Is a lack of urgency and pride a problem for the Washington Wizards?

Is a lack of urgency and pride a problem for the Washington Wizards?

Since Feb. 3, the Washington Wizards have misplaced three video games wherein they held leads of no less than 19 factors.

Is a lack of pride the problem?

And the way will the workforce try to improve the level guard spot?

I reply these questions and extra in the newest version of The Athletic’s Wizards mailbag.

(Creator’s word: Questions have been frivolously edited for readability, grammar and spelling.)

I’d like to get your tackle the urgency inside the locker room. Whereas blowing two large leads in a row — to the Path Blazers in D.C. and in opposition to the Nets in Brooklyn — I used to be shocked at how informal Bradley Beal and Wes Unseld Jr. had been each throughout and after. Is there no pride? We’re far more gifted than our report. –@flytimesdc

I by no means assess a workforce’s urgency, pride or effort by what gamers or coaches say after a loss, and even by how they are saying it.

In professional sports activities, actions and outcomes matter infinitely greater than phrases.

Coaches and gamers are sensible: They know what sounds good to say after defeats, and they typically communicate accordingly. However I’ve been doing this for greater than twenty years now, and I would want a supercomputer to tally up all the instances after I’ve heard massive speak from gamers solely to see those self same gamers fail to again up that massive speak in the subsequent sport.

One of the central traits of each Bradley Beal and Wes Unseld Jr. is that they don’t “speak massive.” Unseld, specifically, tasks a fair keel. That’s his nature. That’s his strategy.

So I might by no means count on Beal or Unseld to lose their tempers publicly after a loss. From them, it will appear compelled and inauthentic.

However do the Wizards have a vocal chief on their roster? A top-level participant who’s vocal? I believe that’s somebody the workforce lacks.

I assumed the effort in the losses to the Path Blazers, Nets and New York Knicks was superb, however I believe the Wizards lacked psychological toughness as these opponents had been mounting their comebacks. I sense the Wizards now count on dangerous issues to occur after they construct double-digit leads, and that’s a problem as a result of that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In Sunday’s loss in Chicago, I assumed the effort and urgency had been superb. The Wizards simply performed poorly, missed photographs and had been lacking two of their finest floor-spacers, Monté Morris and Kristaps Porziņģis, as a result of of accidents. The Wizards hadn’t shot lights-out of their earlier three video games in opposition to the Bulls, both.

The Wizards misplaced their first two video games after the All-Star break, together with a defeat Sunday in Chicago. (David Banks / USA In the present day)

Might the Wizards already quietly be tanking? A workforce with playoff aspirations doesn’t sit barely banged-up gamers on and off all through the season. That’s been the case with a number of gamers: Bradley Beal, Monté Morris, Kristaps Porziņģis and others. I believe they need their lottery decide. –@ravenwizardd

That’s a truthful query, however the Wizards aren’t tanking proper now. Their aim for this season at all times has been to enhance and to achieve no less than the first spherical of the playoffs. Nothing has modified. They wish to win as many video games as potential and play in the postseason.

You’re right that Morris missed Sunday’s loss in Chicago as a result of of, in workforce officers’ phrases, decrease again “soreness.” Kristaps Porziņģis didn’t play as a result of of left knee “soreness.” I grant you that “soreness” sounds extra like an inconvenience quite than a actual harm, however typically accidents are described by their signs as an alternative of their root causes.

I believe you’re incorrect whenever you say groups which are preventing to achieve the playoffs don’t sit barely banged-up gamers.

In actual fact, one of the largest tendencies in the NBA lately is that groups have been more and more reluctant to play people who find themselves feeling lower than absolutely wholesome. In different phrases, groups and the gamers themselves are more and more cautious to keep away from aggravating what would possibly you and I would take into account as comparatively “minor” accidents.

The Wizards have been hampered this season by a number of absences for Beal and a extended harm to Delon Wright. It doesn’t shock me that they’re being cautious with Morris and Porziņģis, however the present strategy isn’t any completely different than different groups’ approaches.

As for whether or not Washington desires to fall into the lottery, I believe there can be a profit to reaching the playoffs this season and instantly conveying the protected 2023 first-round decide that Washington owes the Knicks. Conveying that decide on this 12 months’s draft would liberate the Wizards to commerce some mixture of their 2024, 2025, 2026 and 2027 first-round picks — picks presently tied up by the protections on the 2023 decide — for a star-level participant.

The Wizards have three vital weaknesses. They don’t rebound effectively (lack power), lack a penetrating level guard who can break down defenses (particularly at the finish of video games) and defend poorly. How will Beal, Kuzma and Porziņģis assist with this? –@jondschreiber

I agree about the defensive rebounding. From the begin of the season by way of Dec. 22, defensive rebounding truly was one of the workforce’s finest strengths. The Wizards ranked eighth in the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage, amassing 73.0 % of potential defensive rebounds.

It’s been a completely different story the final two months. Since Dec. 23, the Wizards rank 20th in the same category, grabbing 71.3 % of potential defensive rebounds.

That decline is confounding. One idea I’ve is that the workforce is emphasizing its transition offense, maybe prompting gamers to leak out earlier than a teammate grabs the missed shot. One other is that a few of the gamers who had been good defensive rebounders at their positions have performed fewer minutes: Rui Hachimura (as a result of of his commerce) and Jordan Goodwin (as a result of Wright has gotten wholesome and as a result of Goodwin needed to be on the inactive checklist for a few video games).

No matter the cause, the Wizards want to enhance — and enhance quickly. They allowed 21 second-chance factors in Friday’s slender loss to the Knicks, and their margin for error is just too slender to permit that many second-chance factors. Kuzma is a near-elite defensive rebounder for a ahead, in line with the superior analytics database Cleansing the Glass, so Kuzma ought to be half of the answer. Porziņģis is a barely above-average defensive rebounder for a massive who maybe has corralled fewer boards when Daniel Gafford begins alongside him.

Morris and Wright have been superb at level guard, particularly with Morris’ ground spacing and Wright’s particular person protection. However you’re right that they wrestle to get into the paint with out the profit of a teammate setting a display screen. Beal is a good creator and a more-than-willing passer, however his deal with has been unfastened this season.

Since Dec. 23 — and I exploit that date as a start line as a result of that coincides with fewer accidents and the begin of the two-big beginning lineup — Washington actually has ranked 13th in the NBA in defensive rating. That’s an enchancment, helped partially by Wright’s return from a vital hamstring pressure and partially by a softer schedule. However I agree that their protection stays hit-or-miss, and to this point has been nowhere close to persistently adequate for the workforce to make massive inroads in the playoff image. Porziņģis has been fairly good in phrases of defending the rim, and Kuzma just lately has taken on extra of a defensive-stopper function. When Beal is dialed in defensively, he may be efficient, however he usually saves his finest defensive efforts for late in shut video games.

What you didn’t embrace is what I take into account maybe the workforce’s largest weak point: a lack of toughness. It’s an intangible however an essential intangible. The workforce typically isn’t as bodily because it must be, and it’s been gentle when it’s tried to carry onto leads.

Everyone knows the aim is to win this season, however at what level will possession throw in the towel? This stretch they might probably go 2-8. Would that immediate them to relaxation the starters for the season? –@rileyricharrds

In the event that they hold dropping to groups which are proper there with them in the standings, will the Wizards look to enhance their lottery positioning? –@Faazzla

4 years in the past, Ted Leonsis did certainly say, “We’ll by no means, ever tank.”

And it’s true that almost all of the Wizards’ choices since then replicate the entrance workplace’s choice for a middle-build technique towards roster development.

All of that mentioned, I believe we’ve all positioned an excessive amount of emphasis on that particular quote. He was talking in a press-conference setting. What else was he going to say?

I believe the Wizards would start to relaxation starters in the event that they get eradicated from the Play-In race. That’s actually what they should do in the event that they get eradicated.

Why do you suppose it’s so exhausting for Wes Unseld to stay with what works and/or discover a Plan B for when Porziņģis is out? –@JustinRusset

No different massive man on the Wizards’ roster can do what Porziņģis can do offensively: play on the perimeter and power defenses to account for him past the 3-point line. So when Porziņģis is injured or out of the sport, the Wizards need to play otherwise on offense.

What’s worrisome is that Porziņģis’ effectiveness too typically diminishes after he performs fantastically throughout his first stint on the ground. When groups start to play Porziņģis extra bodily, the workforce hasn’t discovered a counter that retains Porziņģis productive. This was a main cause the Wizards misplaced to the Knicks on Friday; after Porziņģis dominated in the first quarter, scoring 19 factors, he added solely 4 extra factors the relaxation of the sport, albeit after he tweaked his left knee.

The Wizards have to seek out a method to assist Kristaps Porziņģis be productive in the second, third and fourth quarters of video games. (Troy Wayrynen / USA In the present day)

How set are the Wizards on Kuzma? If he retains having these poor performances, might they decide to not pay him in the offseason? –@MeITuckerFan

Wizards officers had 117 regular-season video games, tons of practices and numerous numbers of interactions with Kuzma to evaluate him earlier than this season’s commerce deadline. I can not think about that their view of him might change considerably from not till the finish of the common season or the finish of any postseason video games. They need to know that he’s a streaky — however typically clutch — participant.

The Wizards nearly actually signaled their long-term intentions by not buying and selling him earlier than the deadline. If workforce officers had vital qualms about his enjoying fashion or any doubts that he’ll re-sign, I believe they might have traded him after they had the probability.

What can the Wizards do to get a official start line guard for 2023 and past ? –@scottbour_scott

Since Ted doesn’t wish to rebuild, will the Wizards go after an improve at start line guard this offseason? –@Os_and_BOHs

Possibly you and I differ on what a “official” start line guard means, however I believe Morris is a official beginning guard. The mix of Morris and Wright has been superb.

However I agree with you that the Wizards want extra from their start line guard. Washington would profit from a level guard who can take over video games and get into the paint often. In in the present day’s NBA, being “strong” at that place isn’t adequate.

I believe the most probably pathway to bettering at level guard can be by way of a commerce, particularly if the Wizards convey their 2023 first-round decide to New York and then can commerce some of their upcoming first-round picks.

I count on Tommy Sheppard to scope out the commerce market energetically to seek out methods to improve the workforce. That’s at all times been his M.O.

(Prime photograph of Wes Unseld Jr.: John Hefti / USA In the present day)