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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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Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

Wizards GM search: Resetting the potential candidates

The Wizards general manager search reset needs a reset.

We head into the holiday weekend with the local NBA team still lacking a permanent front office leader. Zero reports of interviews of any kind since last week’s meeting with Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly.

At least we can cross off the idea of flirting with Portland’s Neil Olshey. The Blazers’ President of Basketball reportedly signed an extension one day after NBC Sports Washington reported interest from the Wizards.

For now, we wait, though be prepared for a hire any day – or not. At this point, here are the names to consider.

Tommy Sheppard – The Wizards VP of Basketball Operations began running the show on an interim basis following the firing of President of Basketball Operations on April 2. That he’s making the calls from inside the house, running the pre-draft process and showing a Wizards world with him in charge gives Sheppard an inside track over all other candidates.

To call him the favorite, however, might be a stretch at this point based simply on the fact that he has not been hired despite his in-house status. Sheppard is well respected around the NBA and league voices would tell frustrated fans they shouldn’t consider him Grunfeld 2.0.

Theory: If Sheppard gets the nod, the Wizards promote Go-Go general manager Pops Mensah-Bonsu to serve as Sheppard’s number two and then promote the benefits of their G-League investment beyond player development.

Troy Weaver –The Thunder assistant general manager met with the Wizards twice. Weaver, long considered a rising front-office star, worked with Wizards coach Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City and flashed his recruiting skills at Syracuse when he landed Carmelo Anthony. The D.C. native still has ties to the area.

Danny Ferry – Like Weaver, Ferry met with the Wizards twice in Washington. Throughout the search process, multiple league sources told NBC Sports Washington that the former Hawks and Cavaliers general manager is the best candidate for the Wizards’ opening even over Connelly. The Hawks won 60 games during the 2014-15 season and reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

Some question the strength of his candidacy based on any lingering controversy stemming from comments he made as Hawks GM regarding Luol Deng’s heritage in 2014, of which an independent investigation stated Ferry's intentions were not racially motivatedThis week former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. vouched for Ferry’s character on a local radio show.

Neither Ferry nor Weaver was likely to have heard back from the Wizards since Connelly’s involvement as of mid-week, according to sources familiar with the situation. Like the rest of us, they wait for news. 

Larry Harris – There’s no official reporting linking the Wizards to Golden State’s assistant GM. Washington and New Orleans both used the same consultant, Mike Forde, during their front office searches. Many of the same people have interviewed for both jobs. Harris, the former Bucks GM who joined the Warriors in 2008, met with New Orleans before the playoffs began.

That the Wizards appear patient with their search may suggest they are waiting for someone still in the playoffs.

Masai Ujiri – Speaking of an executive whose team is still in the playoffs… Ujiri’s Raptors are one game away from reaching the NBA Finals. NBC Sports Washington previously reported Ujiri showed interest in Washington. However, expectations of high salary demands and compensation from the Raptors for their President of Basketball Operations stunted any serious movement.

Bonus names -- Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton was part of the Wizards front office from 2003 to 2013. … Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren was deemed a candidate by the New York Times early in the process. One Boston-based source believes that Zarren would prefer remaining with the team he grew up rooting for rather than pursue most open GM jobs. … Spurs assistant GM Brian Wright, another D.C. area native, just completed his third year with San Antonio. 

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

kz-okpala-stanford-shot-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: KZ Okpala

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: KZ Okpala

School: Stanford
Position: Forward
Age: 20
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Wingspan: 7-2
Max vertical: 37 in.

2018/19 stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 46.3 FG% (5.9/12.7), 36.8 3PT% (1.1/3.0), 67.1 FT%

Player comparison: Kyle Kuzma, Gerald Green

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 25th, NBADraft.net 23rd, Bleacher Report 27th, Sports Illustrated 29th, Ringer 41st

5 things to know:

*Okpala is a tall, lanky wing who loves to drive from the perimeter to the rim. He made the All-Pac-12 team this past season after improving his scoring average from 10.0 points as a freshman to 16.8 points as a sophomore. He also increased his rebounds per game average from 3.7 to 5.7.

*He is arguably one of the most athletic players in this class. At 6-foot-10 in shoes, he has great size for a wing player and measured at the NBA combine with a 7-2 wingspan. He also has an impressive vertical leap of 37 inches which would be good even for a point guard. He is also fast in the open court. Teams will be enticed with his ceiling on both ends of the floor.

*Okpala scored a lot in college but has a raw offensive game. He isn't fully there as a ball-handler and has an improving, but still inconsistent outside shot. The fact he made a leap from his freshman to sophomore year as a three-point shooter was a very good sign. His 36.8 three-point percentage on three attempts per game is encouraging but does not offer any guarantees that he can stretch the floor at the next level. His 67.1 free throw percentage doesn't help his cause.

*He is just the third player from Stanford to leave for the NBA before his junior season, joining the Lopez twins, Brook and Robin, who were first round picks in 2010.

*Okpala is the son of two Nigerian immigrants. He had a 4.4 GPA in high school.

Fit with Wizards: Okpala would fill a need for the Wizards in that he is a forward and they don't have many of those under contract for next season. He would also give them a young player with high upside, something they currently lack.

But Okpala also seems to offer decent bust potential. Ever since Kevin Durant came into the league, there have been a lot of players like Okpala to come along, ones that are tall enough to play inside but prefer to work on the perimeter.

Sometimes that can work, like with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Brandon Ingram (sort of). But for every success story, there seem to be a lot of guys like Perry Jones and Thon Maker.

Okpala seems very much like boom or bust, and the Wizards may not be able to afford taking a chance like that.

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