The Wizards keep playing and they keep losing… Moral victories? Lottery losses? Who cares… just get the season over with already. Amirite or amirite? Sure, players are developing by playing, but who’s to say they wouldn’t benefit just as much by shutting the team down for the season and simply holding a training camp for the next couple of weeks? No, that won’t happen… but you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that anything good can come from the rest of this remaining schedule of 16 games. The Wizards are playing more like a team and now face the tough challenge of learning how to succeed in close games; but hopefully they don’t learn too much, because then it could hinder the future. How embarrassing would it be if the Wizards (11-39) put together a string of wins that pushes them away from Charlotte (7 wins) and New Orleans (13 wins) and more toward Cleveland, Sacramento, Toronto, and New Jersey (17 wins each). I’m analyzing this too much, aren’t I? Let’s just play basketball… For tonight’s 3-on-3 we have Matt Moore (@HPbasketball) of the TrueHoop blog Hardwood Paroxysm, CBS Sports and other locations on the Internet, along with TAI’s Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20) and Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It). Start it up…
#1) The Wizards have looked much better since trading JaVale McGee and Nick Young and benching Andray Blatche, but they haven’t exactly been able to reward themselves with wins. They’ve been competitive against quality teams, but what must change tonight versus the Sixers?
MOBLEY: It sounds simple enough, but the key to a Wizards victory lies in good ball movement. If John Wall is passing the ball into Nene or Trevor Booker, drawing attention inside, which leaves open shots and driving lanes for Jordan Crawford or Chris Singleton, scoring gets a hell of a lot easier. Sixers guard Lou Williams may be coming thru that Verizon Center door, but not to the Wizards locker room, and their current roster does not shoot well enough to rely on jumpers and contested shots to win games. This may need to be a high assist night for Wall.
MOORE: Just keep it close. The Sixers are horrible in close games, and the Wizards have some guys who can hit shots. Grind it out, slow it down, keep it tight, and wait for the Sixers to implode.
WEIDIE: John Wall has to get better at leading his team’s offense. Maybe that’s hard to do seeing as Randy Wittman has likely simplified things so much, and seeing that the Sixers are a squad that scouts their opponents well. Wall is shooting 43-percent from the field on the season; in the fourth quarter, that dips to 40.3-percent (his lowest FG% of any quarter). Wall’s free throw percentage also drops to 69.4-percent in the fourth (from 79.2-percent overall). His assists per 36 minutes (8.4 overall) lowers to 7.5 in the fourth — Wall’s AST/36 in other quarters: 1st – 8.6, 2nd – 8.9, and 3rd – 8.7. So when it comes down to the last 12 minutes of games, Wall passes less and shoots worse. Surely his teammates play a role in this, but still… that is soooo ‘Wizards’ of him.
[Numbers via NBA.com/Stats]
#2) John Wall’s late-game decision-making versus Indiana was horrendous. In fact, his ability to run an offense hasn’t been great all season. Teams are learning how to guard him, and folks are starting to realize that his only offensive move is speed. On the scale of 1-10 — 10 being very concerned and 1 being not at all — how concerned are you regarding Wall’s offensive development? Relatedly, is the feeling starting to creep in that Wall may not be the true face of this rebuilding Washington franchise, rather the next young star the Wizards get (likely through the draft) will be the Kevin Durant to Wall’s Westbrook (or the Jordan to Wall’s Pippen — names are simply for analogies here, not comparison)?
MOBLEY: John Wall needs some help on the perimeter to make the game easier for him. From Arenas to Nick Young to Jordan Crawford, his backcourt mates have shown brief flashes of brilliance, followed by extended periods of inconsistency and selfishness. The Wizards’ horrid record this season almost all but guarantees that help is en route via the NBA draft, so that could solve half the problem. Wall has to continue to improve his offensive game, and some backcourt help is needed, along with some coaching — whether it comes in the future from Mike D’Antoni or tonight from Sam Cassell. I’d place my level of worry at a “4″.
MOORE: A 4. There’s enough to register, but this is more a case of what can happen if you put a good player in a bad spot than a genuine problem with Wall’s talent. He’s played with knuckleheads and chuckers his entire career. And he hasn’t developed well? SHOCKING. Better coaching and a better set of supporting players and Wall will be fine. Learning to run an offense takes an offense to run.
WEIDIE: My concern is at a 5, perhaps creeping up to a 6. What’s this mini-foot kick Wall has displayed with his jumper lately? Whatever it is, it doesn’t look good. And while Wall certainly can be faster with the ball than many others in a dead sprint, his dribbles moves seem very limited, and more than not, his “crossover” involves more lateral direction (followed by Wall using his quickness), rather than using the dribble to move toward the basket. Scoring is king in this league, and Wall just doesn’t have the basketball intuition to be a great, or perhaps even good, scorer. Wall may continue to be the face of ugly Reebok shoes for several years, but if the Wizards are ever become a contender, he will have to take second billing to a high-caliber offensive weapon who can put the ball through the net.
#3) The Wizards and Sixers have played three times this season, all within a span of 10 days in January. Philly won all three by margin of 31 points, 13 points and 20 points, and they are favored in D.C. by 8.5 points tonight. Do they cover?
MOBLEY: The Sixers will win big tonight, 105-91. Barring a 30-point offensive explosion from John Wall or Jordan Crawford, the Wizards will be sluggish on both ends of the floor due to last night’s loss in Indiana. The Sixers have not played since Tuesday night, when Jodie Meeks lit up the Cavaliers for 31 points. Meeks (and maybe Lou Williams at times) will presumably be guarded by Jordan Crawford, who hasn’t had the best of luck on defense as of late (although the Wizards as a team have). A win for the Wizards will be in doubt fairly early.
MOORE: They cover by miles. This Sixers team does one thing exceptionally well. Blow out bad teams. Double-digits win for the Sixers tonight.
WEIDIE: The Sixers cover, but it won’t be as ugly as people might think. Of course, there are nagging injuries to Nene and Trevor Booker that could have an effect. Still, I think the Wizards are better positioned to battle Philly’s interior now as opposed to the other games; it’s the exterior that worries me. I’m just not sure anyone on the Wizards’ roster, even John Wall, has the combination of ability and interest to limit the Sixers’ effectiveness on the perimeter. Also, Washington is 7-for-38 from 3-point land (18.4%) and 43-for-64 from the free-throw line (67.2%) in the three games against Philly this year. If cold shooting hurt the Wiz in Indy last night, I don’t expect it to magically click tonight.
76ers Head Coach Doug Collins Pre-game Comments to the media: