A Saturday Night With the Washington Wizards — They Lost Again, This Time | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

A Saturday Night With the Washington Wizards — They Lost Again, This Time

By
Updated: November 14, 2016

Noted: the Wizards may have missed a ‘few’ layups during
a 90-second span in the third quarter on Saturday night in Chicago.

20161112-wizards-missed-3rd-quarter-layups

You can peek at the positives for the Washington Wizards, now 2-7 after an 11-point loss to Chicago on Saturday night. Stand on your tippy-toes, extend your arm, hold a mirror high over your head so you can see what’s on the top shelf.

They came out in the first quarter like a falling can of soup on Chicago’s dome, taking a 5-0 then a 21-9 lead without both John Wall (back-to-back rest) and Bradley Beal (hamstrung). But by the end of the first 12 minutes Chicago led by one point. And then in the third quarter, when the game became deceptively good, the Bulls doubled up the Wizards, 28-14. The #WittmanJava was not flowing out of halftime. Markieff Morris started hot (18 first half points) but fizzled with forced shots in the third (six second half points) while Jimmy Butler (37 points, 14-14 on FTs) asserted his alpha dog status on the night. Washington’s usual deplorable bench of Trey Burke (-24) and Marcus Thornton (-18) produced inept, dysfunctional basketball. But they were not alone. Get this: for about a 90-second span in the third quarter the Wizards missed all the layups in the world, eight of them.

Un-incredibly, not all is lost. Derek Fisher, ex-Knicks coach, pizza truther, and former player under Scott Brooks, even exclaimed his faith over televised airwaves that the Wizards have “playoff-like potential.” And ESPN’s Zach Lowe has outlined an upcoming slate of presumable must-wins.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at some things from Saturday—positive to the negative—painted into the big picture.

Sixth Man.

Some referred to Tomas Satoransky as a gem for his play against the Bulls. That’s the way he is cut. His only rough edges are distance shooting (he did hit a late shot clock 3 in Chicago; now 1-8 on the season), and needing more refined scoring capability after getting into the lane, which he is sneaky good at doing.

On the game’s very first play the long-armed Rajon Rondo appeared to be intently guarding Satoransky. That didn’t matter. The rookie dribbled directly into the lane, sucked in the defense, and found fellow rookie Sheldon McClellan for a 3-pointer. He dropped pocket passes to Marcin Gortat for dimes. He picked off passes in transition and used that change in momentum to set up Kelly Oubre for 3. He continued to be heady.

The 25-year old non-rookie rookie wasn’t perfect, but Satoransky fooled (and severely outplayed) Rondo on both ends of the floor throughout the night.

  • Satoransky (31 mins): 12 points (4-12 FGs), 9 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, +13
  • Rondo (25 mins): 0 points (0-6 FGs), 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 7 rebounds, -1

OK, so Satoransky is actually peeking over the edge of the shelf and you don’t have to reach to see how good he is. He is handing you a can of soup.

Not Centered.

Reaching is thinking that the return of Ian Mahinmi in however many weeks (high end of original estimate was around Thanksgiving) will solve all the Wizards’ problems. He will help (I called him potentially the best free agent defensive big man on the market this summer), but there’s only so much a backup center who just turned 30 and is coming off a knee injury to begin this season can do. Mahinmi has a reputation of being a tad foul prone, averaging 6.0 per 100 possessions last season, which is not quite at Kevin Seraphin levels (an eye-popping 8.2). Of course, sometimes fouls go hand-in-hand with good defense (Andrew Bogut’s rate last season was 7.4).

Mahinmi’s fouls per 100 possessions jumped to 7.9 in last year’s playoffs with the Pacers, and it’s something that handicapped his team (just check Candace Buckner’s Twitter feed), along with the fact that he’s a career 60 percent shooter from the free throw line. Might not get him hacked like DeAndre Jordan (42% career) and Andre Drummond (38.5% career) but it could affect late-game strategy.

This isn’t about highlighting the pitfalls of Mahinmi before he actually suits up in a real game for the Wizards. They really, really need him. The bigger context is Washington’s defense and who usually anchors that defense, the center. Jason Smith was signed to be the team’s third-string center and it’s been nearly a disaster so far, mostly because the Wizards committed three years and $16 million to him—money likely better spent elsewhere. Smith’s PER went from 14.6 in Orlando last season to minus-3.1 thru eight games this season. His true shooting percentage went from .513 to .294 (which has to progress to the mean). Defensively Smith hasn’t been that bad; his defensive box plus/minus (+3.4) is by far a career high (+0.9), but he has his limitations. Against Chicago Smith was setting hard screens, blocking shots, and put a flopping Dwyane Wade damn near asleep. He also finished minus-22, second-worst on the night to Trey Burke’s minus-24.

Marcin Gortat, current starting center, had a good night—18 points and 14 rebounds. But 14 points and eight rebounds came in the first half, and he retreated a bit in the second half, just like Markieff Morris. Later, he would continue walking his leadership back—bitching about not having fun anymore (just like last year), moaning about his team’s bench, and engaging with internet trolls.

I have no issue with Gortat calling out the bench. It should be considered more of a message for Ernie Grunfeld than picking on teammates. #GortatSpeak

https://twitter.com/MGortat/status/797669202828075008

Directionless Point Guarding.

Eric Maynor, thru Washington’s first five games in 2013, was not actually as terrible as he would become, even if far from good. Randy Wittman gave Maynor a window of the team’s first 20 games before relegating him to that second part of the bench that’s behind the bench—near the candy dish, the trainer, and a slop bucket. Not really, but you get the point. After Dec. 9, 2013, Maynor saw garbage time in exactly four games before the Wizards traded him on Feb. 20, 2014 with a second round pick and Jan Vesely to rent the bones of Andre Miller.

Maynor’s numbers as a Wizard:

  • 23 games, 215 minutes, 29.2% FGs, 32% 3Ps, 6.0 PER, 9.6 ast/36, 4.1 to/36, -7.5 box plus-minus

And now Trey Burke’s:

  • 9 games, 125 minutes, 50% FGs, 50% 3Ps, 11.4 PER, 4.8 ast/100, 2.8 to/100, -4.7 box plus-minus

Of course, remove an 18-point outburst versus Boston and Burke is 14-for-33 (42%) from the field and 0-for-2 from 3. OK, so he’s better than Eric Maynor. What is that saying? Burke is five years younger with a better pedigree (lottery pick) … but he seems just as clueless with how to run an NBA team. Burke dribbles the ball, and dribbles, and dribbles, and stares at his target, and dribbles, and the floor is not moving around his stationary body, and he dribbles, and he telegraphs passes, and this can’t last much longer. And he dribbles.

Even Wizards beat reporters have trouble hiding frustration with Burke’s play.

Next Gen.

Finally, we swing back to a positive note: Sheldon McClellan. Scott Brooks started him next to Satoransky on Saturday in the vein of being desperate for his bench to start playing better, and thus they should be used to that role—coming off the bench. I can’t interpret Brooks’ tea leaves but this also signals that Burke is falling further down in the rotation and that he’s not exactly satisfied with Marcus Thornton’s play, either. Who would be?

McClellan, a slashing 6-foot-6 undrafted rookie, gave it is all. He scored the aforementioned first bucket of the game, a 3 (his only 3), but darted to the basket in a number of interesting ways while going chest-to-chest with Dwyane Wade.

  • McClellan: 35 mins, 15 points, 9 shots, 4-5 FTs, 2 rebs, 1 ast, 0 tovs, even-0
  • Wade: 30 mins, 14 points, 17 shots, 4-4 FTs, 2 rebs, 2 asts, 2 tovs, +1

McClellan doesn’t stand out on defense yet, but he’s got size and did not consistently appear out of position. And he has just enough hints of the “combo” in combo-guard to see him as a budding Garrett Temple (but a much better finisher), supplanting Burke in the lineup while Satoransky is becoming the unquestioned backup to John Wall (and more).

The key ending quote from Brooks right after the game when asked about his rookie starting backcourt:

“I’m not afraid to throw guys in there. Age has nothing to do with my process. Experience? Yea, that helps, but you gain experience day by day if we do our job developing our guys.”

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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.