The Wizards are off to a 7-3 start this season, easily one of the best in recent memory. They are currently tied for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Miami Heat and fellow upstart Chicago Bulls. Some have taken a pessimistic approach to Washington’s hot start and theorized that they will return to earth in the near future and experience an accompanying drop in the standings. While this is a possibility, it does not diminish the success of the team through the first 8.2 percent of the season, and there are a bevy of reasons for optimism among Wizards fans. Without further ado, here are three reasons the Wizards’ success through the regular season thus far is something to get seriously excited about.
1. Improvement on Both Sides of the Ball
Last season the Wizards were 21st in net rating with a 1.8 and 18th and 19th in offensive and defensive rating respectively. This year, they are 13th in offensive rating, eighth in defensive rating and seventh in overall net rating. The plain offensive and defensive rating numbers, presented without context, are lower than last year’s. However, the league is going through a collective offensive slump as players adjust to new key rule changes, and the Wizards’ numbers must be compared to the landscape of the rest of the NBA.
Paul George on Wilson ball: "It doesn't have the same touch & softness that the Spalding ball had. You'll see this year. A lot of bad misses. You've seen a lot of airballs."
.446 FG% (lowest since 2004)
.342 3PT% (lowest since 1999) pic.twitter.com/j2L8G9n82R
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) November 2, 2021
Even in terms of efficiency, however, the Wizards are still performing relatively well, ranking eighth in the NBA in team field goal percentage with 46.3 percent. They are also getting to the line 22.3 times a game as a team, good for third-best in the entire league. They are capitalizing when they get there as well, hitting 78.9 percent of their shots at the charity stripe, which is the ninth highest such mark in the NBA.
2. Bench Depth
Last season, the Wizards bench performed relatively well given the circumstances. They ranked 9th in the NBA in overall bench scoring and shot respectable overall percentages of 48 percent from the field and 35.1 percent on 3-pointers. However, they were making it all work with a pretty limited supporting cast. Relatively unknown players like Garrison Matthews, Raul Neto and aging veterans like Robin Lopez and Ish Smith were getting significant minutes in important moments of games. Washington obviously made it work and qualified for the postseason, albeit as the last seed from the play-in tournament, but Bradley Beal’s supporting cast obviously left a lot to be desired.
Fast forward to this year, and the Wizards have so of the most bench depth in the entire NBA. They have jumped up two spots to rank seventh in the league in bench scoring so far through ten games, and have a legit Sixth Man of the Year Candidate in Montrezl Harrell, who is currently posting averages of 17.7 points per game, 9.1 rebounds per game and is shooting 63.6 percent from the floor. With the contributions of veterans like Aaron Holiday and Davis Bertans off the bench, this second unit is a force to be reckoned with that will consistently punish weak benches throughout the season. It will be even further bolstered when Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant finally return to action.
3. The Proof is in the Pudding
The Wizards have beaten some very good teams so far this season in a convincing fashion. Wins against the Grizzlies, Celtics, Raptors and defending champions Bucks are nothing to shrug your shoulders at, especially considering many of them were by double digits or close to it. This team is not rattling off dubious victories against chumpy opponents, they are beating good basketball teams. Perhaps most importantly, they are doing it without Bradley Beal needing to shoulder an enormous offensive load. His points per game are down almost six points from last year, sitting at 24.2. He is also shooting just 25.4 percent on 6.6 3-point attempts per game. These numbers will almost certainly rise given time, but it is encouraging that Washington is able to secure wins despite his relatively slow start to the year.
The Wizards are an enigmatic team this season. Many predicted them to be fighting for a play-in spot for most of the regular season, but their hot start has many fans wondering if they may be in for a pleasant surprise. Hopefully, the success continues, and new head coach Wes Unseld Jr. continues to work his magic.
All stats courtesy of StatMuse, Basketball Reference, ESPN and HoopsStats
‘From our Haus to yours’