The Good, The Bad, The Ugly — The Washington Wizards After 41 Games | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly — The Washington Wizards After 41 Games

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Updated: January 24, 2016

The NBA All-Star break for the Wizards, and the rest of the league, comes in just under three weeks. Often talked about as the season’s midpoint (with a full playoff boat, it essentially is), the 20-21 Wizards have 11 games to play before the break. Then, after a seven-day rest around All-Star Weekend festivities, they’ll play a 30-game slate. But with 41 out of 82 games out of the way, we are exactly halfway to the finish line for teams merely hoping for a chance to make it to the post-season. The Washington Wizards qualify as a hopeful, currently on the outside looking in and mired in disappointment. It’s nothing that can’t be overcome, however. This team has the talent to beat any team outside of the Golden State Warriors; the Wizards also have the wherewithal to lose to any team, including the team that Will Smith destroyed in that one episode of “Fresh Prince” or any one of the teams that Michael J. Fox animal-ed in “Teen Wolf.” The Washington Wizards can be an unwilling ride on a backwards roller coaster. But there are many good things to appreciate about this team.

John Wall is an amazing point guard. He’s still learning and cannot yet be counted upon during the aughts of regular season play. But he’s tough, loves to pass, has learned how to shoot (mechanics are MUCH improved), and it’s a joy to watch how much joy he has playing the game. Bradley Beal is nice, too—when healthy. And it’s yet to be seen how he’ll taper his game to account for those frequent injuries. Aside from the leg stress reaction in his bones, the kid has taken some hard, seemingly devastating falls (only to often get up and be just fine). Beal is a potential star, but the final 41 games of this season will have a big impact on where his career goes next—a max contract also being in the balance. Wall, Beal, the slowly developing and subtly solid Otto Porter, and the surprise pup Kelly Oubre form a nice future core—the Wizards next need to invest in a stretch-5. Ernie Grunfeld has provided depth, flexibility, and has been once again stricken by injuries with his roster. Imagine feeling snake-bitten while having to maintain a positive yet apathetic demeanor like a gambler unconcerned with the highs and lows.

The Bad: The Wizards have not done a particularly good job of accounting for injuries and a change in offensive philosophy, which shouldn’t have been that unfamiliar, according the their coach. In this area, a C-minus would be too kind, and a D-plus would just be downright mean.

The Ugly: You wonder if the Wizards have the right locker room mix—and that includes coaching. Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson have been positive influences; Garrett Temple, Ramon Sessions and Gary Neal carry solid attitudes; and John Wall, Marcin Gortat, and Nene are well-meaning if not strong-willed presences who see things the way they see them. It’s a deep group of characters, along with Beal, Gooden, and Porter, that could succeed together. Now where does the buck ultimately stop? The Wizards are building the rep of being a dramatically underachieving team over the past two regular seasons (only to surprise with first-round playoff wins). Still, not good habits to build.

Keep reading as the rest of the TAI crew gets into their Good, Bad, and Ugly for one half of the 2015-16 Washington Wizards regular season.

[Wizards arrive at training camp - via instagram.com/washwizards]

[Wizards arrive at training camp – via instagram.com/washwizards]

Adam McGinnis (@AdamMcGinnis)

The Good.
Kelly Oubre. I assumed Randy Wittman would bury the first-round pick deep on the bench, and if he did get any legitimate burn, he would look completely lost. Due to injuries, Oubre got an early opportunity and displayed enough flashes of belonging that Wittman has been forced to give him additional minutes. The 20-year-old is far from a finished product, but he is shooting 38 percent on 3-pointers and his athleticism is needed on a team that lacks it. Also, his hair style is familiar to a “My Little Pony” so the nickname “Brony” works well.

The Bad.
The Injuries. Through 41 games, only John Wall and Ramon Sessions have appeared in every contest. Martell Webster injured his hip and was waived to create a roster spot. Jared Dudley, who was recovering from off-season back surgery, has logged more minutes than Bradley Beal and Nene combined.

Wizards 2015-16 Game 41 Minutes Count

The Ugly.
The home record and defense. Washington has already lost more at the Verizon Center this season (10-13) than last season (29-12). The Wizards defense has gone from elite, ranked fifth in efficiency last season, to mediocre at 18th in 2015-16. Considering the transition to a new offense, there was expectation of the defense slipping, but it dropping off a cliff has been the main storyline of this disappointing NBA product. Randy Wittman’s staple as coach has been getting his Wiz team to play tough defense. Owner Ted Leonsis has always stressed the importantce of protecting the home court. Neither of these outcomes are happening.

Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)

The Good.
Kelly F. Oubre. Aside from the high draft picks like Beal and Wall who have effortlessly fallen in Ernie Grunfeld’s ungrateful lap, the Wizards have done little via the draft in recent years. Oubre seems to legitimately enjoy playing defense, he judiciously picks his spots on offense, he has a knack for finishing with flair, and, most importantly, there is room for growth. Who needs Kevin Durant?

Honorable Mention? The Wizards, despite an injury-prone season full of inconsistencies, are still just one game out of the eighth spot, two games out of the sixth and seventh spots, and four games out of fourth. A tepid win streak vaults them right back in the playoff discussion. It isn’t quite as good as jockeying for home court advantage, but it is something.

The Bad.
It could be due to injury, it could be due to ineffective play, but mystery of the “stretch-4” has yet to be resolved. The Wizards decision to use pace and space based on the limited success they had in last year’s playoffs was a step in the right direction. Their inability to lock down a consistent stretch 4 prior to the Durant sweepstakes (which they won’t win) is part of the reason for this season’s mediocrity.

The Ugly.
On the one hand, it is unfair to judge Randy Wittman, since he’s yet to have a healthy roster at his disposal. And unlike Luke Walton/Steve Kerr, he is not running an offense he’s 100 percent comfortable with. We’ve gotten no concrete verification that he’s been forced to change his offensive outlook, but the tea leaves certainly lead one to draw that conclusion.

But Wittman is the head coach and his job is to get his team ready to play on the offensive and defensive ends every night, regardless of who is available. There have been far too many postgame pressers when he angrily comments on his team’s lack of defense or lack of consistent effort (a regular criticism in seasons past). He will occasionally pepper in the “I’ve got a do a better job” phrase, but he still disproportionately blames the team for not responding to him.

On top of the inconsistent performances, Bradley Beal, John Wall and Marcin Gortat have all taken subtle and not-so-subtle jabs at Wittman’s schemes and characterizations of the team’s efforts, or lack thereof. There’s a disconnect somewhere in that locker room, and unlike last year when Paul Pierce could be the leader on the floor to supplement or offset what was lacking with the coaches, the Wizards appear far too rudderless.

Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks)

The Good.
By turns John Wall’s performance and Kelly Oubre’s wind-whipped whispers of success.

The Bad.
Defensive prestige is but a signal tower on the horizon for a man with a cell phone full of breakup messages dying of thirst in the desert.

The Ugly.
Too much, resulting in forced passes, resulting in turnovers, resulting in a sub-.500 season driving a car with 50 wins stuffed in the trunk.

Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202)

The Good.
Ramon Sessions learned how to make easy shots. Layups: 62-for-111 (.559) this year vs. 53-for-107 (.495) last year. Within 8 feet: 92-for-174 (.529) this year vs. 77-for-180 (.428) last year.

The Bad.
DeJuan Blair has already surpassed his minutes total from a year ago (198 to 180).

The Ugly.
If Marcin Gortat or Nene get hurt again, there’s a pretty good chance I start a game at center this season. I’m 5-foot-9.

John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend)

The Good.
John Wall, John Wall, and Jared Dudley. I’ll start with Wall. He’s (quietly) averaging more than 19 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals this season. The only other player with those averages is Russell Westbrook, one of the three best players in the Association. Looking past his PER (top 10 among point guards) and Real Plus-Minus Wins (top 20 overall), the stat that best sums up this half-season is double-doubles. Wall ranks fifth among all players with 23, which means he’s produced at least 20 points in more than half of Washington’s games this season. Stud. Dudley’s been great, too. He’s third in the league in 3P% (min. 50 attempts), the best 4 on the roster, and this crappy team is 13-13 when he starts.

The Bad.
The dearth of mirth. It’s become routine to turn on a Wizards game with few (of fewer) expectations, cringe, then midway through the third quarter turn to the closest person and say, “Man, the Wizards stink.” And this isn’t just the unprofessional opinion of a fan or blogger, here: the players have also felt the suck. “It’s not even fun coming here anymore. There’s so much negativity,” Marcin Gortat said hours before the start of December 2015. “I understand we’re losing games but, damn, we just got to cut that right now, man. It’s not fun at all.”

The Ugly.
The sad, stale state of this Wizards union. Two things that will not be seen in D.C. this year: Kevin Durant in red, white and blue; and, based on current projections, the playoffs. While San Antonio’s bench has enough talent to win 64 or 65 games over a full season, Washington—the whole team—will be lucky to finish more than a few games above .500. Injuries are the go-to excuse, but they also beg the question: What happened to the “depth at both forward positions,” varied rotations, and unlimited versatility that was promised by team architect Ernie Grunfeld? Another question: How many All-Star seasons from John Wall will the franchise waste?

Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur)

The Good.
John Wall appears on his way to a third All-Star berth, Ernie Grunfield didn’t blow a draft, and the Wizards have gotten solid production from a cast of characters that can only be described as ragtag. Despite the sky seemingly falling on #WizardsTwitter, the team is only one game back of a coveted playoff spot.

The Bad.
Injuries, injuries, injuries. The Wizards have had more games missed due to injury than Michael Jordan crying memes on my Twitter timeline. It’s a miracle that they are even able to be around the .500 mark, considering the lineups they are fielding on a nightly basis.

The Ugly.
Randy Wittman’s coaching schemes have been underwhelming at best this season and, for a defensive-minded coach, he has somehow managed to turn a top 10 defense into a bottom 10 unit while not really showing a ton of progress in terms of fixing the offense (the Wizards are 15th in the NBA in Offensive Rating).

Bartosz Bielecki (@bart__92)

The Good.
The Wizards are showing flashes of being a good team. Their offense usually looks good, and whenever the defense steps up, the team plays the way we expect them to play. John Wall, Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter are all enjoying very good seasons, but they are let down by coaching.

The Bad.
Injuries! Gortat recently questioned some of his teammates’ professionalism for constantly getting hurt. Maybe we should start questioning the abilities of the team’s medical staff? Since the Suns are tanking, can Washington trade for their medical team?

The Ugly.
Perimeter defense and rebounding. Watching the Wizards sometimes means waiting for the execution to be over. Opponents have been killing this team with their 3-point shooting, making 38.2 percent of those shots, which ranks the Wizards last in the NBA. Rebounding has been another issue. The Wiz rank 27th in rebounding differential, mostly because they lack a glass-eating 4, other than the always-hurt Drew Gooden.

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.