This is Part 3 of a three-part series where we will take a look at different parts of the Wizards roster and identify one thing every player should focus on for the upcoming season. Today, we will be taking a look at the new acquisitions (Wright, Barton, and Morris). Without further ado, let’s get right to it.
Delon Wright (G) - Focus on forming a connection with Daniel Gafford
Daniel Gafford is probably the most underutilized player on the Wizards roster. His skill set of being a legitimate lob threat is not easy to find in the NBA. The Wizards know this better than anyone, because the last time they had someone like Gafford was 10 years ago when Javale McGee was on the roster. It would be a real shame if he wasn’t used, just because of how dangerous and effective Gafford is when used properly.
The Wizards utilized Gafford a lot the first season he was here, and he truly thrived. That was because they had one of the best playmakers in the league, Russell Westbrook, who would feed him. Westbrook and Gafford formed a connection that terrorized opposing teams. The clear shift in Gafford’s production could be seen between when he had someone to feed him and when he didn’t. When he was in Chicago, he averaged 4.7 points a game and had 3.3 rebounds a game. After he got to the Wizards, his production jumped to 10.1 points a game and 5.6 rebounds a game.
This season, Gafford’s production took a hit, as even though he played more minutes than last season, he only put up 9.4 points a game. That’s expected, since the guy who was feeding him was traded, and no one took on that role of feeding Gafford. Gafford got most of his points this season by doing cleanup work (that’s off of misses), and working hard in the post to get his points. Gafford barely got lobs this season. If Gafford had someone who consistently lobbed to him, and found him open, that number could have easily been at 15 points per game.
Delon Wright has earned the reputation of being a very solid floor general. Alongside his teammate Monte Morris, he was top 5 in assist to turnover ratio last season. Wright actually has experience forming a connection with a hyper athletic big off the bench (Onyeka Okongwu) when he was in Atlanta, so this role shouldn’t be new to him. If Delon can form a connection with Gafford in the way Westbrook did, it would totally transform the bench offense, because it would open the floor up a lot more. Defenses would be so focused on guarding the Pick and Roll, that it could give the opportunity for the shooters on the bench like Rui and Kispert to get open. On top of this, the Wizards bench scoring output would definitely go up, because when Gafford has been put in a pick and roll situation with anyone, he has converted at a high rate. So, if the bench runs the Pick and Roll at a high rate, their scoring output will definitely go up, as Gafford scores at a high rate on these plays.
Will Barton (F)- Work on becoming a better defender
In the 8 seasons Will Barton spent as a Denver Nugget, he showed that his bag of tricks is deep, and that he isn’t just a spot up shooter. He is a microwave scorer, who can get hot very quickly. While Barton is good on offense, he has been quite bad on defense in the last couple of years. He started out as a decent defender, but as time went on, his defensive skill just diminished. In the first 4 seasons, his worst defensive rating was 108.8. Since then, it has slipped to as low as 114.6. The league average last year was 112. Whether it was because he stopped putting effort on that end of the floor, or whether it was because of injury, or whether it was because of something else, it’s clear that his defensive skill has slipped considerably. The Wizards really need "The Thrill" to get better on defense, because they were bottom 6 in defensive rating last year, and the last thing they need is another below average defender. Even if getting better on defense means losing some shooting or scoring for Barton, the Wizards can afford that because they have enough shooters and scorers. What they really need are good defenders, and if Will can at least be decent on defense, that would add so much to this team.
Monte Morris (F)- Work on finding the right person and playmaking at a high level, particularly to Beal
Along with his teammate Delon Wright, Monte Morris was top 5 in assist to turnover ratio last year. There is no question he is a solid playmaker. However, because he played alongside one of the best playmakers in the league, Nikola Jokic, he didn’t need to be the primary playmaker. However, when he did take on the role of primary playmaker (off the bench and when Jokic was off the floor), he was very solid and looked very comfortable in that role. Since he hasn’t played that role consistently every game for 30+ minutes a night, it’s definitely going to take some time for him to adjust to becoming the primary playmaker.
What that means more than anything, is he has to get into the mindset of always looking to find the open person, and making the right pass. In particular, I want him to drive and find Beal open, because that’s where Beal really thrives. Beal thrived as a three point shooter when Wall drove and dished to him on the three point line. Ever since then, he’s had to create for himself, and his three point percentage has dropped drastically as a result of that. If Beal can get someone to create for him and find him open on the three point line like Wall did, it would reduce his load on offense significantly. Even if Monte, can’t replicate Wall fully, if he can be Wall-esque and do even just 50% of Wall did as a playmaker, it would help Beal so much, and would help the Wizards offense so much too, because if Beal can start making three point shots again, by taking shots he’s good at (catch and shoot threes), it would open the floor so much for everyone else.