Washington Wizards: 4 things the Wizards will be better at this season

Washington Wizards Russell Westbrook. Mandatory Credit: Rob Carr/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports
Washington Wizards Russell Westbrook. Mandatory Credit: Rob Carr/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports /
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Raul Neto Washington Wizards.
Raul Neto Washington Wizards. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wass/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Wizards will be better defensively

The Washington Wizards have been lambasted for their atrocious defense last season. And they deserve to be! They were bad last year, really bad. No matter how you look at it — defensive rating, points per game, opponent’s field goal percentage — the Wizards were the bottom of the barrel. And then they didn’t go out and get defensive stoppers in the draft or free agency?

I guess the Wizards are confident that they can fix things without actually making many changes. And maybe they’re right.  Maybe they already made the biggest change they needed to last season. If you only look at the games played after the Isaiah Thomas trade, the Wizards posted a defensive ranking of 111.8. If they did that for an entire season, the Wizards would have ranked 18th, tied with the Dallas Mavericks. That’s not incredible, but it’s much better than league-worst.

Although not a defensive stopper, Russell Westbrook will offer more resistance than Thomas, Ish Smith, or Shabazz Napier did while running the point last season. Lopez isn’t a premier shot-blocker, but you could tell, even in preseason games, that he provides a defensive presence in the lane that was missing last season. Avdija also adds length on the perimeter and showed solid defensive flashes throughout the preseason despite being a 19-year-old rookie. In the two games vs. Detroit, the rookie showed solid defensive IQ in transition and the half-court.

Don’t expect these Wizards to be a top-five defense this season, but somewhere in the top twenty or top half of the league is more than doable.