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Film study: Switching on defense starts to cross up Wizards

Film study: Switching on defense starts to cross up Wizards

A lot is going right for the Wizards, but what they can't lose sight of during their 2-0 start to this five-game road trip is that they can be much better on the defensive end.

In beating the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets, they've combined to score 254 points, but they've allowed 240 to a pair of sub .500 teams.

The biggest issue defensively? They're allowing a lot of open looks, especially from the three-point arc because of confusion on rotations.

"We just got to do a better job of communicating on our switches," point guard John Wall said after having 30 points and 10 assists on Wednesday in Denver. "It’s giving up too many easy shots."

This is just a small sample of what has been routine. The focus that the Wizards (39-24) had in beating the Golden State Warriors and their road game at the Toronto Raptors is absent. 

Their potent offense has carried them, but at some point when the shots stop falling they're going to have to get stops. 

This is how the Nuggets got their first basket. It came on the first possession of the game with the starting five. Can't blame mental fatigue or new players added to the roster for this one.

This is simply a matter of Bradley Beal stopping. He did his job initially but Gary Harris kept playing. He negated his own good defense by not putting a body on Harris to keep him off the glass. Marcin Gortat forced the missed by Mason Plumlee.

Bojan Bogdanovic signaled to Brandon Jennings to switch on the perimeter. Jennings, however, stayed home and allowed Wilson Chandler to pop for a three. He missed, but that's not the point. This is too easy. Denver did nothing special to get this kind of quality look.. It's 100% on the defense. 

Kelly Oubre had Darrell Arthur and switched onto Jamal Murray, expecting Otto Porter to switch onto him diving to the basket. It didn't happen so that compromises the interior. The ball gets to the one spot on the floor teams prefer to avoid. Ian Mahinmi has to rotate to stop Arthur who makes the easy shovel pass for a dunk to Plumlee.

Related: Brandon Jennings and Jared Dudley fined by NBA after ejections in Wizards-Suns game

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Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

Austin Rivers getting cut by Suns may change perception of Trevor Ariza trade to Wizards

When the Suns traded Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, the thought by most was that Rivers, though not a perfect fit, would slide in at point guard to fill their biggest need. Instead, on the day the trade became official, Phoenix opted to waive Rivers and make him a free agent.

The Suns will pay about $8 million to let Rivers go, according to ESPN. He is now free to sign with any team except for the Wizards. That means he can return to the L.A. Clippers, where he played last season, if he wants.

(Update: According to one report, he may be heading to Memphis.)

Rivers, 26, has had a dramatic fall in a matter of months. In July, the Wizards sent starting center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers to acquire Rivers, who was coming off a career year. They believed he could solidify their backup shooting guard position and become an asset off the bench.

Rivers, though, proved a poor fit. He struggled with fewer shots and fewer minutes, averaging only 7.2 points while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 31.1 percent from three. 

Rivers arrived in Washington with numbers that suggested he could score efficiently. But his stint with the Wizards showed he may need more volume to sustain a rhythm.

The Suns cutting Rivers makes the trade between the teams from a Suns perspective essentially an Ariza-for-Oubre swap. Phoenix wanted to clear some money and part with Ariza, who was wasting away on their last-place roster. Now they can see what they have in Oubre over the course of the rest of this season before he hits restricted free agency.

From the Wizards' side, this move shows how far Rivers' trade value had dropped, as one of the league's worst teams has cut him loose. That they were able to unload Rivers' salary while prying away Ariza may change slightly how the trade is viewed.

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With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

With Trevor Ariza now in store, Wizards begin new phase against Hawks

The Wizards have undergone a midseason roster renovation over the past week-plus, culminating with a trade over the weekend to acquire Trevor Ariza. On Tuesday in Atlanta, a new phase will begin for the Wizards as they take on the Hawks at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Ariza has joined the team on the road in anticipation of his debut. With Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers now out the door, the team brought back guard Chasson Randle. Those two will help make up a new-look rotation for Washington, as they try to recover from a 12-18 start to this season.

Ariza will likely slide into the starting lineup, certainly in the short-term as Otto Porter Jr. recovers from a minor knee injury. The changes should also present opportunities for a few players who otherwise may not have played.

Sam Dekker, for one, will clearly be in the mix. He has averaged 13.5 minutes per game since coming over in a three-team trade last week. On Sunday against the Lakers, he put up a season-high 20 points. Even when Porter returns, he should have a role, as his path to play was carved by Oubre's departure.

The adjustments should, in theory, also clear the runway for rookie Troy Brown Jr. The 2018 first round pick has only appeared in 13 of the Wizards' 30 games this season because of a logjam at his position. 

But on Sunday, the first game since Oubre and Rivers were dealt, he played 15:21 against the Lakers. It wasn't in garbage time, either. He entered in the first half and made an instant impact with three steals and two rebounds.

Though Tomas Satoransky has played an important role this season as a backup guard and temporary starter, his standing was made even more secure when the Wizards traded Rivers. They have Randle and two-way player Jordan McRae, but Satoransky is now their primary backup guard. Barring a trade or another signing, they have no choice but to rely heavily on him to spell John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Speaking of Wall and Beal, they will bear watching despite nothing changing in their roles with the Wizards. They, along with Markieff Morris and Porter, have been the core of this team throughout the tumultuous last two years. The Wizards brought in Ariza to help compensate for their shortcomings in defending the perimeter, rebounding and - this year, at least - three-point shooting. 

If Ariza's arrival has a domino effect on teammates, if it lights a spark and brings the best out of the Wizards, those are the guys to watch. The Wizards want consistency from them, more of what they saw against the Lakers. And Ariza's commitment on the defensive end, the team hopes, can rub off on others.

The Wizards have already played one game since trading Oubre and Rivers, but now that Ariza is in store and ready to debut, the Wizards can officially hit the restart button. Will this trade prove the catalyst and help get them back on track? Tuesday night will give the first answers to that question.

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