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Morning tip: Wizards struggle through first quarter of season but bright spots exist

Morning tip: Wizards struggle through first quarter of season but bright spots exist

The season is 21 games old, or one-quarter complete, and the Wizards sit at 8-13 in a season full of curveballs following Thursday’s 92-85 win vs. the Denver Nuggets at Verizon Center.

This isn’t who they thought they were coming into the season after 41-41 and being out of the playoffs. President Ernie Grunfeld told CSNmidatlantic.com before the first game Oct. 27 that he expected coach Scott Brooks to produce a playoff team.

A lot has gone wrong, but some things have gone right:

--Ian Mahinmi, expected to be the anchor of the second unit because of his ability to protect the rim and play away from it in a pick-and-roll heavy league, has played just one game because of his knees. First, it was left knee surgery. Now it's tendinitis in the right one. Mahinmi will be held out of practice at least a week before he's re-evaluated, and his absence has forced Brooks to play Jason Smith likely more than he'd planned and Andrew Nicholson out of position.

--The backcourt of Trey Burke and Marcus Thornton hasn't worked, and in the former's case a second-round pick was given up to acquire him. Burke has shown recent signs of being viable with the second unit as he's more comfortable playing as a scorer rather than as a initiator of the offense. Tomas Satoransky has fallen out of the rotation though he has promise. He has to work on his jump shot to expand his game. Ultimately, he'll be the backup point guard but he was forced into duty sooner than Brooks anticipated, too. 

--The defense of John Wall and Markieff Morris hasn't been up to par for the first unit. With Wall, it's the dribble pentration that's allowed into the paint. He can defend, but gambling for steals costs him and he doesn't appear to always trust his teammates. Morris has been spectacular at times, most notably int he way he defended Paul Millsap of the Atlanta Hawks and in the first two meetings with Serge Ibaka of the Orlando Magic. Since then, he hasn't been as good and his help rotations have been slow or half-hearted. Like Wall, it's not a matter of IQ or ability. And during the game with Denver, Morris was on completely different pages during key stretches late with Gortat. Wall and Morris each have five technical fouls, an indication that frustration in games may be eroding their focus as they harp on the officiating. Each has been ejected once.

--Otto Porter is a good defender. Among the starters, he has probably been the best though Beal is trending upward. Where Porter suffers, however, is against bigger players at small forward. He lacks the physical strength to deal with the elite ones though he did show well in a win over Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks. Just as important, Porter's vulnerable to pick-and-roll coverages and dribble handoffs/pitches because he's not physical enough to blow up the action as Brooks would like. 

--The chemistry is off. This goes for starters to a lesser degree (primarily defensively), but at times they all look as if they're sharing the court together for the first time. Blown coverages, confusion about the play calls and not getting back in transition defense. These kinks should've been eliminated this deep into the process. 

--Kelly Oubre has been up and down, but lately he has been on the uptick. Brooks can go with him in the lineup with Porter, making them a more formidable defensive team. Oubre is the team's best defender as long as he keeps composure.

--Wall has scored a career-high 52 points. Beal has scored a career-high 42 points. Each has career-high averages as well. They're prospering on the court together at a level that they haven't in their previous years. The struggles of this team isn't because these two don't vibe well. 

--Sheldon McClellan is in the D-League, but he at least could be ready to defend on an NBA level. He has a ways to go on the offensive end, but when he started a game vs. the Chicago Bulls he gained the respect of Dwyane Wade. The undrafted rookie has promise though it might take a minute before it comes to fruition on the court. 

-- Offensively, Porter has reached the next level and has been the consistent third scorer that they've been missing. 

--Brooks' temperament gives them a chance to turn things around. There have been ample opportunities for the first-year coach to blow a gasket, toss his players under the bus and label them as "soft." He hasn't done that nor will he, and the equity he could be earning with his players could pay dividends in the long run. 

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Jodie Meeks' season...

Player: Jodie Meeks

Position: Shooting guard

Age: 30

2017-18 salary: $3.3 million

2017-18 stats: 77 G, 14.5 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 39.9 FG%, 34.3 3P%, 86.3 FT%, 49.1 eFG%, 111 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 11/29 at Sixers - 21 points, 4 rebounds, assist, steal, 5-for-11 FG, 3-for-6 3PT, 8-for-9 FT

Season review: The Wizards took a flier on Jodie Meeks last summer in what seemed at the time to be a low-risk contract with a potentially high reward, if he could stay healthy and play to his career norms. They were in obvious need of help at backup shooting guard and three-point shooting for their bench.

Meeks fell short of those expectations for a variety of reasons. Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he could not make shots at the clip the Wizards were hoping for. His field goal percentage was not far off from what he posted in recent years, but his three-point percentage was nowhere near the 38.8 percent he shot in his previous four seasons.

Meeks bottomed out midseason, shooting 28.9 percent from three in December and 28 percent in January. Those numbers ticked up beginning in February, but Meeks never fully gained the trust of his coaching staff. He rarely got hot enough to alter games and his best stat-lines often came in blowouts. 

There was a domino effect from Meeks' struggles, as starting shooting guard Bradley Beal had no one to spell him. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player this season.

For Meeks personally, it was a bittersweet year because staying healthy was no small feat. He had a run of bad luck and finally broke out of it this season. On the other hand, he never made the impact he felt he was capable of and that wasn't easy for a guy joining a new team and a new locker room.

Meeks' 2017-18 season was ultimately defined by more than his shooting woes. First, he expressed interest in a trade in February and did not get his wish. Then, he was suspended for allegedy using performance-enhancing drugs after the regular season ended. He was out for the playoffs and will miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season without pay as he waits out a 25-game ban.

Meeks may or may not serve that suspension as a member of the Wizards. He has a player option for next season worth $3.5 million. He has yet to inform the team of his decision, but the expectation is that he will pick it up. Given how poorly his season went and ended, it would likely be the smart move financially for him to opt in and hope for better results next season.

Potential to improve: Shooting percentage, perimeter defense, passing

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

Ian Mahinmi, C

Ty Lawson, PG

Tim Frazier, PG

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Tim Frazier

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Tim Frazier

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Tim Frazier's season...

Player: Tim Frazier

Position: Point guard

Age: 27

2017-18 salary: $2 million

2017-18 stats: 59 G, 14.2 mpg, 3.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 3.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.1 bpg, 39.5 FG%, 30.4 3P%, 76.7 FT%, 44.5 eFG%, 105 ORtg, 107 DRtg

Best game: 1/27 at Hawks - 4 points, 14 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 2-for-5 FG

Season review: The Wizards tabbed Tim Frazier to be their backup point guard nearly a year ago when they sent a second round pick to the New Orleans Pelicans on the eve of draft night. They viewed Frazier as the solution to their years-long search for a capable backup behind John Wall. Frazier had thrived as a replacement starter in New Orleans and the Wizards saw him as worth a draft pick, even though he had just one year left on his contract.

Frazier began the season as the primary backup point guard, but ultimately lost the job to Tomas Satoransky once Wall went out with a left knee injury. Frazier became the starter and Satoransky the backup, but through two weeks Satoransky outplayed him and became No. 2 on the depth chart once Wall returned. Then, when Wall went down for months late in the season, Satoransky started and Frazier backed him up.

Frazier never found consistency as he moved back and forth between roles. His minutes, points and assists averages were all career-lows.

The Wizards added competition to their roster for Frazier and Satoransky midseason, first by signing Ramon Sessions in March and then adding Ty Lawson just before the playoffs began. That led to Frazier being inactive for four of the Wizards' six postseason games.

All in all, it was a frustrating year for Frazier. He even had to deal with a broken nose and surgery to repair it after getting inadvertently kneed in the face by Bobby Portis in a game against the Bulls in February.

Frazier has been part of small group of Wizards players continuing to work out at the team facility this summer. He has been there along with Wall, Ian Mahinmi and Jason Smith. That said, it does seem likely Frazier returns given how the Wizards used him this season. He was completely out of the rotation for extended periods of time.

Helping his cause in that regard is that the Wizards have his Bird rights, meaning they can re-sign him while going above the salary cap. They currently have five open roster spots and not much money to spend. Frazier could represent a cheap option and help them fill out their roster.

Potential to improve: Shooting, on-ball defense, consistency

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

Ian Mahinmi, C

Ty Lawson, PG

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