A Closer Look at the Washington Wizards’ Recent Struggles


Maybe it’s due soon to push the panic button and enter full on doom-gloom mode, but man, the Washington Wizards are in dire straits lately.

Losers of five straight, the Wizards are struggling on both sides of the ball, and it doesn’t look like an easy fix. While their East rivals like the Cavaliers, Hawks, Raptors and Bucks are catching fire heading into All-Star weekend, the Wizards will limp in with little confidence, negative momentum, and self-doubt.

Where did it all go wrong?


The Washington Wizards are struggling out of the gate, and it’s making it nearly impossible for them to mount a comeback. They gave up 34 first-quarter points to the Hornets last night, 59 first half points to the Hawks on Wednesday, 65 first half points to the Raptors last week, and at least 56 first half points to the Raptors, Suns and Lakers last week. Those are bad numbers for a team that prides itself on defense.

Giving up so many early points not only forces the Wizards to play from behind all game, it allows the opponent to get into a rhythm and build confidence. The Wizards aren’t built to win games like this. They don’t have a fast-paced offense that can rip of huge momentum-shifting runs, and as good as John Wall is, they don’t have an offensive superstar who can score 15-20 points in a quarter.

They win games with defense, and that’s pretty hard to do when you start the second half down by 15.


The Washington Wizards’ offensive flaws are really starting to show, and a lot of it comes down to how certain players are being utilized, namely Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat.

Beal, supposedly the team’s best pure shooter, is shooting 42% from the field this season, and a lot of that comes down to shot selection. According to NBA.com, Beal has taken 195 midrange shots this season, and he’s made only 65 of them, which comes out to 33%.

In contrast, he’s shooting a strong 43.6%, including a scorching 48% from the right corner, where he’s taken … 23 shots. Check out this shot chart, via Vorped:

Part of that inefficiency can be explained by volume, but you have to think that trading a few of those long 2’s for threes would increase Beal’s scoring, shooting percentage, and overall efficiency.

Gortat’s recent woes are well documented, and although he’s played better in the last few games, the Wizards haven’t really been putting him in the right positions. As explained by Ben Mehic here, Gortat is most effective in the pick-and-roll alongside John Wall, but the Wizards like to run him in isolation post-ups, where he’s struggling to score and losing confidence.

If the Washington Wizards want to build an above-average offense, they need to get Beal and Gortat in positions where their particular skillsets can be efficiently utilized.


The Washington Wizards’ second unit has been inconsistent all year, but their production has really started to trail off in the last few games. They gave solid production in the first half last night, but while Garrett Temple is a nice defensive player, but he’s not a true point guard, and when he’s brought in to run the second unit the offense can stagnate a bit.

DeJuan Blair doesn’t offer much at all on offense, Otto Porter Jr. and Kevin Seraphin are too inconsistent to be relied upon, and Andre Miller and Martell Webster are MIA.

The Wizards don’t have a guy who can come off the bench and give them 20-25 points if needed. Their best scoring option is 35 year old Rasual Butler, who has cooled down majorly after starting the season on an unattainable hot streak.

The team either needs to bring in another scorer somehow or find some creative ways to get more production from the second unit, because right now they are really struggling.


Randy Wittman‘s decision making lately has been baffling.

His rotations change with seemingly no rhyme or reason, and he tends to over-commit to new options; there’s a middle ground between playing Temple 20 minutes and giving him 2 minutes.

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Blair played over both Gortat and Humphries in the fourth quarter last night, even though Gortat has looked much sharper lately and Humphries has been the better player all season.

Miller was pulled from the rotation and is logging DNP-CD’s out of the blue.

His insistence to use all-bench lineups to start the fourth quarter typically kills any momentum the team had build in the third, and keeping in guys like Temple and Blair, who are limited offensively, cripples the team in close games.

It seems like no one outside of the core players like Wall has a clearly defined, consistent role. No one knows which bigs will be getting minutes in the first quarter. Porter, Butler and Webster are each taking turns as the first big off the bench. DeJuan Blair went from getting DNPs to playing heavy minutes down the stretch last night.

It’s true that these guys are professionals and as such need to adapt and roll with the changes, but it times it seems like the bench is used like a random assortment of backups rather than a group of role players.

What Comes Next?

The Wizards were due to hit a rough patch. The good vibes couldn’t carry over the entire season, and once the schedule toughened up, the team was inevitably going to lose some more games. But the last two weeks have been eye-opening, and this slump has exposed some serious flaws.

Standings-wise, the Washington Wizards are okay.

They’re tied with Cleveland for the third best record in the East, and the conference is so shallow that there’s little danger of them falling out of the top 5. But if they don’t turn things around soon, what began as a slump could grow into a disastrous stretch that torpedoes their season.

That’s why the team badly needs a win, any win, to stop the bleeding and kill some of this negative momentum.

If this becomes an eight game losing streak that leads into the All-Star break, this team could be in serious trouble. Losing can breed discontent and kill confidence, and those feelings can fester over the week and lead to real internal problems down the line.

Fortunately, very winnable games against the Nets and Magic should afford the Washington Wizards the opportunity to put this slump behind them and head into the All-Star break with a bit of momentum.