The Washington Wizards have been one of the most consistent teams over the last two months, but the Wiz need to improve their roster in order make a serious run in the playoffs.
Washington got off to a disappointing slow start this season as point guard John Wall was still working his way back into shape after offseason knee surgeries, and shooting guard Bradley Beal struggled with his shot. The Wizards opened the season losing eight of their first 10 games and was 6-11 heading into December. That is when the Wiz started to turn things around.
Since December 1, the Wizards have the league’s fourth best record (19-9). The Wiz have won eight of their last 10. A big reason for the Wizards recent surge has been that Wall and Beal have increased their efficiency.
Beal and Wall combined for 57 points, on 23-of-38 shooting — 3-of-7 on three-pointers, and 12 assists in Washington’s 123-107 victory over Boston on Tuesday night. The victory was the Wizards’ ninth in their last 11 and 14th straight at home. The Wiz (25-20) are currently in fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Wall has now scored at least 20 points in six of his last seven games. He has also produced 16 double-doubles in his last 27 games. He is on pace to dole out more than 10 assists a game for a third straight season while his scoring and shooting efficiency are the highest of his career. Wall is averaging a career-high 23.0 points a game as he is shooting career bests from the field (46.4 percent) and free throw line (82.4 percent).
Beal broke out of his recent shooting struggle against the Celtics, pumping in 31 points as he made 12-of-18 shooting and 2-of-5 from beyond the arc. It was his seventh-30 point game of the season and second in his 13 January contests. He had scuffled with his shot the previous five games, averaging 16.0 points on 36.2 percent shooting from the field (5.0 – 13.8) and 24.2 percent (1.6-6.6) from beyond the arc. Despite his struggles, the 23-year-old is having the best offensive season of his career as he is averaging over 20 points for the first time.
Beal is also shooting and scoring at the highest efficiency of his career due to his career-best 2.7 triples a game. Additionally, he is getting to the line more than ever, attempting nearly five free throws a game while making a career-high 81.6 percent.
While Wall and Beal are the engines that drive the Wizards, they are not the only ones having a career season. Otto Porter has taken a huge step forward in his development in year four. Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris have hit the boards hard.
Porter is putting up career-highs across the board though his improvement as a shooter and rebounder has been most impressive. Morris is currently playing the best basketball of the season, posting four double-doubles in his last 10 games and scoring least 19 points in three straight games.
While Morris is not at the level he was when he was with Phoenix a few years ago, he is rebounding the ball the best of his career. Gortat has collected double-figure rebounds in eight of his last 13 games and is averaging 11.4 boards a game, marking the second time in his career he has accumulated double-digit rebounds for a season.
Washington has five players averaging at least 10 points a game, and are a top-10 offensive team. The Wizards rank 10th in scoring, fourth in shooting percentage, 10th in three-point percentage and ninth in assists. Defensively, the Wiz are one of the worst in the league, ranking in the bottom third of the league in most categories. Their strength on that end of the court are forcing turnovers, defensive transition, and defending the paint.
Another area of concern is their bench. The Wizards basically go eight deep. The Wiz’s reserves rank near the bottom of the league in minutes, scoring and scoring differential. Kelly Oubre has been the Wizards most consistent player off the bench, averaging 6.4 points a game though he has produced double-figure games in five of his last six.
ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton, a former NBA general manager, recently took a look at trade bargains who could benefit from a change of scenery and fill a need for a need for a playoff team. Pelton specifically mentioned that Jared Dudley and Tim Frazier would be good fits for the Wizards.
Dudley, who is currently dealing with dizzy spells, has only played a total of 23 minutes in the Suns last 16 games as Phoenix has decided to give more time to youngsters — Dragen Bender and Marquese Criss. Dudley has performed well when he has gotten the chance, compiling 7.8 points while shooting a career-bests 49.2 percent from the field and 43.6 percent from behind the arc. He is known as three-point marksman, making over 40 percent of his three-point shots throughout his career.
The addition of Dudley would give the Wizards a true scorer off the bench and enhance their perimeter shooting overall — the Wiz are 24th in the league in made three-pointers, 25th in three-point attempts. His addition would allow Oubre to just play his natural small forward position. The Wizards would also be able to use a smaller lineup when Gortat is on the bench, moving Morris to the five rather than inserting veteran Jason Smith.
Pelton said that although the Wizards would probably be thrilled to have back with the team, it is unlikely to occur as the Wizards don’t have matching contracts that would intrigue the Suns. Dudley played last season with the Wizards, starting 41 of the 81 games he played in. The six-foot-seven forward tallied 7.9 points and 3.5 caroms in 25.9 minutes as he shot 47.8 percent from the field along with 42.0 percent on threes.
Another issue for the Wizards has been the inconsistent play of the backup point guards. Trey Burke has gotten the majority of the time behind Wall. Although Sheldon McClellan and Marcus Thornton have also seen time at the point.
Burke, known as a three-point shooter coming out of Michigan, is shooting the ball the best he has in four seasons as a pro. The problem is that he has not developed as a playmaker and he has been extremely inconsistent. However, Burke has been solid the last three games.
Over this recent stretch, Burke has dumped in 19 points, making 9-of-13 shots from the field, doled out nine assists, grabbed five boards and committed two turnovers. He is not good on the defensive end.
Frazier is currently behind Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans on the New Orleans Pelicans’ point guard depth chart. The 26-year-old point guard played well while Holiday and Evans were out at the start of the season, posting seven double-doubles in the first 20 games. However, he has seen sparse playing time lately.
Frazier is averaging 9.3 points along with 6.3 assists as he is shooting 36.3 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from long distance in 36 contests.
[Image by Nick Wass/ AP Images]