The Wizards have had a very interesting first week plus of free agency. We have seen only a few signings, but we have seen a lot creative trades that interim General Manager Tommy Sheppard has used to fill out the roster.
Although these moves have added talent in circumstances that seemed challenging to even do so, there is an elephant in the room that still needs to be addressed, which is the team’s putrid defense last season.
I want to preface this by saying that it is early in the process, so there is still time for these things to change, but given that there are currently 15 players on the roster, the likelihood of much changing isn’t very high.
To be blunt, the defense sucked.
Two Short Point Guards
We certainly don’t know the exact reason behind the team deciding not to keep Tomas Satoransky, but his departure left a big gaping hole at the backup point guard spot.
The team ended up signing six-foot Ish Smith and five-foot-nine Isaiah Thomas as his replacement. By some metrics,
Thomas has been considered one of the worst defensive players in the NBA throughout his career. His lack of size certainly does him no favors, but it is curious for a team that struggled so mightily last season on defense to sign him.
Smith is better on the defensive end, but having both he and Thomas on this roster creates a number of problems.
How do they match up against some of the league’s larger point guards or teams who have length across the their roster? For example, what kind of lineup will the Wizards deploy against the Philadelphia 76ers, whose shortest projected player in their starting lineup is Josh Richardson, who is 6’6?”
At least if you have a player like Satoransky who is capable of cross matching positions, you can somewhat make up for the lack of size from either Smith or Thomas. But without Satoransky and with both Smith and Thomas on the roster, Scott Brooks will have to figure out how to not only overcome their lack of size, but may be forced to play both Smith and Thomas together.
In an era where pick and roll offense and switching is prominent, how will the Wizards navigate with two smaller point guards?
Lack of Prominent Defensive Wings
With the release of Jonathan Simmons, the Wizards no longer have an experienced defensive wing player. In the middle of the season last year, the Wizards traded for Trevor Ariza to help resolve their issues, but there was no tangible evidence that much was accomplished with such a move.
Clearly the Wizards’ front office saw a need to add a reputable defensive wing player, to help with their leaky defense, but now that player no longer exist on the roster, so now what?
The Wizards are now left hoping player like Troy Brown Jr., Jemerrio Jones, Admiral Schofield or Issac Bonga (or to a lesser extent Rui Hachimura) can step up to become defensive stoppers. None of these players have played significant minutes to prove that they can handle that role, but maybe they are hoping that one of them can.
Switchable Big Men
Thomas Bryant for as good as he was last year, had match ups where he struggled because teams forced him to guard perimeter players in space. Bryant does not have the lateral quickness to keep up some of the quicker guards which is why he was an easy target. Of the remaining centers on the roster, this will continue to be a theme.
So what will the team do, if Bryant continues to struggle while being switched on perimeter players? Bring out Ian Mahinmi? This doesn’t exactly sound like a great solution.
What this all means for Washington
Maybe this is all by design. Maybe that is the reason why so many players are on shorter deals? Maybe the hope is just to simply get through this year, get bodies, take chances on resurrection projects and use these trades to get future draft picks as opposed to fixing the issues with this team right at this moment. That certainly make sense, but that means we may be in for an ugly season, particularly on defense.
I guess we will have to see, but if the goal is simply to set this team up beyond this upcoming season, then at some point the Wizards will have to get better defensive players, to field a competitive team.