Washington Wizards: Is it time to hit the panic button?

Spencer Dinwiddie #26 of the Washington Wizards (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images)
Spencer Dinwiddie #26 of the Washington Wizards (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images) /

The Washington Wizards have now lost 4 straight and 12 out of the last 17 games after falling to the Suns, 118-198. So, is it time to hit the panic button?

On November 15th, the Washington Wizards defeated the New Orleans Pelicans to claim the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 10-3 record. It was a great start to a season that seemed to be full of promise. Unfortunately, the tide has turned dramatically since then. The Wizards have now gone 5-12 in their last 17 games and sit right at. 500 with a 15-15 record. They’ve fallen all the way to 7th in the Eastern Conference and are in danger of being in the play-in tournament for the second straight year.

Of course, it’s still somewhat early with 52 games remaining in the regular season. However, the Wizards recent play does not inspire much confidence in anyone. Their loss against the Suns last night was the ninth time they’ve lost by double digits in their last 17 games. I understand Washington was coming off a back-to-back, but the 14-point loss to the Sacramento Kings the night before was a huge letdown as well.

Their current 4-game skid is now their longest losing streak of the year. The Washington Wizards have regressed in a lot of areas, but their drop-off defensively has been the biggest issue.

As you can see from the tweet above, their defense has fallen off a cliff as of late. The Wizards were ranked 5th in defensive rating when they were 10-3 and 1st in the East. But in their last 16 games, Washington has the 3rd worst defensive rating in the entire NBA. Defense wins championships so if they don’t get back to defending how they did at the start of the year, then I doubt they turn the season around. Sure, Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant will be pleasant additions when they both return to the lineup. But let’s be honest, they’re not All-Star caliber players, so the team won’t improve drastically when they’re back.

Rui & TB’s presence back on the court will help a lot, but the Wizards need everyone to step it up a notch. There’s a lot of blame to go around, but Washington’s biggest acquisition of this offseason has been absolutely dreadful lately. Spencer Dinwiddie, who Washington signed to a 3-year, $62 million contract to be the starting point guard, has been struggling mightily. Here’s a look at his numbers in his first 24 games of the season:

The 8-point drop-off in PPG and almost 10% decrease in both FG% and 3PT% is very concerning. Dinwiddie is still only one-year removed from ACL surgery, so it’s understandable why he hasn’t quite found his rhythm. However, the Washington Wizards need more consistency from him if they really want to get back on track.

At the beginning of the year, Dinwiddie was a lot more aggressive, and this helped the Wizards start out 10-3. In his first 12 games, he attempted 14 field goals per game, but that number has dropped to 8.9 in his last 13 games. That just won’t cut it! Bradley Beal also understands that Dinwiddie has to be more assertive for them to be successful. Below is what he said following the loss to the Kings on Wednesday night:

Hopefully, they’re able to find a good balance offensively because it’ll go a long way for the rest of the season. Beal also has to get back to being the player he was these past few seasons. Right now, he’s currently averaging 22.8 PPG (lowest since 2017-2018), while shooting 45.2 FG% (lowest since 2015-2016) and 27.9 3PT% (career-low). That’s quite the decline for a player whose expected to sign an extension in the $200 million range this offseason. There’s still a good chunk of the season left, but the Washington Wizards have to be slightly concerned with these numbers.

Bradley Beal is the cornerstone of the franchise and the player Washington chose to build around. Therefore, it’s vital that he pick up his play ASAP! As the alpha, he needs to take it upon himself to not only carry the load but also help his teammates get better than well, which he’s been doing lately (5.8 APG – career high). That will help the Wizards end this losing streak and get back to stacking wins.

So ultimately, I don’t believe it’s the right time to hit the panic button after playing just 30 games. However, the Wizards may want to sound the alarms to end this horrible stretch. It’s time to wake up and smell the roses before it’s too late and they slip out of the playoff race completely!