Goal #1: Lock in Defensively
Trust me. Hachimura wasn’t the biggest problem on the Wizards 29th ranked defense last year. But he also wasn’t much of a positive on the defensive end either. He finished his rookie season with a 117 defensive rating, tied for third-worst on the team. Of course, you have to consider the fact that Hachimura was adjusting to the huge talent gap from college. He was an above-average defender at Gonzaga playing in the WCC Conference, but it’s a different story in the NBA.
Every player is bigger, faster, and stronger at the next level. Rookies coming into the league have to get used to the physicality and speed of the NBA game. Standing at 6’8″ with a 7’2″ wingspan, Rui has the measurables to be a modest defender. He may never make an All-Defensive team, but he has all the tools to be a dependable man-to-man and help defender. He just has to make it a personal challenge to defend at a high level every single night.
Rui and the rest of his teammates have to come into Training Camp with a better focus on that end of the floor. The return of John Wall, who is their leader and floor general, will certainly help. However, he’s not the answer to all of their problems. Every individual on the roster must take that next step defensively to ensure the team progresses. I expect Rui to make drastic improvements in year two. His growth can help the Wizards get back to the top half of the league in team defensive rating.