Just a couple of months ago, the Wizards sat atop the NBA’s eastern conference. They had convincingly beaten a bevy of talented teams in the process, with wins against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics (twice!). With a new head coach at the helm in West Unseld Jr. and a fresh-look roster, it appeared as though maybe the Wizards had finally managed to put a decent team together. Even more convincingly, they had pulled off these wins despite star guard Bradley Beal’s absence in more than a few, and inconsistent shooting numbers when he did play.
Fast forward to the present, where the circumstance and perception of this team could not have shifted more drastically. Following a 14-8 start, the Wizards have gone 9-17 to drop to 23-25. At one point they were in the driver’s seat, now they hold the last play-in tournament spot as the 10th seed.
So where did the failures begin? For one, the Wizards started the season playing like one of the NBA’s best defenses, a trend that has quickly tapered off. In their first 11 games, they held the Raptors, Grizzlies and Cavaliers to under 100 points. Despite this stellar start, they have since dropped to 20th in defensive rating.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, they just are not producing enough on the offensive end to win games. Bradley Beal has not looked like himself this year after a bout with COVID over the summer and is currently shooting just 30.1% on 3-pointers for the season. He is also averaging just 23.6 points per game just a season after averaging 31.3 points per game. Spencer Dinwiddie’s bargain deal is looking like a mistake as of right now; he is averaging a paltry 13.3 points per game while shooting under 40% from the field and barely above 30% from three. He has not been the secondary playmaker and star that Wizards fans hoped he could be next to Beal. Most horrendously, however, they are shooting a putrid 32.4% on 3-pointers as a team overall, good for third-worst in the NBA. Not exactly a recipe for success in the modern era of the league, especially considering the other teams in the bottom four will not even sniff the postseason this year.
In Tuesday’s 116-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in which they gave up a 35-point lead, things appeared far bleaker than they did at any point last season. Perhaps the most telling aspect of it all was Beal’s postgame interview, in which he expressed that he was “frustrated” at having to reenter the game as the lead slipped away.
Bradley Beal says he was “frustrated”that he had to go back in the game as the lead slipped away.
Says the Wizards need to be “dogs, have heart.”
— 𝙲𝚑𝚛𝚒𝚜 𝚆. 𝙲𝚛𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚎 🏙 (@ChrisWCrouse) January 26, 2022
He was roundly criticized on social media for these comments, with many users pointing out that he agreed to bear such a burden when he decided to stay and DC to be the star and focal point of the franchise. While Beal has consistently reiterated that Washington is where he wants to be long-term, and that he is committed to building the Wizards into a winning franchise, every man has their breaking point. If deflating losses similar to the Clippers’ keep building up, who knows how much more Beal will be able to take before he finally requests a trade. Here’s to hoping head coach Wes Unseld Jr. has a plan of action for turning things around.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN and Pro-Basketball-Reference.