Thank you for your questions for the December mailbag. Selected ones are below.
We will have our next edition in mid-January!
How do the Wizards improve on team defense and rebounding? (TWELFTH MAN)
Marcus Atkinson: The coaching staff needs to make more adjustments. There needs to be more strategic moves based on opponents. For example, when teams have one player who is repeatedly scoring one on one and there isn’t anyone who matches up, throw some double teams at him, get the ball out of his hand and force another player to beat you. I think they should focus on less switching.
They don’t have the player personnel to run a constant switching defense. I also liked the drop coverage they used on pick and rolls during the bubble, but that is not meant for every opponent. Despite that, they should use it more often because it fits their roster better than constantly doing a pure switch or asking a big to hedge.
Matt Modderno: My podcast cohost Larry Hughes made the All-NBA All-Defensive First Team and talks a lot about group accountability.
Everyone in the organization has to prioritize that. But he also credits film study for a lot of his defensive success. Understanding tendencies and doing your homework can make a lot of difference. We had Moe Wagner on last week and he sounded enthusiastic to talk about defense and kept talking about how he’s worked hard to improve on that end.
That’s been a consistent theme with a lot of the guys. That’s a noticable change in mindset from previous seasons. To me, rebounding is all about effort. I think Russell Westbrook will actually help a lot in that regard.
Can the Mystics make another championship run next year with most of their 2019 championship roster and Tina Charles coming back? (multiple emails)
Albert Lee: Yes, it’s possible, but the Mystics aren’t going to be favorites. The Seattle Storm are because they will return their core players who are mostly younger than Washington’s and their core players didn’t skip 2020.
I never thought the Mystics were a dynastic type of team because they never had multiple superstar top picks in the WNBA Draft. But I always believed that Elena Delle Donne’s arrival in 2017 gave them a solid chance to compete for one for a four-five year period. The window is still open for now, but it’s closing fast given their cap space issues and older roster.
Do you think Scott Brooks will settle on one starter or go by committee depending on matchup? (Gavalon55)
MM: Assuming this is about the small forward spot specifically. I think the job is Deni Avdija’s to lose at this point. There might be certain match-ups where starting Davis Bertans or Isaac Bonga makes sense but I don’t see a small forward by committee situation.
Who will average more minutes this season, Bradley Beal or Russell Westbrook? (Bullets Fever)
MM: Barring injury, definitely Bradley. They’re already talking about their plans to limit Westbrook’s minutes and to keep him out of the second game of back-to-backs. Plus, the point guard depth this year should allow Westbrook to rest and be more competitive than with Beal sitting out.
How much will rotations expand in the NBA this year? (CzechWizFan)
MM: Guys WILL miss games because of COVID and the teams are prepared for that. Depth will be huge and teams are going to have to rely on players they typically wouldn’t. Don’t be surprised to see third point guards or third centers having more impact than normal seasons.
Albert: Agreed with Matt on this one. The coronavirus’ impact this season is going to expand rotations, but that also depends on how many players get affected at once. If an entire team gets quarantined, then I think the league will just postpone games.
Now that Westbrook is here, will Scott Brooks be extended? (Drknowitall)
MM: I would bet money on this. It’s really hard to coach a pro sports team as a “lame duck” coach so I expect at least a one year extension. After all, this is an organization that gave a secret one-year extension to Ernie Grunfeld.
Albert: If Brooks gets an extension, it should be announced pretty early on. And I don’t see how a “secret” extension would make sense for a coach, though Westbrook’s addition oddly enough makes it seem a bit more likely.
With Brooks recently saying that Westbrook won’t play back to backs, does that change how you feel about the Wall trade at all, or your regular season record projection? (Windowtowall)
Albert: I assume you are asking me this question directly, since I made a prediction on how the Wizards’ season would go if they didn’t trade John Wall for SB Nation’s leaguewide preview. But I don’t think my prediction of the season is going to change much based on what Brooks said.
For those of you who haven’t read the preview, I made a pessimistic prediction on how they would have performed with Wall still on the Wizards’ roster.
To clarify on whether Westbrook is playing or not playing back-to-backs, Brooks said he “probably” wouldn’t do it. But with his job on the line and the Wizards fighting to make the postseason again, don’t be surprised to see Westbrook play on the second end of these games, especially in the second half of the season.
Scott Brooks says Russell Westbrook probably won’t play both games of back-to-backs this year. Houston did the same thing with him last year.— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) December 13, 2020
If the Wizards are teetering around a Top-6 seed and a guaranteed playoff berth, I can definitely see Westbrook playing back-to-backs. If the Wizards miss the playoffs this season, it’s hard to see Brooks return.
MM: Wall was also going to sit out those games and no knock on Wall, I still trust Westbrook to play more games over the remainder of their contracts. Although, I hope both stay healthy. I’m very okay if both teams look back on this trade as a win-win.
Why is Scott Brooks struggling to get the Wizards to play with sound basketball fundamentals? (TWELFTH MAN)
MM: He lost his copy of Coaching for Dummies?
Why are you optimistic about the Mystics having games with fans at Entertainment and Sports Arena this summer and pessimistic about the Wizards having games with fans at Capital One Arena this season? (multiple emails and messages)
Albert: Timing of year.
The coronavirus spreads more easily in winter and the world is experiencing it right now. Yet the NBA season is starting right at a time when some states are re-instituting stay-at-home orders. The Wizards are right to NOT have fans at games this season. And even if they allow some fans in the second half, I would still strongly discourage any of you from attending a Wizards game in person — even if you get a COVID-19 vaccine next month. I won’t go this season and am a season ticket holder. It pains me to say that quite frankly.
As for the Mystics, the WNBA season is in the late spring and summer. The virus doesn’t spread as easily as in the winter. Vaccines will come for much of the population by May. So by then, we could start seeing things return closer to normal. So if the Mystics do allow fans this summer, yes, I would be more optimistic about saying that we should go to ESA and Swag Surf.
What do you think Davis Bertans’ role should be? It seems he would still come off the bench but wouldn’t it be a perfect fit with the powerful guards duo who are two ball dominant players? Rui Hachimura could then be their sixth man as the primary option with the 2nd unit. What’s your take on that? (Florian Madarasz, email)
MM: Personally, I like the idea of Bertans in the starting unit on paper. Partly, because I think Hachimura would be more of a mismatch against reserves. So I don’t disagree with you.
But before Bertans re-signed here the team had a long conversation with him about his potential role so he had to be okay with coming off the bench. So if they’re all happy and he will be on the court when it really matters, why rock the boat?
AL: I second Matt’s comments and also have this to add. Radio color analyst Glenn Consor said over the years that starting players aren’t necessarily the best ones with the line: “It’s not about who starts games, it’s about who finishes them.” Bertans will definitely be on the floor when the Wizards are closing out games this season.
The best players are going to find starter-level minutes regardless of when they first appear in a game. Since Bertans averaged nearly 30 minutes per game despite being a reserve on paper, he’ll play about that much, if not more than that this season. The Wizards’ aren’t paying him $80 million over five years to be a cheerleader.