The Washington Wizards’ organization seems committed to prioritizing player development by leveraging their G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go. Through three games, Capital City is 3-1.
In each of their first two games, the team fought back from slow starts, including being down 19-0 in game one. Similarly, they fought to take game three to overtime before falling short. They are currently seventh in the league with a defensive rating of 96.8.
During Go-Go media day, first-year general manager Amber Nichols emphasized that she and Tommy Sheppard are in constant communication. Similarly, first-year head coach Mike Williams said that Wes Unseld Jr. is available to him whenever he needs something and that they check-in regularly. Additionally, Williams said Ryan Richman, the former Go-Go coach who is now on the Wizards’ staff, has been a valuable resource to him, and the two talk frequently.
We asked on the Bullets Forever Twitter account if fans would like to see more Go-Go coverage so this is our first attempt at that. I also plan to interview some of the players on the Bleav in Wizards podcast this season as well. Through four games, several players have stood out and others are worth keeping an eye on long-term. Here are my initial observations of those key players.
Goodwin has been the team’s best player. He’s the engine that makes the whole team go, as both a scorer and playmaker. His assist totals have been relatively low but he frequently gets the rebound (8 per game) and pushes the pace to put the defense on its heels, which leads to easier looks for teammates.
He set the league on fire in his first two games, averaging 30.5 points but has cooled off a bit since. Goodwin is still putting up 23 points per game on the season but the perimeter shooting has tailed off in the last two games. Opposing defenses (well, really just the Long Island Nets) have caught on to his importance to the team’s offense and seemed determined to not let him beat them.
Perimeter shooting will be the swing skill for Goodwin. If he can make enough shots to keep defenses honest then he’s an NBA player. If not, he’s going to have a much tougher path to rotation minutes.
Goodwin also seems like a likable, humble player which should work in his favor as well. When you’re trying to make a team, endearing yourselves to the rest of the players and coaching staff is never a bad idea. We interviewed Goodwin during Summer League and were impressed. He shared some interesting anecdotes about Unseld taking time to review material and work with him directly.
Ayayi is a solid all-around player. He’s really been a connector for the Go-Go. He shoots a good percentage, he defends, he rebounds the ball, and he sets up teammates. Ayayi doesn’t seem to do anything well enough to call him a “specialist,” but he’s well-rounded. That versatility is likely what caught Sheppard’s eye when offering him a two-way.
Echenique is a prolific G-League rebounder. He’s not an elite athlete but his positioning is good and he has a nose for the ball. He’s averaging around 13 points per game, and he’s shooting around 50% from the field. For an old-school, back-to-the-basket center who doesn’t spread the floor, he needs to be more efficient. Echenique protects the rim reasonably well (2+ blocks per game) but I’m not sure that will translate against NBA athletes. It will be interesting to see how he looks if he's called up at any point.
Todd was the Wizards’ second-round pick in the most recent NBA draft and he’s assigned to the Go-Go. His offense has been a bit of a mixed bag so far. In game one, he scored 15 points on 6-14 shooting from the field and 3-8 from three. He also added 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
His shooting took a turn for the worse in game two. He was 1-6 overall and 1-5 from three (the one three looked pure at least). That resulted in 5 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and 4 turnovers. However, he was a deterrent on the defensive end, especially at the rim. He also switched onto the perimeter and kept opposing guards in front of him.
Todd bounced back well in games three or four, scoring 31 total points while shooting 11-20 from the field and 5-10 from three. Basically, he’s going to be up and down, which is to be expected given how raw he was coming in.
Todd is a big-time athlete (and was throwing down impressive dunks in warm-ups) with serious size and length. He’s trying to establish himself as a stretch big but he has a real opportunity to exploit mismatches in his minutes as a backup center for the Go-Go. He’s as tall and long as anyone in the G League but with the athleticism and quickness to stay in front of smaller players. He could be an unsolvable puzzle for opposing G League coaches if his feel for the game improves.
Schakel is a great perimeter shooter. Given that he shot 46% from three during his senior year at San Diego State, you could make the case that he was the best three-point shooter in this past year’s draft class. Sheppard had moderate success with another 6-6 undrafted shooter in Garrison Mathews and this seemed like an attempt to replicate that.
Unfortunately for the Go-Go, Schakel has struggled from outside so far. Through four games, he’s made 7 of 26 three-point attempts, which is roughly 27%. He’s still averaging about 13 points per game and finding other ways to contribute (rebounding, defending, etc.) but this team needs him to efficiently space the floor. The form on his shot is picture perfect and he has the track record to back it up. It seems only a matter of time before he gets going. And when he does, the Go-Go will be much better for it.
The optimist in me would say the Go-Go coaching staff is bringing Walker along slowly. He hadn’t played in two years and needs to get his legs under him before they can really ramp him up. The pessimist in me would say that Walker has underwhelmed and they can’t justify giving him minutes over more well-established players at this point.
It hasn’t helped Walker that all four games were close contests. I think he would benefit from a healthy dose of garbage time minutes to play freely and build some confidence. Hopefully, the organization is patient with Walker and he’s able to settle in and show the flashes that made him such a highly-touted high school prospect.
Sword is a 6-3 guard that makes his living on the defensive end. He’s a smart, pesky defender with a nose for the ball. In his three previous G League seasons, he averaged around a steal and a half per game. His presence helped them turn things around in the second game of the season. Sword’s a big luxury for a G League roster because he fits with most lineups, plays hard and smart, and doesn’t have much of an ego. I don’t see there being a role he could excel in for the Wizards, however.
Monroe played sparingly in game three, his first official game in a Go-Go uniform. In game four, he played 18 minutes off the bench, recording 6 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Unfortunately, he was 1-7 from the field and had 5 turnovers.
If this is a low-key way for the Wizards to see if he can play spot minutes for them, it has not been an encouraging experiment so far. If the real goal is to have a veteran big to help mentor the Go-Go’s young players then this seems like a worthwhile move.
The G League Ignite had success pairing Jarrett Jack with their younger players. He showed them how to conduct themselves as a professional and put them in more positions to be successful than they might have found themselves in otherwise. Monroe, by all accounts, is a model citizen and teammate. That gives me hope that he’s the right man to take Todd and Echenique under his wing.
Winston has only played in two games so far. He’s averaging 13.5 points per game but he’s shooting under 40% from the field and 25% from three. He also has only three assists compared to seven turnovers. Hopefully, this is just him shaking off the rust after being out with an injury. I will refrain from over-analyzing him, given that it’s such a limited sample size. Expect more on Winston once he has a few more games under his belt.