more often? Will they do a bit of both? Can they find a way to improve during these critical parts of games? If not, the team will continue to give away winnable games that will hurt them in the standings.