Analysis: A Deeper Look into Scott Brooks’ First Season with the Washington Wizards

BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: Scott Brooks of the Washington Wizards reacts against the Boston Celtics during Game Seven of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at TD Garden on May 15, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: Scott Brooks of the Washington Wizards reacts against the Boston Celtics during Game Seven of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals at TD Garden on May 15, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks had a successful first season in Washington. As with all coaches and players there were highs and lows. Let’s revisit his performance.

The first season for Scott Brooks is in the books, although it kind of feels like Washington Wizards coach has been the head man in charge for half a decade now.

I don’t know if that’s a testament to how dichotomous his first year was in D.C.–winning just two of the team’s first 10 games then turning that into a Southeastern Division championship–or a function of how well he ingratiated himself both in the organization and the city.

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Whatever the case, he survived, and now we can take a comprehensive look at his performance.

The Big 2-8

Brooks isn’t a stranger to slow starts.  He took over an embryo version of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back in 2008 and struggled through the early stages of his first season as Oklahoma City Thunder head coach. After taking over a 1-12 team in November, Brooks went 3-15 to finish the calendar year, picking up his third win over a hapless Golden State Warriors team on Dec. 31.

The Thunder finished that season winning 20 of their last 50 games and the rest is history.

Fast forward eight seasons and Brooks is at it again, starting slowly with a new team. This time around, however, he takes over a team that’s already tasted playoff success and had greater expectations. Consequently, the same coach that reached the Western Conference finals three times in four years (including a trip to the 2012 NBA Finals) was given absolutely no breaks from the viewing public after a 2-8 start.

(Who could forget this social media gem after a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers?)

But just as he did in OKC, Brooks would correct mistakes, allow room for improvement, and dry the eyes of weeping Wizards fans.  The team got better each month and finished 49-33, good enough for third in the East.

Staying Healthy

John Wall and backcourt mate Bradley Beal have had a history of missing key stretches of the season due to injury. These two (especially Wall, fresh off of knee surgeries last summer) weren’t pushed as hard during team workouts and practices, something their head coach adjusted to.

Brooks, 52, has admitted to becoming wiser with age.

"“My first couple years in the league we had a lot of young players, I mean, we went for hours.  Even our shootarounds were long,”  Brooks said in an interview on The Vertical Podcast with Chris Mannix, describing his previous coaching habits.  “As I’ve gotten confidence in my own coaching abilities, I understand that efficiency is much better than length of practice.”"

Brooks mentioned the movement towards “bioanalytics” and other medical advancements teams have access to that has helped him in knowing when exactly to rest certain players as well as physical techniques that will rejuvenate their bodies and prolong careers.

So expect to see Wall and Beal on the floor more consistently than previous years, something fans will love as the duo hopes to take the next step in the upcoming season.

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More Morris

Assisting in the next-step process, and one of the more underrated players in the Nation’s Capital is forward Markieff Morris. He came to Washington in a trade with the Phoenix Suns in the 2015-16 season.

Brooks, well-respected around the league for player development, called on Morris to be a key member of the starting five and the 6-foot-8, stretch-4 answered in a big way. Though he shot a career-high 36 percent from deep, was third on the team in scoring (14.0 ppg) and made clutch plays throughout the year,  Morris’ production wasn’t necessarily quantified on the stat sheet. His biggest impact was felt through the emotional transformation of the team.

From the “Deathrow D.C.” moniker to calling All-Star players on opposing teams “cry [babies],” Morris had his imprints all over a group who were bullied both physically and mentally before his arrival.

Look for more Morris come October.

Maxing Porter

You can’t talk about player development on the Wizards without the name Otto Porter popping up.

Coaches encouraged Porter to take more shots and be aggressive last season and he responded by having a career year. The four-year veteran produced at a high level especially from behind the arc, shooting 43 percent and posting an eFG percentage of 60.

Combined with his effort, ability to guard multiple positions and as Brooks says, “[make] winning basketball plays,” Porter was rewarded with a max contract.

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Brooks’ Encore  

In addition to Morris, Brooks will need to find creative ways to get more from the supporting cast this fall if he hopes to repeat, or surpass, success from his first season.

This means third-year wing Kelly Oubre Jr. will need more minutes to prove he’s worth the first-round selection in 2015. It would also be of great importance for the coach to find a solid rotation he can rely on in pressure-packed situations (say, oh, I don’t know, in a game 7 on the road) so Wall and Beal won’t have so much weight on their shoulders.

Along those lines, Brooks will need to develop another playmaker that can help generate offense when Wall is off the floor. Among players that logged more than 36 minutes per game last year, Wall was only behind fellow Eastern Conference All-Stars Kyle Lowry and LeBron James in plus-minus rating.

This is one of Brooks’ biggest challenges to an encore performance, and he admitted as much in the interview with Mannix.

“Going into next season, we can stagger some of [Beal’s] minutes.  He doesn’t always have to play with John,” Brooks added in his appearance on The Vertical’s podcast.

Next: How the Wizards Have Spent Their Summer Vacation

Letting one of the two alpha guards rest could prove to be the best strategy for the Wizards as they look to overcome the deadly dry spells that plagued them in both the regular season and playoffs.

Doing so will draw Brooks and Co. closer to the team’s first Eastern Conference finals appearance since 1979.