From the moment the offseason began in Washington, the Wizards set out to improve defensively.
With a five-team trade, they think they’ve accomplished that by adding Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell to a lineup that, if nothing else, is deeper than it was last season.
“I see myself as an elite 3 and D player, I’m very underrated at that,” Caldwell-Pope said Wednesday. “I don’t get a lot of buzz around that. But that’s how I built my career, from Detroit, being able to play defense, being able to guard the best players on the floor and also being able to knock down a shot. I’ve perfected that throughout my whole career. Now, I feel like I have an opportunity to show a little bit more of my game.”
Caldwell-Pope, 28, spent the last four seasons with the Lakers and averaged about 10 points per game each season. But his ability as a 3-point shooter (where he shot 41% from last season) and on the defensive end of the floor was what made him attractive to the Wizards.
“I feel like my strength is being able to guard from one-to-three, if that’s the job that needs to be done,” he said. “It’s a lot that we can do there, I feel like the team that we have can be defensive-minded and we can have a chance to do a lot this year.”
Aside from Caldwell-Pope, though, the Wizards hope they’ve added a bit more than just him defensively.
“Just trying to be as great as I can, just trying to improve every year,” Kuzma said Tuesday. “Especially with the situation that I was in, that’s something I really had to do to improve, but also to be on the court. I was thankful enough to have (Lakers coach) Frank Vogel, did a great job having great schemes. He does a great job with putting players in position.” Of course, the Wizards brought in new coach Wes Unseld Jr. to lead the team. With him came a detail-oriented approach that started on the defensive end of the floor.
Since then, general manager Tommy Sheppard has given Unseld plenty of options to improve on defense.
“The defensive side of the ball has been an issue here,” Unseld said in July. “And that’s an area where I’ve been charged with for the past five seasons. We’ve seen mark-able improvement in that area. And it boils down to buy-in and commitment. And I think all parties involved, including the players, they know for us to take that next step to really get to the level which we think we can attain, it’s going to take that commitment to that side of the ball.”