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State of the Wizards: By the numbers, how the defense has slipped since the All-Star break

State of the Wizards: By the numbers, how the defense has slipped since the All-Star break

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Defense has slipped - The Wizards have been exceptionally streaky since they returned from the All-Star break on Feb. 24. They have played 15 games and hold an 8-7 record in them, yet during that stretch had a five game winning streak and now have lost four of their last five games. That five-game streak was their second-longest of the season, while their four-in-five slump is their worst since Nov. 19.

Since the All-Star break, the Wizards have seen both extremes. But this much is clear: after entering the break winners of 18 of their last 21, they have leveled out to mediocrity in the four weeks since. 

As for why that is, defense seems to be the common theme. The Wizards have struggled offensively in their last two games, but they are scoring more since the break (111.3 ppg) than they were before (108.1). 

As John Wall explains, it's defensive problems that have made their offensive issues more glaring lately:

"When we're not making shots, we need to play with that same defensive intensity. We need to figure it out and do that," he said "When you're not making shots, you have to defend at a high level and that's what we have problems with sometimes."

Just about every stat will tell you that the Wizards have not been nearly as good defensively after the break than they were before. Here are a few for comparison:

Before All-Star break                                       After All-Star break

9th in def. rating: 105                                       26th in def. rating: 109.9
12th in opp PPG: 105.3                                    28th in opp PPG: 112.4
17th in opp FG%: 45.7                                     28th in opp FG%: 48
​10th in opp 3PT%: 35.3                                   30th in opp 3PT%: 40.3
8th in opp fastbreak pts: 11.7                           19th in opp fastbreak pts: 14.1
12th in opp paint pts: 42.5                                16th in opp paint pts: 44.7
11th in opp RPG: 42.7                                      24th in opp RPG: 45.8

(rankings are out of 30 NBA teams)

As you see, there have been some major drops. The Wizards were top 10 in defensive rating, but in their last 15 games are bottom five. They were 12th in points allowed, but since the break are third-worst among all teams.

Guarding the three-point line has been a huge issue. The Wizards were 10th in opponents three-point before the break, but since are dead-last. Opponents are shooting 40.3 percent against them. For a comparison, that's better than Stephen Curry (40%), Ryan Anderson (39.7%) and Kyrie Irving (39.3%) are shooting this season.

That's dreadful and it doesn't bode well for their upcoming road trip against teams like the Cavs, Warriors and Clippers who rank second, third and fourth in three-point percentage, respectively.

Here's how the Wizards stack up individually in defensive rating before and after the All-Star break:

Before All-Star break                                       After All-Star break

Markieff Morris 102.3                                        Jason Smith 103.3
Bradley Beal 103.5                                             Ian Mahinmi 104.7
Otto Porter 104.3                                                Brandon Jennings 108.8
Marcin Gortat 104.5                                           Kelly Oubre, Jr. 109
John Wall 104.6                                                  Bojan Bogdanovic 109.5
Kelly Oubre, Jr. 105.2                                        Bradley Beal 109.6
Jason Smith 108                                                 John Wall 110.4
Ian Mahinmi 113                                                Markieff Morris 111.2
                                                                            Otto Porter 112
                                                                            Marcin Gortat 113.7

Defensive rating doesn't tell the whole story of course, but it is noteworthy that just about everyone is worse except Smith and Mahinmi. Collectively, the Wizards have struggled on that end of the floor and it has resulted in losses to lesser teams like the Sixers, Timberwolves, Mavericks and Hornets.

There are numerous reasons why the Wizards have taken a step back defensively and it's probably a confluence of factors. For one, they have had to adjust their lineups with the additions of Bogdanovic and Jennings to the mix. Mahinmi returning from injury has affected the minutes and role of guys like Gortat and Morris. One could also look at the schedule and how difficult the travel and back-to-backs have been. Wall has also been dealing with a sore foot, while Morris has missed games due to illness and has had a sore left thigh, as well. Ask head coach Scott Brooks and he will usually point to focus and commitment.

The Wizards still have time to figure it all out with 12 games left, but eight of those are on the road. And up ahead is their most difficult road swing of the season. The playoffs are getting closer and closer and clearly the Wizards need some work on defense before they begin.

[RELATED: Here's how the Wizards can correct course with 12 games left]

Eastern Conference standings

Stat line of the week: John Wall 3/17 vs. Bulls - 14 points, 20 assists, block, steal, 5-for-6 FT

[RELATED: NBA Power Rankings: Top teams looking vulnerable]

Quote of the Week

"He said he would come to D.C."

- John Wall on DeMarcus Cousins' thoughts before he was traded to the Pelicans

Tweet (or Instagram) of the Week

Schedule at a glance

Mon. - 110-102 loss at Celtics
Tue. - OFF
Wed. - 8 p.m. vs. Hawks
Thu. - OFF
Fri. - 7 p.m. vs. Nets
Sat. - 7:30 p.m. at Cavaliers
Sun. - OFF

[RELATED: VIDEO: Ref appears to trip Bogdanovic, then call turnover]

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Real Marquee Matchup: Wizards face Jimmy Butler, Heat team that has set good example to follow

Real Marquee Matchup: Wizards face Jimmy Butler, Heat team that has set good example to follow

The 2019-20 season for the Wizards can be viewed as somewhat of a gap year, in that they hope their current organizational reset doesn't take long. It seems to be their goal to be back in the playoff mix next season with John Wall back and Bradley Beal operating through his prime.

Their best path towards doing that may look a lot like the team they face on Wednesday night, the Miami Heat (7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington). After missing the playoffs last season with a 39-43 record, the Heat are now 30-13 and second in the Eastern Conference.

The jump they have made is unusual, so don't focus too much on the standings. Instead look at how they have improved and how parallels could be drawn to the Wizards.
The Heat are led by Jimmy Butler, an All-Star wing who is a level above everyone else on their roster. The same could be said about Bradley Beal.

They have a point guard in Goran Dragic, who is still effective despite not being the 20-point scoring All-Star he used to be, now that he's lost a step. The way he plays could be a reasonable expectation for Wall as he works his way back to All-Star form coming off an Achilles injury.

Miami has assembled a deep and multidimensional roster around them. They have an ascending young frontcourt player in Bam Adebayo. Rui Hachimura could follow a similar trajectory, albeit as a different style of player.

Miami also has an array of shooters. Duncan Robinson was undrafted, then signed to a two-way contract. Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn are rookies. The Wizards have their own group of emerging perimeter threats in Davis Bertans, Garrison Mathews and Jordan McRae.

The way the Heat win is with an efficient offense that includes deadly-accurate outside shooting and a slightly above average defense. They rank seventh in offensive rating (111.7) and 13th in defensive rating (108.1). And they are second in the NBA in three-point percentage (37.6) and eighth in threes made (12.7/g).

The Wizards are, of course, nowhere near even average on defense. Their defensive rating is 30th in the NBA and they possess none of the traits that make the Heat the defensive team they are. Miami, for instance, is first in opponent three-point percentage (32.7) and also first in defensive rebounding (32.3).

The Wizards, though, do already check off some boxes on offense. They are 11th in offensive rating (110.7) and eighth in three-point percentage (36.5). 

The Wizards have a long way to go to reach Miami's level, but the Heat's approach in a macro sense could be worth following and especially once Wall returns. Though Butler is their clear-cut best player, he only attempts 13.4 shots per game, second-most on the team. Dragic, despite being a former All-Star, takes only 12.1 per game.

The Wizards have long done things differently. Back in 2016-17, when they had their best season in many years, Wall averaged 18.4 shots and Beal took 17.2 per game.

Despite taking fewer shots, Butler is still able to put up numbers. He is averaging 20.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game. Combined with his defense, that is plenty to compete for the All-Star team and maybe even All-NBA honors. Meanwhile, he gets credit for being the face of a winning team.

The Heat have a roster that is a bit top-heavy that has been filled out nicely with unheralded moves and young players. That is how the Wizards' roster might be described a year from now. In order to make it work and win some games, they might want to pay attention to how Miami is doing it.

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Scott Brooks supports Bradley Beal after 'culture' comments, understands frustrations

Scott Brooks supports Bradley Beal after 'culture' comments, understands frustrations

The 14-28 Wizards are far from perfect, and they know that. But for Bradley Beal, who agreed to a 2-year, $72 million contract extension in October, he's not okay with losing, and his recent comments about a needed culture change made that perfectly clear.

"I don’t like losing, so it's going to keep blowing up for me until we start winning and changing our culture," Beal said following the Jan. 15 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Hours after his postgame comments, Beal retweeted a quote by New Orleans Pelicans' J.J. Redick, that further emphasized his point.

Despite Beal's frustration, head coach Scott Brooks knows where he's coming from, and supports him as well.

“Yeah, you know, I talked to him and he’s on board with everything he does," Brooks said on The Sports Junkies Wednesday. "He even knows it’s probably the wrong choice of words that he used, he’s frustrated, he should be. We’ve lost some games that we probably should’ve won even with all of our injuries."

Despite the losses and injuries, Brooks knows his team looks to Beal as a leader.

"Frustration’s good," Brooks said. "It’s part of being on a team. It’s part of growing with a team. We’ve got a lot of young guys, so when a lot of young guys see that he’s frustrated that’s good. They need to see that."

Regarding players being more concerned about their pregame outfit than their team winning a game?

“The fit and all that stuff? I don’t really know. I thought he was talking about everyone wants to post their fitness workout," Brooks said.

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