The Wizards failed to live up to Scott Brooks’ expectations on defense despite a 49-win season.
Had they done just a tad better in the East semifinals, they would’ve gotten past the Boston Celtics instead of losing in seven games.
Brooks’ rotations changed frequently.
The season turned when he went away from Marcus Thornton, who was benched after a disastrous stretch in losses to the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks in early January.
John Wall had his moments of brilliance but didn’t have as good of a season on the defensive end. Otto Porter can defend smaller, less physical players at small forward but he has difficulty against the likes of a LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony even in his faded state.
That’s all about individual defense. But defense is about more than steals, blocks or one-on-one matchups.
To get to the next level, they all have to do a better covering for one another.
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Corrective action: Team defense.
The fallout: Wall and Beal had their best seasons as professionals, though both were on fumes the last time out. Wall shot 8-for-23 in a Game 7 loss to Boston after playing 44 of 48 minutes. In the previous game, he logged 42. Beal played 43 and 46 minutes in the last two games.
The departed: Brandon Jennings, Trey Burke.
The fixes: Kelly Oubre, Sheldon Mac and simple communication.
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The Wizards had a top 10 scoring defense for three consecutive seasons until 2015-16 when they went to a pace-and-space style and came unhinged. In Brooks’ first season, they allowed 107.4 per game which was 21st. Opponents shot 36.4% from three which ranked 20th and 46.6% overall which was just 24th.
Oubre’s strength is defending with his 7-2 wingspan and was able to lock down elite point guards when he was in sync. But he lost his way multiple times in the postseason by dropping rotations. Mac can defend but lost time in the rotation when he made bad decisions, such as going under screens on elite shooters but going over vs. sub-par ones to open up the lane.
Wall fell asleep off the ball and was beaten backdoor. He died on screens and didn’t fight through them enough. And his communication with starting center Marcin Gortat was central to many of the bad things that transpired in the playoffs.
Markieff Morris’ rotations in help were late. Bojan Bogdanovic was exploited because of his lack of foot speed as the Celtics went at him.
There was more than enough blame to go around but by improving their defense by a few points they’re not just a 50-win team but possibly a No. 1 seed in the East.