Forget the Stars, the Wizards Just Don't Have Enough Pieces | Wizards Blog Truth About

Forget the Stars, the Wizards Just Don’t Have Enough Pieces

Updated: December 18, 2017

It’s fair to wonder if the Wizards have enough starpower to win a title. John Wall is a four-time All-Star and Bradley Beal, per the great LeBron James, has recently emerged as one. Otto Porter might get there one day, but he might never make it beyond the level of being a quality supporting piece.

But forget about whether those three players are good enough to compete with the Curry-Durant-Thompson-Green group in Oakland, the James-Love-Thomas group in Cleveland or the Harden-Paul pairing in Houston. Washington will never reach contender status until it adds more reliable pieces alongside that trio.

Kelly Oubre is developing into a potential game-changer; he’s the team’s best perimeter defender and perhaps the most athletic player on the roster, and his ceiling might very well be higher than Porter’s at this point. But he also has games like last Saturday against the Clippers, where he went 0-for-5 with a rebounds and three fouls but no other significant stats.

That was by far Oubre’s worst game of the season, but in three other instances he’s scored fewer than five points, and he’s failed to reach double figures in 12 of 30 games this season. He’s also only surpassed three assists in a game once in his career, which was when he recorded four assists a few weeks ago against Philadelphia.

Oubre has the potential to be a star, and even if he doesn’t reach that potential, he’s on the path to being a very good No. 4 player for Washington.

What else do the Wizards have to count on? Mike Scott has had an outstanding season, and Sunday night against the Cavaliers was another notch on his belt, as he finished with 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting to go with 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. He’s been incredibly useful this season, and, as an under-the-radar free agent signing, he’s singlehandedly boosting Ernie Grunfeld’s job security.

Who else carries the load for Washington? Tim Frazier was the backup point guard entering the season, but he’s already fallen out of the rotation and earned his first DNP-CD of the season on Sunday.

Frazier’s diminished playing time has largely been due to Tomas Satoransky’s rise (shoutout to Adam Rubin!), and he might very well emerge as a consistent role player for the Wizards. But he was also a DNP-CD as recently as Nov. 22, and while he’s played well since becoming a regular part of the rotation, he’ll need to keep that up for another month or two before he can be counted on as a go-to player in big situations.

Markieff Morris has been abysmal this season, and most of his numbers are the lowest they’ve been in at least four years, including points (9.8 per game), rebounds (4.0—the lowest of his career), assists (1.3), and steals (0.7). He still flashes the occasional spark, like when he had 23 and 7 against the Pistons on Dec. 1, or when he had 21 and 6 against the Suns six days later. But he’s failed to reach double digits in 12 out of 22 games he’s played this season, he’s had four or fewer rebounds 14 times, and he’s blocked even one shot in just eight games. In fairness to Morris, he had to recover from hernia surgery in the offseason, and during this season he’s battled a sore hip, knee, foot, and tonight he was hit in the neck. (X-rays turned out negative).

Despite the injuries, that’s not enough production from your starting 4, especially when the starting 5 has just 9.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game, and his backup 5 is producing *computer explodes*.

Jodie Meeks opened the season with four double-digit outings in the first six games, but he’s managed just two in the 24 games since; he’s shooting just 36-percent from the field and 30-percent from beyond the arc. That’s unacceptable for a guy being paid to provide sharpshooting and scoring off the bench.

So what do the Wizards do on nights like Sunday, when Porter is out, Beal is gassed after 43 minutes of action, and Wall is still recovering from a knee injury and has played 32 minutes? They rely on Mike Scott, who went 3-for-4 with a steal in the fourth quarter, though he did commit three fouls. Cool!

Everyone else was pretty much worthless for Washington in the fourth quarter, but at least they got seven points and a steal from Mike Scott. The rest of the team went just 4-for-18 with 9 points.

Part of that putrid performance performance was Wall and Beal playing too much hero ball late in the game, as they’ve done all season, and for several seasons prior. When it works, it’s exciting and amazing to watch. When that brand of basketball is not successful, it leads scenarios like last night when Wall and Beal missed eight of nine shots while the Cavaliers turned a tie game through three quarters into a seven-point win.

On the other side of things, LeBron had seven points in the fourth, Kevin Love had five, Jeff Green had five, and Kyle Korver had four. The Cavs, for the game, went 10 players deep to Washington’s nine, and each Cleveland player scored at least four points.

So that’s what it really comes down to. It’s not just the difference in starpower, though there is an undeniable gap there. But when the stars sit, Washington can’t take advantage. The Wizards have players like Gortat, Morris, Oubre, Scott, Satoransky, Meeks, Frazier, and Mahinmi to supplement their stars.

The Cavs have one of the league’s greatest shooters in Kyle Korver, one of the league’s premier bench scorers in Jeff Green (Green has had at least five points in every game this season, and he’s scored in double digits in 15 of 31 games), a strong defensive wing in Jae Crowder, a walking microwave in J.R. Smith (who is also averaging one steal per game), and Tristan Thompson, Jose Calderon, and Channing Frye.

And that’s all without mentioning Dwyane Wade, who was out on Sunday, Isaiah Thomas, and Derrick Rose (joke all you want, but he’s scored at least 10 points in every game he played and the Wizards haven’t had a decent point guard outside of John Wall since Gilbert Arenas).

The Warriors have players like Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West, Jordan Bell, Zaza Pachulia, Omri Casspi, and a pair of former Wizards.

The Rockets are more based around their system than their overall talent, but their talent fits their system perfectly, and Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, Ryan Anderson, P.J. Tucker, Nene, and Luc Mbah a Moute are all solid pieces.

The Celtics thrive around Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Jayson Tatum, but Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, and Aron Baynes have all been instrumental to their success.

That’s 30 players I just mentioned, each supporting players on the league’s top four teams. Of those, only Nick Young (a former Wizard) and J.R. Smith are really hot-or-not players. Most of them are  regularly counted on to play meaningful minutes.

Compare that to Meeks, who has done little besides take up space in most of his games in a Wizards jersey, or Mahinmi, who is averaging almost as many fouls as rebounds or points,  or Frazier, who started the game on Tuesday and was a DNP-CD on Sunday. Then there’s Morris, who has games where he looks genuinely angry about having to be there, and Gortat, who is once again finding himself on the bench in the fourth quarter.

If Wall, Beal, and Porter were LeBron, Love, and Thomas, maybe this wouldn’t be such a big problem, but they’re not. Wall isn’t as good as LeBron,Curry or Harden or (this season, at least) Irving. And the combination of Beal and Porter is not all that much better than the second and third options on those other teams, and in some cases (hey, Golden State), considerably worse.

But more than anything, the other eight guys don’t match up to the eight or nine players those other teams rely upon night after night to pick up the slack. When LeBron has a down night, as he claimed he did in Washington, despite putting up a 15-assist triple-double, he can rely on Smith (7 points, 9 rebounds, clutch late-game steal) and Korver (11 points) and Green (15 points, 5 rebounds) and Calderon (7 points on 3-for-4 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal).

Stars matter, and stars win championships. But stars need support, and the Wizards’ stars aren’t getting nearly enough of it.

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Bryan Frantz
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Bryan is a D.C. native with a degree in something or other from UNC. He has important, interesting hobbies, but mostly he just weeps over D.C. sports teams. You can find him on the Metro, inevitably complaining about Red Line delays.