[Editor’s Note: Sometimes, our roundtables are coordinated, sometimes they just pop up out of nowhere. This one falls into the latter category. -Jake]
“We would like to see Otto get more [shots], but Otto needs to help himself get more,” Brooks said. “The bottom-line is that Otto needs to get himself open and be ready to catch and shoot and get more shots.”
”We just have to do a better job at getting Otto the ball, but he’s also gotta do a better job himself at just being aggressive when he gets it,” Wall said.
So what do we make of this, folks? Does Otto need to do more or is the team just passing the buck?
Tony East: Scott Brooks must have a lot of bugs in his house since he apparently has never heard of a screen.
Jake Whitacre: It feels eerily similar to the talking points about how Russell Westbrook would take more shots than Kevin Durant in crunch time when everyone was with the Thunder.
Marcus Atkinson: That is disappointing because those quotes are a huge load of malarkey. When they get to the end of games it seems like Wall and Beal make a concerted effort to keep the ball between them. The ball goes back and forth between them often times and rarely do they throw the ball to anyone else. As a coach, Brooks could certainly do more to help Otto, including actually running plays for him as Tony mentioned. I find it hard to believe that Otto can get open most of the rest of the game, but suddenly can’t get open as the game is near the end.
With all that said, I can’t put my finger on it, but something seems off with this team. I don’t know if it’s an ego thing with Wall and Beal, but they just seem to play differently when the game gets to crunch time. They don’t seem to trust their teammates to make the right plays and if that’s the case, that will not end well for this team.
Lyndie Wood: I have had similar thoughts, Marcus. I don’t know enough to diagnose the “why” part of the problem, but the way they devolve into hero ball in fourth quarters in baffling. We see glimpses of how functional they can be when they actually run an offense, but sometimes they just...don’t. They treat regular fourth quarter possessions with a full shot clock like it’s a tied game with five seconds left.
The roster is full of players who can make shots. It’s not just Otto - there’s no reason not to try to get Mike Scott or Kelly Oubre shots either, you know?
Mike Prada: The charitable reading of all this is that Scott is simultaneously stressing to Wall and Beal to look for Otto while also telling Otto to put himself in more of a position to be looked for. That is a particularly tough psychological challenge.
It sends mixed messages to run SO much of your offense for those two and then expect Otto to suddenly be assertive in crunch time. I’d like to see Scott/John/Brad run more elbow pick-and-roll with Otto, run more of Otto off pin-downs, defer some control of the playmaking, BEFORE crunch time. It’ll help Otto see himself as someone worth asserting himself in crunch time.
As is, I think the guards see a vacuum of assertiveness and step through it because Otto is so deferential. But you can’t just tell a player to be more aggressive all the time. You have to create situations to feed it.
Quinten Rosborough: In my opinion, Wall and Beal are playing hero ball whenever they’re on the court, I don’t think it’s a crunch-time phenomenon at all. To Prada’s point, it seems like the starters run one of three actions: High pick-and-roll for Wall, handoff for Beal, or a pin-down for Beal. Everyone else just stands around waiting for a kick-out. No offensive flow tons of dribbling, very little passing.
Contrast that to what Sato and Oubre do with the bench unit -- Everyone makes quick decisions on whether to shoot, pass or drive. And as a result the offense is seamless, the ball moves from one side of the court to the other and everyone gets easy shots.
Kevin Broom: I agree that Brooks’ comments landed as strange. The offensive design seems to be for Porter to go to the corner and wait. Or to lurk around the three point line. Meanwhile, they run plays for Wall and Beal. Both of them have complete freedom to attempt any shot they want. It’s a strange thing to me.
Porter could probably do more to get himself open. I’d like to see him make harder/sharper/faster cuts. I’d like to see him make cuts when his defender turns his head. But damn it would be good if they would give him some screens to work with. Run floppy for him 10 times a game. And, as I’ve noted, I think they should be running screen/roll for him a lot more often. He’s the ball handler in screen-and-roll 1.4 times per game and he’s in the 95th percentile for efficiency. I wouldn’t reduce the number of times they run it for Wall and Beal (Wall’s only in the 32nd percentile in screen/roll efficiency, but he was 66th percentile last season; Beal is 80+ percentile both years; Porter was 95th percentile last season too). Rather, I would make it a regular part of the offense for Porter -- at least as an experiment.
As for stuff seeming off with the team -- I think there’s a significant mismatch between how good players are perceived to be and how productive they actually are. Wall and Beal are treated by fans, coaches, and the front office as if they’re among the game’s elite players. But they just aren’t. They’re very good, and I think Wall has the ability to be elite, but they’re NOT elite. They don’t have an elite player on the roster. (They also don’t have good depth, but at least they have a super-expensive roster.) It’s tough to get guys to change when they’re already being showered with all the money they can possibly earn from the team, and they’re feted as grrreat. Not to pick on Wall here, but what are his weaknesses as a player at this point in his career? Shooting ability, shot selection, turnovers. Right? What were the weaknesses when he entered the draft? Same stuff.
There’s also some iffy coaching decisions. For example, Wall is second on the team in field goal attempts per 100 team possessions, but 9th in effective field goal percentage. Meanwhile, Gortat has been an efficient scorer getting over 16 attempts per 100 team possessions with a usage rate of around 18 percent, and then abruptly his shots/usage dropped last season. This year, his shooting percentage is down, but that’s almost exclusively because his shots are coming from farther away from the basket -- his at-rim percentage is 69.6 percent, which is right in line with career norms. The last time he shot worse than 70 percent on at-rim attempts was 2009-10.
Lyndie Wood: ...which is why I still think the buck stops with Brooks here. I take your point, Kevin, that he’s in the large group of coaches that don’t really help or hurt, but switching the team’s shot distribution to a more optimal one (even if not perfect) seems like something that is ultimately his responsibility. I get star-coach relationships are complicated, but that’s what the team is paying Brooks millions of dollars so navigate.
Ben Becker: I think that this is all, unfortunately, quite grim.
I think it’s indicative of systemic and cultural dysfunction within the organization.
This is the fruit of poor leadership -- it’s what happens when you’re led by Ernie Grunfeld instead of Ainge/Brad, Pop/RC, Morey, etc.
The organization’s bizarre desire to promote Wall and Beal at the expense of Porter is hurting them on the floor in a myriad of ways. Wall is an elite talent whose inability/refusal to accept and address his shortcomings is hurting the team. He’s nowhere near a supermax player in terms of production or leadership right now.
When an organization has major contributors pulling in different directions, it’s a leadership issue, plain and simple.
This is at Ted’s feet for deciding to stick with Ernie -- inexplicably -- for so long.
Mike Prada: The question of “grim” is a matter of perspective. It is certainly grim in expecting this team to really be much more than they were last year, but I kinda sensed that being the case already and was generally OK with it.
The more frustrating thing to me is that this isn’t simply playing to their potential and hitting a glass ceiling. This is being so up and down that you taste something bigger, but shoot yourself in the foot instead of getting there. It’s like opening Twitter over and over again to see new messages and never getting any.
I keep thinking about Toronto, another team that’s just short of elite talent, but somehow manages to change their culture anyway. Why is that? There are a ton of reasons.
Lyndie Wood: I have been saying for awhile and continue to believe that what Toronto has been over the last few years is basically the upside of this team.
Though it’s probably worth taking some perspective, as far as long-term outlook: On the one hand, I hear a lot of Toronto fans talk about being frustrated that their team seems stuck just outside of the “contender” tier. On the other hand, I imagine most fans of the Magic or Kings would really love to spend a few years as a 45 win playoff team.
Ben Becker: Here’s what jumps out at me when comparing with Toronto:
Masai vs. Ernie, and by extension, young depth.
Masai is a dynamic leader and a “player” throughout the league. Ernie is....what, exactly?
Toronto has an expensive roster like Washington, but has young and cheap contributors like OG Anunoby, Jacob Poeltl, Fred VanVleet, etc. They have managed assets shrewdly so that they have maintained depth and a measure of flexibility while also paying huge bucks for their veteran stars.
Oubre is the only Wizards on the roster on a rookie scale contract (and that’s up next year).
Toronto has what -- five of those guys? Masai maneuvered his way to C.J. Miles. The Wizards have Jason Smith, Meeks, and of course Mahinmi eating cap space.
Even the Satoransky signing, which is turning out nicely, is a wasted opportunity. Ernie signed him for three years, and gave four to Nicholson and Mahinmi. Even if Ernie had to give Sato more per year to get him to sign him for the extra year (and that's total speculation, he may have taken four years, $12 million), it would have been the right, shrewd thing to do, with little relative downside.
I am very dubious that any of the on-court stuff will be truly improved for the long-term while Ernie is still running the front office.
Quinten Rosborough: Well put, Ben. It feels like the league passed him by decades ago. He’s trying playing chess while everyone else is playing Overwatch.
On the other hand, I’ve found that it’s much more enjoyable to watch a lottery team with zero expectations than a playoff team with high expectations.
Lyndie Wood: True. Teams with young probable future stars (that are still bad) are pretty great as a fan, honestly.
Albert Lee: I agree in this respect: When a young team with little expectations goes to the second round (like the Wizards in 2013-14 and 2014-15), it was enjoyable. Wall wasn’t in his prime yet and neither was Beal. I agree that it’s more frustrating to see that the Wizards are generally a mid-40’s win team with Wall and Beal now in their primes. And they blew the bulk of their cap space at Ian Mahinmi who fouls once every three minutes.
Kevin Broom: Also worth mentioning: much of the criticism (clutch time “hero ball” for example) is very much predicated on the results. Last year, “hero ball” in the clutch was just as prevalent for the Wizards, but I don’t recall much criticism of Wall, Beal and Brooks. Of course, last season the results were better.
Last year, Wall and Beal had a combined usage of 57.1 percent. This year, it’s 57.5 percent. But, there’s a key difference: last season, their combined efficiency was 113.8. This season: 108.5.
Nick Bilka: Two things that stick out with regard to Wall and Beal to me-
- After getting slightly better last year, Beal’s shot selection this year looks eerily similar to his last year under Wittman.
- Wall shoots a quarter of his shots from 16-3 point line and shoots below 30 percent on them. Wall’s percentage on pull-up shots is worse than Lonzo Ball or Marcus Smart.
Mike Prada: It’s important for Wall to takes those shots in the context of appearing more like a threat than he actually is from that range, but it’s not working because teams give him that space.
Kevin Broom: Those shots are important in the sense that he misses them so defenses don’t have to worry about him taking them. If he could make the shots, taking them would be important to the offense. Since it’s well established that he doesn’t shoot well on two-point jumpers, maybe it’s time to stop taking so many. Maybe it’s time for him to forego two-point jumpers with 10+ seconds remaining on the shot clock to run a play so the team can get a good shot instead.
Mike Prada: Yeah I’m saying this only ends one of two ways -- in a vicious cycle or a virtuous cycle. And now it’s the former.
Ben Becker: Mike, I wonder how important it is that he take those shots. I certainly think that he needs to take them some. But he takes way, way too many, particularly early in the shot clock. I could be way off base, but I get the sense that Wall is trying to prove he can make those shots and thereby does exactly what defenses want him to do by taking them. I’d like to see Wall do a lot more of what Rondo did in Boston and pass up low yield jumpers (i.e. long two’s) unless they were absolutely necessary. Use the space to attack the teeth of the D; probe for creases to the rim -- you’re surrounded by excellent finishers!
I’d like to see Wall take a sense of ownership and responsibility as a point guard and team leader; make sure Brad and Otto are getting tons of good looks and use Gortat in the pick and roll whenever possible. And for heaven’s sake, play disciplined, engaged, defense all game, every game! That’s what superstars do.
Scott Brooks has to find a way to get that message across. Demand a consistent defensive effort and get a little more creative on offense. Keep the ball and players moving and stop making it so easy on opposing defenses in crunch time.
Mike Prada: Yeah it’s a bit of a catch-22, because if he never shoots, then he’s not a threat, but if he always bricks, he’s never a threat either and he’s actively taking possessions away. There are definitely 1-3 shots a game he takes that he should not, or should trade in for spot-up threes. I dunno why he takes those, but he does.
I think the same applies to Beal as well, but for a different reason. With Wall it’s a matter of redistributing shots to scorers or cycling through more of an offensive flow because he’s not a great shooter. With Beal it’s that he still doesn’t use his one-on-one game to create openings for teammates enough. He relied too much on being a great shooter.
The Rondo comparison is interesting. It’s a lot harder to play like 2011 Rondo in today’s league. 2018 Rondo is obviously not 2011 Rondo but you see how much harder it has been for him to pull his Rondo shit with smarter defenses. Fact is, that as long as Wall is an erratic perimeter shooter it will bump against how good he can be, whether he shoots or not. So he just has to become a better shooter no matter what.
To some degree there’s gotta be more honest goal-setting and feedback with the key players. What is their place on the team, and how do they play for others rather than just for each other?
Whose job is it to get Otto Porter more involved in the Wizards’ offense?
This poll is closed
Wall & Beal