Wow the season started fast. We’re already 3 games in!
The Wizards have played three tight games against middling Eastern Conference teams and emerged 2-1 to start the season. There is no shame in this record. The two Vegas championship favorites, Cleveland and San Antonio, have both dropped a game already. Carmelo Anthony has beaten countless good teams, and he was playing with a little extra fire last night thanks to some comments by Jared Dudley. But beating worse Eastern Conference teams was kind of the Wizards thing last year, and the Wiz spent a good amount of time trailing in all three games.
The Wizards are following through on their new identity… to an extent. They are certainly playing fast and shooting threes. Through these three games they’ve had 101.8 possessions per game compared to 93.7 last year. Their points per game are up by 6.8, and their 3PA/game are up by 6.9.
It was great seeing all our 3PA’s pay off against the Bucks when the team turned a tie game into a game that was over in about a minute flat with a barrage of threes.
But they are not actually playing that much smaller. Wittman’s been playing Humphries, Gooden, and Dudley at the 4-spot. Dudley is a real small-ball four, but Hump and Gooden are just power forwards who can shoot. This is not the same as Indy playing Paul George at the four, Houston putting Trevor Ariza (or anybody really) there, or even G-State playing Draymond. In the preseason we saw second units playing without a traditional power forward; once our wings get healthy I’d like to see some regular season bench units play that way too.
The defense has not held up so far. Wall’s been a terror, but they’ve struggled to control the paint without Nene starting. Giving up 230 combined points to the Bucks and Knicks was a little bit shocking. After getting torched by Giannis and Melo there is reason to worry the team may be unable to defend dynamic small forwards.
Wall and Beal have both looked fantastic. Neither one has had a bad game yet. Their stats look great because of the extra possessions, and because they are the team’s only offensive creators. Beal has scored at least 20 points in seven straight games, going back to the playoffs, and has put up 25.3 points and 3.3 made threes a game to start the year. Wall’s three games have been just as good, averaging 22 points, 6.7 dimes, 2 steals, 2.7 blocks, 1.7 threes, and 9 free throw attempts per game—which comes out to a PER of 23.7. It’s three games, but it seems guaranteed Beal averages a career high points per game this year.
Otto has looked a little nervous so far. He’s 2/12 on threes and put up 13 total points in his first two games. He’s also had moments when he’s looked good, like in the third quarter against the Knicks. I expect his play to stabilize and for a couple threes to fall soon.
I liked that Wittman went to Flip’s funeral.
Scoring is up, but assists are down. Last year’s Wizards averaged the 6th most assists per game in the league. Through three this year, the team is averaging 4.3 less assists per game. Considering the increase in possessions, this is not good. It seems at times that players are taking turns scoring the ball. The offense is at its best when the team is swinging the ball and letting multiple players run a pick-and-roll on a scrambling defense. I hope this does not become a trend because I really don’t know what I would do if Wall averaged so few assists per game.
My favorite 5-man unit is probably Wall, Beal, Otto, Dudley, and Gortat. That being said, I think it is too early for Dudley to be closing games for us. Milwaukee I understood, with that being his former team, but he mostly struggled against NY. He didn’t play in the season opener, and looks like he’s still working his way back into form.
Nene, in theory, should be an imposing 6th man, but our bench has looked as unpredictable as always.
The Wizards often have putrid or great stretches, so I’m not gonna read too much into anything that’s happened so far.