Since the NBA’s trading deadline, the Washington Wizards have had a large portion of their roster change. They’ve traded for Kristaps Porzingis to help give Bradley Beal a second All-Star player. They acquired Monte Morris and Will Barton to help add depth to the roster through players familiar with Wes Unseld Jr’s system. But, since Beal and all the new additions have yet to play a game together, it’s difficult to know if they’ve built a playoff roster.
Over the past week, All-stars such as Dejounte Murray and Rudy Gobert have been traded by the San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz, respectively. San Antonio and Utah are not willing to be stuck on the loathed “Treadmill of Mediocrity.” Both teams have had similar success in recent years, with the Jazz reaching the playoffs last season. But, with uptake in teams willing to “go all-in” on winning a championship. These teams realized that even with these talented players, they still didn’t have enough.
“They didn’t want to see me waste years rebuilding and stuff,” Murray said via Sports Illustrated. “They want to see me win and the best for Dejounte, and I thank them for that a lot. That’s what makes our relationship special and family forever.”
How have the Wizards addressed their offense?
Last year the Wizards were 35-47. They were the worst team in three-point shooting, with only 860 long range shots made for the season. In contrast, three teams in their division made over 1,000 threes. According to Synergy, they ranked 23rd in points per possession (PPP) in catch-and-shoot attempts. Even Beal, their best player, struggled from the three-point line by having the worst percentage of his career. To add more depth to the roster, they had to sacrifice trading one of their best shooters, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the Morris and Barton deal. Last year Caldwell-Pope led the Wizards in three-point percentage.
This offseason, the Wizards tried to address their shooting deficiency by resigning one of their most efficient spot-up shooters Anthony Gill, who in limited possessions ranked at the top of the league with a blazing 1.304 PPP in spot-up opportunities. They kept Gill on a two-year deal and hope he takes a leap to help bolster this unit.
Morris was a best-case scenario acquisition for the Wizards in that he fits their desperation to find a point guard and was one of the best shooters in the NBA. After star point guard Jamal Murray went down before last year with an ACL tear, Morris took over the starting point guard duties for the Denver Nuggets.
In that role, he was in the 95th percentile in off-screen shots and in the 89 percentile in spot-up jumpers. He will come into the Wizard’s starting lineup comfortably as their best shooter with the ability to score on and off the ball. The Wizards have had trouble finding a guard to fit next to Bradley Beal since they traded John Wall. With Morris shooting 39.4% from three for his career, he will help give Beal the spacing he needs for another career year.
How have the Wizards addressed their defense?
The Wizards went into this offseason knowing they had to fix their defensive issues. They ranked 25th in defensive rating and PPP. In the draft, they took the first step in addressing that need by selecting defensive savant Johnny Davis. In college, he was one of the best point of attack defenders and was excellent at guarding opposing shooters trying to fight behind screens. He would deny players trying to get the ball while averaging over one game steal. Switching onto bigs in the post never startled him as he held his boxing out and did not foul.
During free agency, the Wizards continued to attack their dire need of willing defenders for their defensive-minded head coach. The Wizards signed Delon Wright to a two-year deal with an average value of eight million dollars per year.
Last year, Wright played with the Atlanta Hawks alongside one of the worst defensive players in the league, Trae Young. On most possessions, the Hawks tried to hide Young from guarding the other team’s opposing ball handler. While in the game, Wright was a deterrent for the Hawks, that faced the hardest defensive matchups. His defensive RAPTOR was rated a +2.5, which would have been the best on the Wizards last year at the guard position. The Wizards will probably utilize him in a similar role in his minutes played alongside Beal. With Beal looking to lead the Wizards in scoring again, he will need a guard to help take his defensive load off.
What can we make of the Wizards now?
The Wizards are a team that ended the year on a disappointing note, unable to make the NBA’s play-in tournament after making it the previous season. The team since has addressed issues on the offensive and defensive side of the ball while adding a co-star in Porzingis. But, for the team to be one of the league’s best, they’re still hoping for a lot of improvement from their young players and consistent health. Even though Beal is coming off season-ending wrist surgery, the Wizards negotiated a five-year $251 million deal with his agent, Mark Bartelstein.
But that contract is more unique than Wizards fans could have expected. Beal became the only player in the NBA currently to have a no-trade clause. When Beal signs the contract, he will be only the 10th player in NBA history to have a no-trade clause. Beal and his agent have negotiated a contract that gives them near-unprecedented leverage on the Wizards. The team cannot rebuild until 2028. So, it’s time to go all-in on building around their superstar, for better or for worse.