Well, here we are again. The Wizards have lost the first two games of the season in frustrating fashion, and for the fourth straight year have started 0-2. It makes me irate to see the same nonsensical rotations, inconsistent effort, and flat out incompetence from this team. While it has only been two games, and there are very fixable issues, I don’t think its a given that they can or will be fixed.
The Wizards defense is probably the most disappointing aspect of the first two games. Its easy to blame this on the loss of defensive anchor Emeka Okafor, but it is so much more than that. Marcin Gortat was essentially brought in to replace Okafor and his defense has been solid. He has defended pick and rolls perfectly, and has done as much as he can in the rim protecting department being out on the perimeter as much as he’s had to be.
But no, the issues are much bigger than that. Players are gambling, not getting back in transition, and continually ball-watch. The disciplined perimeter defenders that would stay glued to shooters and effectively stunt have disappeared. The Wizards are gambling, while being lazy in transition. There is no excuse for this.
Offensively, the problem lies in puzzling rotations and poor play from key Wizards. Nene, whom I predicted to be the 2nd best player on the team this year, disappointed in his first outing and hurt his calf, making the trade for him look worse as his body starts to deteriorate.
Bradley Beal’s first two games have been extremely underwhelming. He’s been very tentative on pick and roll coverages and is settling for long, contested, two pointers that he has no business taking. A player who is praised for playing within the flow of the offense should not be doing this in his 2nd season, no matter how early it is in the season. Beal’s defense has also been very underwhelming, as he has been beaten badly off the dribble and has not gotten back effectively, ruining the floor balance and letting teams get easy baskets in transition.
John Wall’s defense has looked very similar to last year’s. He’s ball-watching, over-gambling, and shows occasional flashes of being great on that end. However, these mistakes have not seemed to secede, and its disconcerting. Wall still not getting back quickly enough in transition, and his ball-watching continues to ruin defensive sets. His offense, while spectacular at times, has been disappointingly inconsistent. For example, after starting red hot in the 1st half against the 76ers, Wall scored just 3 points and one field goal in the 2nd half. While this could be attributed to back spasms in the fourth, Wall also had a miserable 1st half in Detroit, so this was not a new occurrence. His game has shown gradual improvement from his 1st two and a half years, and he has the potential to be an outstanding player, but he cannot keep being inconsistent within games like this.
This may seem like way too much analysis for the first two games of a young season,however, it is imperative that concern is expressed. The Wizards have shown nothing in the past to indicate that fans should not start worrying. Again, these problems are very fixable. Bradley Beal will likely see his shot fall again, John Wall’s consistency should improve as he gets more chemistry with his players, but, there lies a problem in the way this team has handled itself over the years. There is no creativity. The Wizards have shown no innovative lineups or offensive sets in order to score effectively. The rotations have been extremely poor, partly due to a poorly built bench, but also due to inexplicable use of personnel. Martell Webster is not a high usage scorer who can lead a second unit. He is a spot up shooter, so why isn’t he playing with one of the best drive and kick passers in the NBA? This is just one of the questions I have about this team. Why did they not adjust their defensive philosophy after losing one of their key cogs? Why have stagnant offensive lineups remained on the floor to rot? Why is there no set bench rotation?
Although all of these issues can be fixed, it is perfectly reasonable to have doubts whether they truly can be. The mind boggling rotations, the atrocious bench, the misuse of personnel, along with inconsistent play from the the key players all require good coaching, experienced players, and a general cohesiveness within the team. The team has not indicated that they possess any of these qualities. Maybe they can turn it around, but the Wizards must snap out of it sooner than later, as the path doesn’t get any easier with the difficult schedule that awaits them in the coming weeks.