So Scott Brooks Wants John Wall’s Wizards to Play Faster — You Don’t Say
— Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) December 23, 2016
Scott Brooks, after the Wizards beat the Bulls on Wednesday night, said this about his team and playing fast:
“We’ve made a conscious effort about a dozen or 14 games ago to play faster. We’ve got all this athleticism, and we have one of the fastest point guards in the league. We want to be able to utilize it every trip down the court, because it pays off towards the end of the game. We want to put pressure on the defense every time. We’re a better team — like every team in this league, if you score early in the shot clock, you can get shots. John’s speed and Brad’s ability to make plays for himself and others is a big part of what we have to continue to be.”
It’s quite a novel idea, given that John Wall’s pretty much been the fastest player with the ball since entering the NBA. This is supported by science. But it’s not totally about Wall. He needs a partner — particularly one with a sweet long distance shot, which is why Brooks simply could not stake his claim without mentioning Bradley Beal.
Back to the concept of Wall’s Wizards playing faster: was it supported by his previous coach, Randy Wittman? Hard to say. The old-tymer could often be seen ambling to-and-fro in the coach’s box, madly waving his arms to encourage his players to “push the pace” — or, run in transition. But he was also stubborn, and loath to acknowledge that running a good, efficient offense can lay the groundwork for a solid defense.
Over Wittman’s first three full seasons coaching the team, the Wizards averaged a pace of 95.27, with a very average, average league ranking of 16.7. But last year, 2015-16, they averaged a pace of 100.63, ranked 6th in the NBA — how exactly did that work out?
Fastbreak points should also be considered. Washington’s averages (and league ranks) with Wittman from 2012-13 through 2015-16 were: 14.2 (11), 15.7 (8), 15.5 (6), 18.6 (2).
So let’s take a quick dive into Brooks’ comments. Splitting the difference, 13 games ago the Wizards stumbled into a Nov. 28 overtime win versus the Kings at home before two heartbreaking yet admirable losses to the Thunder and Spurs on the road. And since, the Wizards have won seven of their last 10 contests.
Last 13 games (league rank):
- 99.62 Pace (9)
- 15.6 FB Pts (7)
- 53.0 eFG% (8, tied w/ MIL)
- 108.5 OffRtg (9)
- 105.3 DefRtg (14)
- .273 FTA rate (17)
And then Washington’s first 15 games:
- 98.53 Pace (18)
- 14.7 FB Pts (10)
- 49.1 eFG% (22)
- 102.6 OffRtg (16, tied w/ OKC)
- 106.2 DefRtg (23, tied w/ TOR & HOU)
- .257 FTA rate (23)
The Wizards are certainly playing at a faster pace (just over one more possession per 48 minutes) and scoring more on the break (just under a point). But their offense has improved more — nearly 4 percentage points higher in eFG% — with more trips to the free throw line. And, even in just adding another possession per game, the Wizards are scoring almost six more points per 100 possessions. Meanwhile, their defense has also improved, moderately.
But these Wizards still aren’t really playing faster than Wittman’s Wizards, they are just better on offense. Over Wittman’s four full seasons as head coach, Washington topped out with a 103.3 OffRtg in 2013-14, tied for 16th in the league with Memphis and Denver. Scott Brooks’ offense pretty much equaled that mark while struggling through this season’s first 15 games, and since some sort of conscious effort to “ramp things up” (a favorite Wittman-ism), they are 5.2 points per 100 possession better than that.
So what’s it all about? It’s all about Bradley Beal, max player.
Before Nov. 27, Beal averaged 6.3 3-point attempts per game (2.3 makes), and 4.3 free throw attempts (3.7 makes), for 20.1 points per game. And since, Beal has upped his 3-point production to 8.0 attempts, 3.4 makes per game; and his free throw earning to 6.0 attempts, 4.6 makes per game. Beal is averaging 25.1 points per game in that time, ranked eighth-most in the league. Under midrange, long 2 #WittmanBall, Beal never averaged more than 4.9 3-point attempts per game. Finally, modernization.
So to reset: Wall’s speed fuels this team, but Beal’s ability to score drives it. And after a very slow start to his season after becoming a max player, Beal is finally coming into this own. That’s a solid back-court foundation that makes Washington’s potential this season as well as its ceiling — albeit still very unknown — just a little more enticing.