We have had the opportunity to see the Washington Wizards’ first 11 games of the season thus far and it has been an impressive start. If you would have looked at the Wizards’ schedule for these first 11 games, prior to the season, and had this team at 8-3 then I think many would have a hard time believing it.
With that said, it’s been tremendous to watch this start and the transformation of this team. While we have seen this improvement, what are some of the items that have changed since last year? Let’s look at four early trends.
1. Slower pace
Pace is defined as the number of possessions per 48 minutes. Wizards, last season were top in the league (104.67) in pace. This season, so far, they are at 14th (99.68). When you lose a player like Russell Westbrook, it’s understandable why your possessions would go down. His frenetic pace led to quicker shots and in turn quickened the game.
This year, the team is lead by a much more deliberate style of play with Spencer Dinwiddie at the helm and as a result games have slowed down and possessions have shrunk. As long as the Wizards continue to excel in their half court offense, this can help their team defensively as this can also lead to less possessions for opposing teams.
2. Bradley Beal’s defense
You have probably seen this video of Beal making a nice defensive stop against Grayson Allen. The reaction was important and showed how much Beal has truly brought into being a defensive stopper.
Bradley Beal able to force the shot clock violation and an excited Wes Unseld Jr. daps him up pic.twitter.com/ie4gp2kH5s— Hoop District (@Hoop_District) November 8, 2021
Although there are some bad moments, Bradley Beal appears to have completely brought in to the defensive end. So far he is posting a career best 101.0 defensive rating.
Another interesting trend with Beal is the lack of 3-point shooting. Although his overall attempts (6.6) are slightly over his career average (6.0), he takes slightly less of a percentage of the team’s three point attempts (27.2) than last year (30.2). Perhaps this is a result of his early season’s struggle or perhaps this is a result of this team having more 3-point shooting options. Whatever the answer is, we will have to see how this progresses.
Side Note: Beal is shooting a career-high 97.2 percent from the free throw line!
3. Overall team defense
The Wizards defense has been incredible so far. There have been a number of amazing stats thus far that speak to this.
The Wizards allowed just 37 points to the Raptors in the first half tonight. They didn't hold a team under 40 in the first half of any game last year (closest was against the Pistons on March 27th)— Andrew Gillis (@Andrew_Gillis70) October 21, 2021
The Wizards rank fifth in Defensive Rating (102.9) this season thus far, while last year they ranked 20th (112.3). This team also ranked 6th (43.4) in opponent field goal percentage, while ranking 20th (47.1) last season.
Even individually, there have been some incredible play from players on this team. We talked about Beal earlier, but players like Deni Avdija, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Daniel Gafford, Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma have flashed. This roster is much more equipped for different matchups and it is much deeper to counter a number of looks that other teams have thrown at them.
4. Fast start
This isn’t even a matter of opinion, this team has reached heights in 11 games that haven’t been done in quite some time.
Wizards are 7-3, their best 10 game start since 2014 when Paul Pierce was in town— Neil Dalal (@NeilDalal96) November 8, 2021
Then there is this nugget after the win over the Bucks on Monday from Scott Allen of The Washington Post:
Don’t look now, but the Washington Wizards — your Washington Wizards, bruh — are tied atop the Eastern Conference. With a 101-94 triumph over the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, Wes Unseld Jr.’s squad improved to 7-3, marking only the fourth time in franchise history that the Bullets or Wizards have won at least seven of their first 10 games.
While that nugget shouldn’t come as a surprise to longtime fans of a team once known for its proclivity for 9-20 records, four is a comically small number of seven-win starts over 61 seasons. Consider: The Golden State Warriors are 7-3 or better for the sixth time since the 2014-15 campaign, which happens to be the last time Washington accomplished the feat. The Miami Heat and Orlando Magic have combined to win at least seven of their first 10 games in 23 different seasons since they entered the league in 1988 and 1989, respectively.
By comparison, the Wizards started off 3-8 last season just before their next six games were postponed due to the team having a COVID-19 outbreak.
I don’t know if we could have imagined a better start for this team. Let’s see if the early trends continue.