After last night’s loss in Indiana, the Golden State Warriors (26-33) will travel to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Wizards (15-44) in game three of their seven game road trip. The Wizards are a young team sprinkled with a few veterans that are trying to grow together as a unit. They clearly have talent, however the strengths of the players do not always fit together.
On offense, Washington averages 96.6 points per game (22nd in the NBA) on 44.3% field goal shooting (25th in the league). When watching the Wizards play, the thing that stands out offensively is that one is watching a collection of individuals as opposed to a team. They often give the impression of a Rucker league team; where players take turns going at their defenders.
Think I’m exaggerating? Close your eyes and picture these players with the ball: Nick Young, Josh Howard, JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, Al Thornton and the newly acquired Maurice Evans and Jordan Crawford. The immediate image that should come to mind would be off these players just pounding the ball endlessly and then firing away a jump shot after a failed isolation attempt. If lucky, they break down their defender and make it all the way to the basket.
But in a nutshell, that’s the Wizards offense. They have too many isolation type players and not many players willing to share the ball to create great shots like Rashard Lewis and John Wall. This explains why this Flip Saunders led team leads the league in long range two point shots (from 16 to 23 feet) with 25.3 per game. They typically try to go one on one and then fire away low percentage shots as evidenced by their 38.0% shooting from 16 to 23 feet. In related news, Washington only averages 20.2 assists per game (21st in the league).
Further complicating matters for the Wiz’s offense, they do not get to the rim often. Indeed, according to Hoopdata, Washington attempts 22.4 shots at the rim per game (20th in the NBA), which leads to 39.0 points in the paint per game (22nd in the NBA).
With that said, if there is one thing this team does well, it’s getting out in transition. If they create a turnover or force a miss and put the ball in the hands of John Wall out in the open floor; count the bucket. Wall’s speed and quickness on the fast break are truly breathtaking. He is able to fly down the court and either score or set up a teammate for an easy basket. Indeed, Washington averages 15.6 fast break points per game (sixth in the league) and if a team executes poorly against them and settles for low percentage shots, expect them to get out on the break and have a field day. But then again, that can be quite hard to do….
On defense, the Wizards surrender 103.8 points per game (22nd in the NBA) on a staggering 47.2% field goal shooting (25th in the league). There is no easy way to say this: Washington’s defense is bad. The problem is not the team’s ability to compete, because they seem to play hard; rather, the Wizards players do not seem to have any clear defensive philosophy or understanding of what they are trying to collectively achieve. For instance, they do an atrocious job of double teaming players down on the low block because players fail to understand just what their assignments are. Once the second defender comes over to crowd the offensive player, the post player usually has an easy pass to make to a wide open shooter.
In addition, the Wizards do a decent job of tilting their defense towards the strong side of the floor, however they struggle to recover promptly to the weak side of the court if the ball finds itself there with a skip pass. The end result for both situations described is usually a wide open shot. This explains why Washington’s defense allows opponents to convert 37.7% of their three point field goal attempts (29th in the NBA).
Exacerbating the problem even further, the Wizards struggle in pick and roll coverage and thus allow teams to repeatedly get to the basket against them as evidenced by their 24.3 field goal attempts surrendered at the rim per game (11th most in the association) which also leads to 27.1 free throw attempts allowed per game (fifth most in the league).
With that said, the Wizards are a young team with tons of energy. They might often be out of position, but they can still create some mayhem for opponents with the athletes they have on the roster. They jump passing lanes and swipe at the ball, which helps them generate 7.8 steals per game (sixth in the NBA) and then get out in transition as covered earlier.
The Warriors should be able to break down the Wizards defense in the pick and roll and also get a lot of clean three point looks. Given the fact that Golden State ranks second in the league with 39.3% three point shooting , one would have to think that Washington’s inability to close out on shooters favors them.
Also, Washington’s one on one style on offense hurts their defense because they are often caught out of position after shooting the ball; which results in opponents leaking out and getting transition opportunities as we can see from the 16.0 fast break points they give up on average (26th in the NBA).
Washington game notes: The Wizards have given up 105.0 points per game in their last two home games.
Golden State game notes: The Warriors are giving up 117.5 points per game through two games of this seven game road trip.