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Broom & Rubinstein Converse: What do the Wizards need to give them a better chance to compete?

Washington Wizards v Indiana Pacers Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the latest edition of Broom and Rubinstein Converse (B&RC), a series of articles in which Kevin Broom and Yanir Rubinstein chat about Wizards-related topics. If you like nerds discussing hoops — this one’s for you.

For previous installments of B&RC check out: July 2019 — part I, part II, April 2020 and May 2020, July 2020, August 2020, February 2021, November 2021.

Yanir Rubinstein: I thought we would be able to wait with our next B&RC until around Christmas. But then the Wizards happened.

Kevin Broom: I believe the term is #SoWizards.

YR: So, we’ve taken some time out our busy schedules and are here to give them our freebie advice.

Where should we start?

KB: They’re just not very good.

YR: Even I can tell that.

KB: They don’t have high-end talent. Their “depth” is basically a bunch of mediocre PFs. They don’t really have a PG at all. They don’t have a SF.

YR: How dare you trash Aaron Holiday and Raul Neto?

KB: You’re right — they don’t need my help.

Seriously, Neto can be decent — he was last season as a starter. But he was mostly off-ball in lineups with Westbrook and Beal, so he could do things he was good at — shooting open threes and attacking closeouts. He’s tough and he plays hard, but he’s not a playmaker, and he’s not all that good.

YR: As far as I can remember he was playing in a playmaker role at least in his last year in Utah (2018-19).

KB: That was 474 total minutes and a pretty significant outlier to the rest of his career. That season, he averaged 9.4 assists per 100 team possessions. His next-best year was 7.6 the previous season. His career average is 6.3. And his overall rating — even in that limited sample — was still well-below average (PPA 70).

YR: That definitely puts things in perspective — 474 minutes grand total! And then the Wizards try to make him into a 1500 minute guy... I remember now... the Jazz actually just waived him (they had a team option) to make room for the Mike Conley trade.

KB: I’m not saying he’s a bad playmaker. Just that he’s not a guy a good team wants in a significant role. Fourth or fifth guard in a three-guard rotation is about right for him.

YR: I overall feel like he forces too many shots instead of creating for others. It might be because he’s always trying put up numbers to get that next minimum contract somewhere. ‘Nuff said about Neto (for now). Holiday?

KB: Umm...he plays hard?

YR: How do you define ‘hard’?

KB: He hustles.

YR: Are we talking about Jrue or Aaron...? In my eye-test he plays pretty soft.

KB: He tries to play defense. Tries to drive and make plays on offense.

YR: I like the ‘tries’. You can pretty much say anything about anybody if you use the verb ‘try’ in a sentence.

KB: Like I said: he gives effort. But he’s little and just not that good. He’s been basically replacement level throughout his career (and that’s where he is this season too).

YR: I never thought I’d say this, but I sort of miss Ish Smith. He really could create for others and less frequently forced his own shot.

KB: Ish was okay. I miss him mainly because he was entertaining — looked like the church deacon who always had candy in his pockets for kids...

YR: LoL.

KB: ...and he was fast and liked to watch Steve Nash video. I loved that Nash thing he’d do when he’d drive, dribble under the basket and come out the other side and hit a cutter. Fun player to watch.

YR: And his salary is basically what Aaron Holiday is making: $4.5 million vs. Holiday’s $4 million. But in a #SoWizards way this $500,000 might have made a difference.

May I digress?

KB: I live for digressions.

YR: While I’ve lauded Sheppard for the Westbrook trade, I’ve also said I’d be really happy to see Westbrook thrive there. I’ve been super-happy to see Westbrook make an impact in the purple-and-gold. Did you see that 15-point third quarter he had against the Celtics the other day? And that dunk?

Westbrook really has the ability to tilt games in either direction.

KB: He’s playing better lately, and I’m happy for him. He wanted to go to the Lakers and take a shot at playing for a title with LeBron and Anthony Davis. It’d be cool if that works out for him. The Wizards did fine in the trade — last season their roster was comically weak. The trade gave them professional guys they could at least put on the floor and have NBA-level competence.

YR: I’d be very surprised if they win a championship, but it is interesting to see LeBron in the underdog slot.

Going back to the Wizards and PGs... During the Pacers game on Monday, I started writing down what Holiday and Neto did. There were a couple of possessions where they literally forced tough drives with plenty of time on the shot-clock without looking for teammates. It doesn’t feel that they love to share the ball like a traditional PG would.

KB: Yeah — they’re not really PGs. A lot of the actions the Wizards have been running aren’t working to shake guys free. I think there are some things they could do to improve execution, but the bigger factors are missing open shots and the overall lack of high-end talent.

YR: Look, I mentioned it last time. Not sure what can be done except try to bring Satoransky back or some other trade, or else just wait for the draft.

Any creative ideas?

KB: I don’t know if this qualifies as creative, but they essentially have two combo guards in Beal and Dinwiddie. There’s no reason players with their skill and experience should have trouble playing together. The smart move may be to patiently let them work it out while Dinwiddie’s knee finishes healing.

YR: Dinwiddie is great but not your typical PG. And the backup PG slot has been a pain.

KB: I guess it depends on what you mean by great. In my analysis, he peaked at a little better than average overall. He’s never been a full-time starter. And for whatever reason — knee injury, figuring out new teammates, learning the playbook, whatever — he’s driving a lot less than he did when he was at his best.

YR: Really good points. Let’s revisit this in a couple months. I’m not very optimistic mainly because it’s hard to heal injuries during the season.

Do you think there’s also the scouting factor? I mean that teams discounted Washington going into the season but when they realized that Unsfeld Jr. is solid, and that the Wiz can hold their own they started taking them more seriously and preparing accordingly.

KB: Everyone knew Unseld was solid. There is something to be said for teams getting to see what Unseld’s schemes would be with this roster.

YR: I know you think of Kuzma and KCP as trade pieces. However, I almost want to say: why give up the one thing that has been giving the Wizards an advantage this year (frontcourt depth)? I totally agree they need to address a couple of important pain points, but I would hope they can do that while keeping the reasonable contract of KCP and Kuzma. If anything, trade Hachimura for a decent PG or SF.

KB: I think everyone on the roster should be included in trade talks. They don’t have any building blocks. So, trade Kuzma, KCP, Hachimura...whoever. That frontcourt “depth” is basically a bunch of mid-level PFs. It’d be great if they could swing a deal to bring in a PG or SF.

YR: Some have questioned the impact the Capital Go-Go has had in developing players. I actually disagree. I think they have developed some players but for some reasons these players then don’t get picked up by the Wiz but rather by other teams.

KB: For instance?

YR: Just of the top of my head: Garrison Mathews (did you see his 4th quarter against the Nets the other night? I think he had 19 points last time I tuned in), Chris Chiozza, Gary Payton II.

How do you explain that they don’t get a chance with the Wiz — is it the win-now mentality of the Wizards for contending for the playoffs that does not allow to give younger prospects these kind of opportunities with the big boys?

KB: My first reaction is that it’s pretty normal to see guys bounce from one team to another in G League before they get good enough to be an NBA player or before they find a team that figures out how to use them.

Payton is a good example — he had contracts with five different NBA teams and appeared in games for three before he got to the Wizards organization. And he wasn’t young either — he was 27 in the year he got semi-significant playing time with the Wizards, and he’s 29 now.

That said, sometimes teams — like the Wizards (especially the Wizards?) just mis-evaluate players. They see them up close and identify weaknesses instead of strengths. Or maybe the guy didn’t work as hard in Washington’s organization as he did elsewhere, in part because Washington gave up on him.

Or — something the Wizards have been guilty of in the past — the team’s decision-makers think they have “enough” talent on the roster or too many guys ahead of a developing player to continue investing time, money and ef9fort in him.

YR: Interesting perspectives. I am definitely happy for Mathews. Here are the guy’s highlights from the aforementioned win over the Nets. The Rockets’ commentators are at their best here. You HAVE TO watch this just for them. One of them called him “Garry Bird” and “Fly Bird” at some point... while the other one called him “Mr. fourth-quarter”. Garrison Mathews!! And then there is that possession where he dives under Harden’s feet and comes on the other side with the ball... Got to love this Go-Go product!