Where Have The Wizard Boys Of Summer Gone? | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Where Have The Wizard Boys Of Summer Gone?

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Updated: November 9, 2016

Scott Brooks, Ted Leonsis

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

For a season that started out with so much promise, the Wizards already find themselves in the precarious position of playing “must-win” games (which they’ve lost). Locker room cries for more desperate play have, it seems, fallen on deaf ears. The Wizards were able to eek out their lone victory so far last Friday against the Atlanta Hawks, but then turned around and lost to an underwhelming Orlando Magic team the very next night. Granted, the Wizards were without All-Star Star John Wall against the Magic, but this team has not performed up to the standard that the great Charles Barkley has bestowed on them (his standard seems pretty low).

The victory at home against the Hawks showed why some believed this team might be able to compete in an improving Eastern Conference. They were able to utilize both of their “max” players in a way that was conducive to a winning style of basketball. John Wall was his usual explosive and distributing self, and Bradley Beal finally figured out how to use his own burst to create points from the free throw line, instead of creating just enough space to get off another highly contested long two-point shot. Beal had by far his best performance of the season, scoring 20 of his 28 points after halftime and getting to the free throw line where he converted on 13-of-14 attempts–something he’s been encouraged to do by everyone from his mom to his coach.

But glimpses of solid play alone will not get this team back to the playoffs.

The Achilles heel has been the bench. Washington’s bench ranks dead last in the NBA in points per game at 22.8. The are also getting killed by opposing benches in “efficiency,” a metric from HoopStats.com that factors all the basic box score stats.

Although production has yet to come, Brooks unlocked some of the front office-promised versatility by changing up the rotations like a mad scientist, as TAI’s Adam Rubin detailed after that Hawks game. Tomas Satoransky has been a Band-Aid, a positive application on the court, but a second-unit papercut is now turning into an infected wound.

One thing that could help is staggering more of the starter’s minutes with the second unit. Brooks has recently taken to subbing out Morris at the 4-to-6-minute mark of the first quarter for Andrew Nicholson (and for Satoransky versus Houston). That decision has also allowed for Nicholson to play minutes with the starters where he can serve a more useful, complimentary role. Whereas Morris can be a key cog in the second unit offensive because he can create a number of different looks for himself. In fact, after Wall and Beal, Morris may be the best Wizard at creating a shot for himself when the play breaks down. Morris was able to produce offensively in the win over Atlanta, and he also played one of his best games defensively holding Paul Millsap to 5-for-14 shooting and just 15 points. When asked about defending Millsap, Morris let it be known that he embraces the challenge:

“I was just competing. He is a great scorer, I watched my film on him. We are going to have a lot more battles. The first game we battled, too. There is going to be a lot more of that.”

Morris was also poignant with his comments after that Hawks game about not celebrating too much because the team would be on a flight to face the Magic the next night.

“We still lost three straight, so we just have to keep getting better every day. I mean, it felt good getting one under our belt but we have another tomorrow. Write this one away and next one tomorrow.”

Although the bench was able to do just enough to save the game against the Hawks, they were not able to provide enough of a barrier to stop the onslaught against Orlando’s bench of Jeff Green, Mario Hezonja, and Bismack Biyombo. Washington’s bench was outscored 27-43 and ended up losing the game by just two points on a missed Morris 3-pointer that would have been the winner. The Wizards looked lost attempting to move the basketball around the court without their leading point guard (sitting out due to rest) and were only able to produce 11 assists as a team. John Wall alone is able to produce that assist production more often than not when he steps on the court, and that stat alone is a sign that the Wizards have a distribution problem. Hopefully with more play Satoransky will be able to reach a comfort level where he can be that secondary distributor for this team.

The Wizards last two games against division rivals is an indicator as to how tight of a race the Southeastern Division will be for this season. Currently, the Hornets are in first place in the division with a record of 4-1, while the Hawks are right behind them with a record of 4-2. The Magic were able to pull themselves up to .500 with that close victory against the Wizards and the Heat are not too far behind them with a record of 3-3. The Wizards find themselves as cellar dwellers of not only the Southeast Division, but are just one game above the lowly 76ers. All is not lost on the season, as it is still early enough to right the ship, but if the Wizards are not able to get at least replacement level production from their second unit this may be another chapter in the same ole story that is Wizards basketball.

 

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Writer
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. He is going into his second season writing for Truth About It, and also writes for sports analytics website numberfire.com. You can find him in a district bike lane in the Northwest neighborhood of Bloomingdale.