The Wizards—yes the Wizards—have the NBA’s most shockingly good offense
The Wizards’ offense has come out of nowhere. The Wizards are a scoring juggernaut. Seriously. The Washington Wizards aren’t a total disaster. Just as nobody predicted, they’re actually an offensive force. The team doesn’t have John Wall. They let Tomas Satoransky walk to the Chicago Bulls. Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre left in midseason trades. They picked up little-known players in the offseason. Yet 12 games into their season, they run the second-most efficient offense in the NBA. This year is an experimental one in Washington for all players not named Bradley Beal. With Wall expected to return next season, everyone else is auditioning for their place on a team that should be competitive a year from now. In the mix is rookie Rui Hachimura, young prospects Thomas Bryant, Troy Brown Jr., and Mo Wagner, and veterans Isaiah Thomas, Davis Bertans, Ish Smith and C.J. Miles. It’s a bizarre mixture of talent, but everyone’s capable of one thing: scoring. Scott Brooks is coaching his team to score 115.11 points per 100 possessions, per basketball reference, second only to Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, and nearly 2.5 points per 100 possessions better than the next-best Houston Rockets. That’s incredible for a team with limited talent. There is, of course, a downside. The Wizards rank second-worst in defensive rating, which is why they only have a 4-8 record. But nobody was expecting anything from this team, and their offense deserve a helluva lot of praise. The Wizards’ bigs are making their teammates’ lives easier on offense Most of Washington’s sets run out of high pick-and-rolls because every big they put on the floor is a threat. Bryant and Wagner are good scorers and especially effective screeners, leaving their guards with easy reads out of the action. Bryant averages the third-most screen assists per game of all players in the league at 5.6 per night, and they’re resulting in 12.8 points. Wagner, in fewer minutes, also ranks in the top-40 with 2.6 screen assists for 6.1 points. What makes those two especially dangerous is their speed and soft touch. Either can pick-and-pop as options along the top of the key. Bryant might not shoot well (only 30 percent from deep for his career), but he’s taking more than two tries per night and the defense needs to respect his tries. Wagner has been incredible, and hit 16 of his 31 three-point attempts so far. Bryant and Wagner have been a blessing for Beal in particular. Now the first option for the Wizards, Beal’s running more than 10 pick-and-roll plays per game now, up from six each of the last two years, and he’s scoring nearly one point per play (.98), his best-ever mark. Beal’s scoring the most points per 100 possessions of his career on an elite 58 percent true shooting percentage. And even Isaiah Thomas, the second-most frequent pick-and-roll ball-handler on the team is enjoying a nice scoring resurgence, making 44 percent of his shots from the floor and a career-best 42 percent shots from deep. IT time! ⌚️ pic.twitter.com/nzR9AS1UOt— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) November 14, 2019 Bryant and Wagner’s screens are super efficient off the ball, too. The Wizards best players are constantly in motion, finding open looks off curls. Beal is scoring the fourth-most points in the league off screens at 3.3 per game (behind just Bojan Bogdanovic, Paul George and J.J. Redick), and Bertans and Miles rank in the top-50, too. ✔️ Three ✔️ Steal ✔️ Layup Bertans can do it all! pic.twitter.com/AVfNPzXUVJ— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) November 21, 2019 The Wizards’ floor-spacing is amazing, too Washington isn’t taking the most threes per game, isn’t generating many corner threes (the most efficient non-dunk or layup shot in the game), and isn’t among the game’s best at scoring in the paint. They actually take the fourth-most mid-range shots in the league. But they’re so, so good at spacing the floor, that sometimes the selection doesn’t matter as much. They’re getting so many open looks. Defenses are struggling to defend Washington because they have so many shooting options off the high pick-and-roll. Not only are the ball-handler and roller an issue, so are the three guys who surround them. It’s really difficult to help off a Wizards player because they’re all able to hit the open three, and so willing to make the extra pass. Washington’s primary pick-and-roll ball-handlers, Beal and Thomas, are both averaging career-highs in assists per 100 possessions. This ball movement! #RepTheDistrict | @Intel TrueView pic.twitter.com/mSRpGLGI2Y— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) November 21, 2019 The Wizards are a very good shooting team, even if they aren’t taking shots with a Rockets-like precision on analytics. They only rank No. 16 in frequency of three-point shots taken, but are shooting 37.6 percent from deep-ball range, sixth-best in the league. They key has been getting spot-up shooters open. Washington’s ability to keep the ball moving throws defenses out of rotation. Helping off one able-shooter to the next, defensive units are flustered, leaving someone in red, white and blue inevitably open on the wing to fire in rhythm. Spot-up shots, where players can load and shoot without any dribbling, are the most efficient way to shoot, and no team in the league is scoring more frequently off them than the Wizards. Great spacing has helped the Wizards rack up the most assists per 100 possessions in the league at 27 per night. That coupled with them turning the ball over the seventh-least per 100 possessions in the league has made them a high-powered offense. Of course, the defense is still a mess A lot of the Wizards rotation is young or new. Hachimura is 19, Brown Jr., Wagner and Bryant could still be in college, and this is Bertans and Thomas’s first year in D.C. Things were bound to get messy, and none of these guys were lauded for their defense coming in. Defensively they haven’t been merely bad, though. They’ve been awful, only besting whatever’s left of the Golden State Warriors. Despite having the second-best offense in the league, they’re being outscored by 5.7 points per 100 possessions, which is brutal. Focus on the good with this unit, though The Wizards have guys worth keeping for the future. Wagner, Bryant, Brown Jr. and Hachimura feel like pieces to build off of, and Beal’s a superstar who just inked a two-year extension. Add a healthy John Wall, and Ian Mahinmi’s contract off the payroll, a high draft pick (read this 2020 NBA Draft primer, Wiz fans), and Washington might be building somewhere out of mediocrity. Finally.
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