As the Washington Wizards wrapped up another disappointing season, there was a lot that we learned about this team. With this team’s core built around the so-called “Big 3”, it was expected at minimum that the Wizards would be in the postseason, but up and down play, injuries, among other things lead to the downfall of their season. Here are six things that learned this season
1. G-League Affiliate Has a Viable Structure
Whether its’ the growth of embattled rookie Johnny Davis who struggled mightily to start the season, or it were two way players such as Jordan Goodwin, Jay Huff and Quentin Jackson, the G-League Affiliate, Capital City Go-Go had a positive impact on the Wizards’ organization this season.
There were times during the season, when Johnny Davis looked like he would not have much of an impact at the NBA Level, but to the Go-Go’s credit, and of course, Davis’ credit as well, his play improved and showed that he may be able to be a rotational piece going forward for this team.
There were also times, especially when Delon Wright was injured, that Jordan Goodwin looked like the best backcourt player outside of Bradley Beal. Having an affiliate organization that has a knack for developing players is invaluable. Not every player on a contending team will be a first round pick, the best organization’s find a way to get players in unconventional ways and perhaps the Wizards have the foundation to build out parts of their roster with what they have developed with the Go-Go.
2. Kispert Has a Role on this Team, But….
Corey Kispert had an exceptional 2nd year. He shot a shade under 50 percent from the field and shot 42 percent from the field. As the Wizards begin to have less and less availability of their star players late in the season, Kispert stepped up and became one of the key offensive players on the team, after 18.6 points per game the last 10 games. Kispert found ways to score besides shooting 3s as well. He continued to be, in my opinion, the best cutter on the team (and perhaps one of the best in the league) and he also found ways to increase his efficiency around the rim.
This is all positive, but there is one problem with all of this and it has nothing to do with Kispert. We have seen with this organization for years, when players play like this, overvalue their talent and give them roles that their talent is not suited for.
Make no mistake about it, Kispert is not a star player, he’s a glue guy, a high-end role player. His full potential will not be realized in the role he played at the end of the season, but rather next to high-caliber star players who he can play off of. When he’s able to play that role, we will see his strength’s magnified. It is up to the Wizards’ organization, namely their future General Manager, to determine how to maximize this roster and put Kispert in a role that is a better fit. At least we know, he has the ability to be a big contributor and that’s key for a team that has struggled to find draft picks that stick long term.
3. Delon Wright Turned Into Best Free Agent Pick Up in a Few Years
Amongst the players on the roster who played at least 50 games, only Anthony Gill (110.4) had a better Defensive Rating than Delon Wright (110.9). Delon was the team’s best perimeter defender who often supplanted Monte Morris in the lineup to finish games, because of his ability to get stops on the defensive end.
Offensively, Wright was not a sharpshooter, but he was a respectable shooter, who was an efficient scorer (55 percent effective field goal percentage) and made smart basketball decisions that ultimately allowed him to be a positive on the floor even when he wasn’t scoring.
For the many misses that Tommy Sheppard had in his tenure as the General Manager, Delon Wright was a successful signing for him. When Wright was injured, his absence was noticeable and the team begin to free fall in the standings after a great start to the season. The Wizards were 9-23 without Delon, while being 26-24 with him playing. He’s certainly not a star, but getting a player like him will only help the depth of the team going forward.
4. Team Still Lacks Identity Under Unseld Jr.
After the starting the season as a solid defensive team, each successive month going into March, the Wizards’ defensive rating increased. They went from middle of the pack (16th), to bottom 3rd in the league (21st) in defensive rating.
For the 2nd straight year, the Wizards got off to a strong start (10-3 last year, 10-7 this year), only to falter as the season went on and ultimately finishing with a 35-47 record in each of the two seasons.
The Wizards lost a league-high 7 games, where they led by 15 points or more. Is the point hitting home? There has not been consistency thus far under Unseld Jr. There has been moments of brilliance and moments of frustration and this season was no different. If anything we have learned that this team, under Unseld, is consistently inconsistent and doesn’t seem to sustain anything. After two seasons, it’s hard to describe anything the Wizards do particularly great and that’s perhaps the biggest indictment on their coach (and yes the organization as well).
5. Bradley Beal Showed Improved Efficiency
I know so many will point to Bradley Beal’s exorbitant contract as their source of judgment of Beal, but that takes away from the reality that when he was on the floor he played a much more efficient style that we have not seen in a number of years. Beal finished with a career high 50.6 percent shooting from the field, career 2nd-best 55 percent effective field goal percentage, while still average almost 6 assists per game. His usage this season also dropped to its lowest since 2018-2019 season.
There are things we can complain about Beal’s game, but his ability to adjust his playing style to be a better fit next to Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma showed us that he can be a solid 2nd or 3rd option on a deeper team.
6. Porzingis is solid, but has his limitations
Kristaps Porzingis had a career year. He reached career-highs in points per game, field goal percentage, True Shooting Percentage and many other traditional and advanced statistical measures. He showed his ability to be a go to player with this team.
Here’s the problem that we did discovered. Even with him being tied with Beal as the leading scorer of the team, this team finished out of the postseason.
As good as he is offensively, he does struggle against bigger, more physical centers, who can easily push him out of position and force him into the more difficult shots. Unlike a traditional center, he does not have the same advantages closer to the basket and often that leads to lower percentage shots.
Additionally, although being athletic for his size, Porzingis is still subjected to being attacked by opposing teams in the pick and roll, on defense, by quick athletic guards/wings. The Wizards tried to leverage his strength’s offensively by making him a “4” on offensive, but defensively there are some tough match-ups for him that make building around him difficult. It’s possible that there is a role and a structure for a roster that will work well around Porzingis but we learned this season that his limitations are a lot harder to mask then perhaps we would have expected.