When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
The Washington Wizards have had the same core in place for years now. John Wall and Bradley Beal are in their seventh season together. Ernie Grunfeld has been shuffling the roster around for 15 years. Eight seasons have passed since Ted Leonsis purchased the team.
The sample size is gigantic. The Wizards are no longer rebuilding. They have three players under max contracts. This is who they are.
The Wizards have yet to win 50 games with their current core—and haven’t met the mark since 1979. If the start of the season is any indication of what’s to come, totaling 50 wins is an absurd goal to set.
Five games in, the Wizards have shown more of the same: under-performing, complaints about shot distribution, poor coaching and confusing roster configuration.
Those themes underlie most of the team’s past failures—and although it’s a new season, those themes haven’t changed.
Wall is sick of talking about Otto Porter’s shot attempts, or lack thereof, and you’re probably sick of reading about it too.
As one of the best 3-point shooters in the NBA, teams are going to focus on limiting Porter’s shot attempts, but it’s on him—and frankly, the coaching staff—to find a way to get him shots. That’s why he gets paid the big bucks.
Porter said he wants to be more like Klay Thompson this season “to be ultra aggressive” when looking for his shot.
On opening night against the Heat, Porter didn’t take a single 3-point shot. Through the first five games, he’s only taken 21 threes, less than Bradley Beal, Austin Rivers, John Wall, Markieff Morris, and Kelly Oubre.
That’s not very Klay-like.
Ian Mahinmi is still Ian Mahinmi
There were times in the preseason when Wizards fans might have thought to themselves, “Mahinmi might finally prove to be useful.”
That optimism died a quick and painless death.
With Dwight Howard out with butt issues (of course), Mahinmi, who Grunfeld said he was “comfortable” with as the starting center, has assumed a bigger role than anticipated.
Mahinmi is averaging 9.0 fouls per 36 minutes this season. Last year he led the NBA with 7.2 fouls per-36.
His foul rate would make Jan Vesely cringe.
So nothing has changed there. Even if Mahinmi possessed Joel Embiid’s talent, he would be effectively unplayable because he cannot step onto the floor without getting in foul trouble before he can make an impact.
Having invested $70 million in backup centers, missing Howard should not be an issue—but it is, and it’s an issue that, if history repeats itself, will linger, only to become an excuse at the end of the year.
Depending on a savior
Things are going to be okay for the Wizards when (insert player) returns.
How many times have you heard that?
If a team is dependent on Howard’s contribution for success despite making such a costly investment in their frontcourt rotation, then that team is going to be in trouble. The Wizards, again, have $70 million invested in their backups, Mahinmi and Jason Smith. But apparently none of the backup big men rebound—which nowadays is one of the only reasons traditional fours and fives get minutes.
Howard is not a savior at this point in his career. He turns 33 next month and has been a part of six teams since 2013 (Lakers, Rockets, Hawks, Hornets, Nets and Wizards), and he was not the savior for the previous five before coming to Washington.
It’s asinine to think he’ll save the Wizards.
Is he a great rebounder? Sure. But Washington’s problems go deeper than that. Relying on a single player for the bulk of anything doesn’t work, as evidenced by the failures the Wizards have endured by putting a burdensome load on Wall’s back throughout the years.
Howard can’t carry the team alone - not in rebounding, not in low-post scoring and he definitely can’t anchor the defense by himself. It takes a team effort—and right now, the Wizards haven’t proven they have a team that can succeed with or without their true starting center.