The Wizards have now won a season-high five games in a row. Washington recorded a season-high 72 points in the paint, outpacing Milwaukee 72 to 26. They are also 11-2 when they hold opponents under 110 points.
Per the Wizards stats department, "The Wizards shot the ball at a .532 clip (50-94 FG) and have now recorded a field goal percentage of .500-or-better in three consecutive games. This marks the 15th time this season Washington has shot at .500-or-above with the team posting an 10-5 record in those games."
The Wizards are on a bit of a roll lately and it just so happens to coincide with the returns of Delon Wright and Rui Hachimura and Wes Unseld Jr.'s decision to insert Daniel Gafford into the starting lineup alongside Kristaps Porzingis.
Adding more length to both the starting five and the bench has played a crucial role in that streak. As stated above, they're scoring more in the paint, shooting a higher field goal percentage, keeping teams out of the paint, and holding teams below 110 points.
Per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, Porzingis and Gafford each had 4 blocks and 8+ rebounds against Orlando. They are the first Wizards or Bullets teammates to do so since 1987 (Manute Bol, Charles Jones). They are the first Wizards or Bullets teammates with 4+ blocks in a game since 2012.
Kristaps Porzingis and Daniel Gafford each had 4 blocks and 8+ rebounds tonight, first Wizards/Bullets teammates to do that since 1987 (Manute Bol, Charles Jones).— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) December 31, 2022
First Wizards/Bullets teammates with 4+ blocks in a game since 2012.
Replacing Will Barton's bench usage with Hachimura's has been another seemingly effective choice. Hachimura has scored 20 or more points in three of his last five games and 10 or more in five consecutive games coming off the bench.
That's this team’s formula for success and playing big seems to be the best way to achieve that. The Wizards are one of the tallest and longest teams in the league so it makes sense to play to their strength.
With Bradley Beal out, the lineup that intrigues me most is Wright, Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma, and Porzingis. To me, that's their best blend of defensive length and shot creation. I'd like to see that group close games more often.
Playing Gafford and Porzingis together is great for large portions of the game but in crunch-time, I think it stagnates the offense a bit too much. Similarly, Monte Morris and Corey Kispert give opposing teams someone to target defensively.
The identity of certain teams takes longer to reveal itself than others. Perhaps, Unseld Jr. is finally figuring out which buttons to push and when. No matter what, it seems clear Wright needs to be in the rotation as the team is 8-1 when he plays.
I recently had Kevin Chouinard, a writer for Hawks.com, on the Bleav in Wizards podcast and discussed Wright's tenure on the Hawks. I asked Chouinard why someone like Wright could be so impactful in Washington but could never really carve out more of a niche in Atlanta.
Chouinard felt that the team did play some of its best basketball with Wright on the floor and he factored into some of their most productive lineups. However, it was a mystery to him why he couldn't seem to stay in Nate McMillan's good graces for longer stretches.
Overall, his numbers in Atlanta were very similar to what he's averaging this season. He actually shot the ball better with the Hawks. It seems unquestionable though that the Wizards value Wright's defensive contributions more than his previous team.
Their loss is Wizards fans' gain. Wright may have the highest fan approval rating of anyone on the team this season. I recently tweeted that the Wizards look like the 2017 Golden State Warriors whenever Wright plays, and while that was clearly an exaggeration, it's hard to argue with an 8-1 record.
The Washington Wizards when Delon Wright plays pic.twitter.com/EFRiaJdXju— Matt Modderno (@MattModderno) January 2, 2023
Let's hope that this is something the team can continue to build on and fine-tune over time and not something other teams will eventually figure out with more time to scout and gamelan around it.