The Washington Wizards are the Jekyll and Hyde of the NBA. Their 12-day road trip got off to an atrocious start, as they were dumped by the Charlotte Hornets 133-109 on Wednesday. The loss was Washington’s fifth by a margin of 14 or more points to a sub .500 team this season.
That stat alone will draw questions about effort on any team, especially one that came within one bad quarter away from the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago, and has wins against Boston, Houston, Toronto, and Minnesota this season.
The Wizards have garnered the unpredictable tag. You do not know what team you’ll see from one night to the next. Now their head coach Scott Brooks has seen enough. Following, the head scratching loss, a frustrated Brooks made it clear that his intentions are for changes to get his team to respond.
“They’re making shots. We’re helping them make shots. It’s unacceptable the way we competed,” Brooks said per Candace Buckner of the Washington Post. “We’re going to have change some things and make sure we’re all going to compete. If not we’re going to have find guys who are going to compete.”
Did Brooks mean what he said? Or is it just a spur of the moment thought?
If Brooks is going to follow through with his challenge to make changes, it will be interesting to see what changes he is speaking of.
John Wall and Bradley Beal are the stars of the team, and seem to be safe. The two are trying to do everything they can to put the team on their backs. Beal leads the team in points, while Wall leads them in assists, steals, and blocks. Beyond those two is where the questions lie.
The Wizards’ starting front court has struggled all season. Otto Porter has been dismal in recent games. He has failed to score double digits in six of his last eight games. While Porter is averaging a career-high 13.7 points, his shooting has dipped. His true shooting percentage has dropped from 62.8 percent last season to 58 percent this season. For Porter, his most recent slump has coincided with his bothersome hip that caused him to miss one game earlier this month.
Could his hip be a bigger issue than the Wizards are letting on?
If so or if not, Porter is currently the highest-paid player on the team. Averaging 13.7 points per game is not going to cut it, even if the team’s top-two scorers dominate the ball like Wall and Beal do.
Porter may not be playing up to par. Still, he is one of the Wizards’ top three players. And, Wall, Beal, and Porter lead the team in net rating as well as off-court net.
So that leaves Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris with a target on them. Examining the numbers, there are better performing options than both at their respective positions and roles.
In fact, the Wizards’ best five-man lineup with Bradley Beal and John Wall does not include neither Gortat nor Morris. That lineup consists of Porter, Kelly Oubre, and Ian Mahinmi in addition to Wall and Beal. Those five have a net of plus-39.8 per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference. The Wizards’ starting lineup that includes Gortat and Morris with Porter, Wall, and Beal is a plus-4.8. That’s a difference of 35 points per 100 possessions.
|Net (Per 100 Poss) with Wall and Beal|
|B. Beal | I. Mahinmi | K. Oubre | O. Porter | J. Wall||25||+39.8||13.6||-19.2||0.241|
|B. Beal | M. Gortat | J. Meeks | O. Porter | J. Wall||15||+27.6||3.4||24.1||-0.076|
|B. Beal | M. Gortat | K. Oubre | O. Porter | J. Wall||193||+17.8||3.2||-0.3||0.039|
|B. Beal | M. Morris | K. Oubre | O. Porter | J. Wall||53||+17.5||10||-3.7||0.141|
|B. Beal | M. Gortat | O. Porter | M. Scott | J. Wall||30||+12.4||12.8||5.2||0.122|
|B. Beal | M. Gortat | M. Morris | O. Porter | J. Wall||403||+4.8||2.3||-3.8||0.045|
|B. Beal | M. Gortat | K. Oubre | M. Scott | J. Wall||61||-2.5||4.1||12.6||-0.015|
|B. Beal | M. Morris | K. Oubre | M. Scott | J. Wall||16||-7||6.4||21.2||-0.018|
|B. Beal | M. Gortat | M. Morris | K. Oubre | J. Wall||86||-9.4||-4.9||-8.7||-0.01|
Gortat’s individual numbers have regressed this season as well. He is averaging nine points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 53.9 percent from the field. Those are all his worst numbers since joining the Wizards in 2013-14. The same can be said about Morris. Last season he averaged a career-high 14 points and 6.5 rebounds. This season he is down to 9.9 points and 5.4 rebounds. Like Gortat, Morris is having his worst statistical season in a Wizards uniform.
They say men lie, women lie, numbers don’t. Well, if so, Brooks has names in mind when he says changes are coming. And, it’s a safe guess to assume those names may indeed be Gortat and Morris. The two have not been compatible all season. Any combinations of the two on the floor together has been essentially a setback for Washington, especially with Wall and Beal on the floor.The Wizards’ best lineup including Gortat is fourth at plus-27.6. That lineup is with Jodie Meeks in and Morris out. Still, that’s 12 points less effective than the lineup of Oubre and Mahinmi with the big three. Morris comes in on the Wizards’ sixth-best lineup. That lineup leaves out Gortat in favor of Oubre. That lineup is a plus-17.8.
Meanwhile, Oubre is having the best season of his three-year career. He is averaging a career-best 11.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, and shooting 44.3 percent from the field, including 39.8 percent from three. Mahinmi seems more comfortable in his second season with the Wizards, especially on the defensive end.
Again, it’s hard to say if Brooks was just in the spur of the moment trying to scare his team into playing with some intentions or if he is going to move forward with the changes he advertised?
If so, what changes? Are we going to see Gortat and/or Morris go to the bench? Gortat has already hinted he knows the end is near, especially with Washington. Could the Wizards front office be looking to alter the roster all together?
We will have to wait and see. But, with the Wizards 25-20 and struggling to give consistent effort and intensity, changes are needed.