The Wizards are in the midst of a stretch in which they pay only four games in two weeks, which means they’ve only played two games since we last rendezvous here at Bench Points. They split both games and eight games into the season are an even .500.
This isn’t the worst position to be in, and knowing it’s still early, there’s plenty of reason to remain hopeful that this team can contend for a Finals bid, but if the Zards don’t adjust things soon, the season could spiral into a mess of mediocrity that this team has worked too hard to avoid the last couple of seasons.
So, What Should they Change?
In terms of personnel? Nothing just yet. The starting lineup currently consists of the best player at each position. Even at the power forward position. Not only did Kris Humphries splash five from long-range on Saturday, but he’s currently hit 13 of his 28 three-point shot attempts. That’s good for 46 percent! Prior to this year, he’d only made 2 in the last thirteen years, both coming his rookie year with Utah in 2004-2005. There’s a legitimate case for Humphries as most-improved player if he continues this pace.
Even in bench rotations, you can see Wittman working his way out of the depth. In Beal’s absence, he’s started both Neal and Temple, with Temple having the better game of the two. It’s a small sample size, but Wall and Sessions both seemed to click with Temple because of his ability to get out in transition, and when Beal returns, Temple might get the bulk of the B-unit minutes ahead of Neal. Per 36 minutes, Temple is averaging 17.7 / 2.7 assists / 3.8 rebounds whereas Neal is producing 15.8 / 2.2 assists / 2.2 rebounds. Not a clear edge right now, but an edge regardless.
The change comes down to execution. Against the Hawks, the Thunder, and even against the Magic, there have been too many unnecessary turnovers. Washington is averaging 17 turnovers a game… and 15 percent of our possessions result in a turnover, good for 28th in the league. Wall might be the best drive and dish guy behind LeBron James, but several times a game he dishes the ball to a wide-open guy on the perimeter, only to find that wide-open guy has already cut to the basket.
It’s an adjustment to the new philosophy. The Wizards are shooting more threes, the guys have to stay out there and shoot those threes, but it’s still a new philosophy. Wittman has coached them to make those cuts in the past. If Washington can iron out a few of those turnovers and get buckets out of those possessions instead, that might be they only adjustment they need to make.
Beal’s injury is allowing Wittman to find room for Kelly Oubre in the rotation and he has not been received well by me, at least not for the most part. In limited time he’s been productive in the scoring probably, and even relatively efficient (he’s shooting 63% on two’s), but what made me fall in love with Norris Cole his rookie season hasn’t show for Oubre yet.
There are intangibles in any sport, and in basketball, those intangibles are front and center. I mean, think Harden and defense. It’s not only that he isn’t a good defender, but sometimes he just refuses to defend. It tarnishes your perception of him. It might’ve cost him an MVP vote or two last year.
What I loved about Norris Cole is that his excitement to be on the court what evident in his play. He was scrappy (still is), and even if it resulted in a turnover or ill-timed foul, I was happy to see the drive, the energy.
Oubre doesn’t appear to have that rookie spark. Guys like Justise Winslow are going baseline to dunk on the opposition, or they are pushing through screens to keep up with their man. Oubre kind of just trails his man. He is methodical in his approach, which isn’t a bad thing, but when you’re running the court with guys like Wall, Beal, Temple, Sessions, etc… you’re going to be the odd one out.
It could be nerves. He could be feeling out his role. But from what I’ve seen so far, I’m hoping Anderson gets healthy soon and takes those minutes instead.
Official Rap Spokesman
You may have noticed that throughout the NBA, teams have rap ambassadors. Drake represents the Raptors, Jay-Z represents the Nets, and 2 Chainz represents the Hawks. There are even villains. Lil’ B has cursed Kevin Durant and James Harden… and as of now, they are giving him a lot of credit.
For the Wizards, Skins, Nationals and the DMV area in general, it’s been Wale, and I’m here to propose a change.
Wale is a great sports fan and a decent rapper. I really enjoyed The Gifted and The Album about Nothing (a Seinfeld themed concept album!), but right now he’s most famous for the First Take theme song rather than his own music independent of ESPN. He doesn’t have that punch that a rapper like Drake has, and when debating with my friends who are from Chicago or New York City, I’ve haven’t been able to defend my city, the District, when it comes to music.
If you haven’t heard of Logic, or haven’t gone out of your way to listen to him, go do so now. His first album, Under Pressure, was probably the best rap album after Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d City, right up until this past Friday when he released The Incredible True Story, an Interstellar-inspired concept album. I’ve listened to it nine times since Friday. It’s truly incredible.
So, DC-Maryland sports fans, I propose we break up with Wale and give Logic our heart. We can still be friends, and even support Wale in everything he does, but when it comes down to representing our team and our city, we have to do what’s best for us, and what’s best for us is Logic.
Join me on Friday for my NBA Power Rankings and see what kind of trade I can make to push the Wizards up a notch.
Follow Caleb on Twitter @calebmsarvis