It’s about that time of the year: we’re about a quarter of the way through the NBA season so far. Times flies when the Wizards are competitive, doesn’t it? After 20 games, the Wizards are 9-11 and if the playoffs started today they would be the sixth seed in the depressing Eastern Conference. This is the Wizards’ best start since the 2007-08 season, so there has been a lot of good. But there’s also been some bad and some ugly too. Let’s take a look.
John Wall has been awesome. Like best point guard in the East awesome, as I wrote a few weeks ago. He is averaging 19.6 points per game to go along with 9.1 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.3 steals. His 9.1 assists per game are second in the league behind only the “point god” himself Chris Paul. If he can keep this up, he will have one of the best statistical seasons ever for a guard in the shot clock era. Chris Paul, Isiah Thomas, and Tim Hardaway are the only guards to ever have a season averaging more than 19 points per game, nine assists, four rebounds, and two steals for an entire season. Of course, it’s only been a fourth of a season for Wall, but he has looked good enough so far to continue throughout the season. John Wall #NBABallot.
The Wizards defense has been surprisingly good despite not having an elite defender. The Wizards defensive rating is currently 103.3, which is good for 10th in the league. The Wizards lack a rim protector, but make up for it with excellent perimeter guards. Wall has all the intangibles to be a top-tier defensive guard. He is long, ultra-quick and has good instincts, which is evident by his 2.3 steals per game. But he is not always focused on that side of the ball, and with Bradley Beal injured, he is relied on even more on the offensive end. With Beal out, Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster have been holding down the perimeter. Ariza, who has always been a good defender, is putting together one of his best defensive years so far. His defensive rating is 101and he is averaging 2.1 steals per game. The Wizards’ length on the perimeter is a big part for their early season success on defense.
Jan Vesely is shooting 42.9 percent from the foul line and really showing up my preseason prediction that he would shoot below 40 percent. You go, Jan! Keep knocking em’ down.
Injuries are rattling this Wizards team, again. It seems like every year injuries do not allow the Wizards to take the next step as a team. Luckily, no one has missed significant time, but with only 20 games passed, the Wizards’ injury report never being empty is not a promising sign.
The worst injury news the Wizards have received is about second-year shooting guard Bradley Beal, who was putting together an excellent sophomore campaign before being sidelined with a stress injury in his right fibula. He was averaging 20.6 points per game before the injury and was forming a bond with Wall that made them one of the most explosive backcourts in the league. He was listed as out for two weeks before they re-evaluated him and it has been over two weeks now. Beal will “take his time” with the injury, according to Michael Lee of the Washington Post. I am glad Beal is taking his time because he cannot risk healthy years in the future to come back this season. He is the most important player for this franchise not named John Wall and they need him more in the future than this year.
Besides Beal, it seems just about everyone has been hurt besides Wall and Marcin Gortat (knocks on every piece of wood in sight). Rookie Otto Porter saw his first action of the season last week after hip injury sidelined him for the start of the season. The injury looks as if it could be detrimental to him having any impact as a rookie. It’s still early, so we will see, but the injury certainly did not help his chances of contributing to the team this season.
Beal, Nene, Porter, Webster, Al Harrington, Chris Singleton, and Ariza have all missed time with injuries. The Wizards are not a deep team and all these injuries are going to continue to hinder their chances of being a team to actually be taken seriously in the Eastern Conference. This leads me to…
The Wizards bench has been abysmal. The Wizards have the worst bench in the entire league. They are the only team to average less than 20 points per game, according to Hoopsstats.com. They are shooting the lowest percentage of any bench in the league at 37.1 percent from the field. It is a real problem for this team.
With Webster taking over Beal’s spot in the starting lineup since Beal’s injury, the Wizards do not really have any sort of offense coming off the bench. Outside of the five starters and people that are healthy, the next highest scorer is Trevor Booker with a whopping 4.8 points per game. Most teams have a player off the bench that can be instant offense, but with all the Wizards’ injury luck, they currently do not have a single player who can swing a game off the bench. Yup, the Wizards bench has been ugly.