At first blush, it may seem counterintuitive that removing John Wall from the Wizards' lineup would lead to better passing from the team all-around. He is one of the NBA's best passers, if not the best. His ability to see the floor and find open guys is transcendent.
Yet over the past three games, something has been different about the Wizards' offense. They are sharing the ball like never before this season and it all seemed to click when Wall went out. There are several reasons for why this may be happening.
First, some numbers. The Wizards dished out 30 assists in Thursday night's win against the Toronto Raptors, just the seventh time in 51 games this season they have done so. In their previous game they had 27 and in the game before that they had 40, their most assists in a game since 1992.
This is the first time this season the Wizards have had 27 assists or more in three straight games. They haven't done that four times in a row since 1997 when they were the Bullets and Rod Strickland was running point.
On Thursday, no one player on the Wizards had more than six assists. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter led the team with six apiece, Tim Frazier came off the bench with five and Tomas Satoransky was right behind with four. Of the 10 players who saw the floor, eight had at least two assists.
It was a team effort and the result was 122 points and a win against Toronto, one of the best defensive teams in basketball. The Wizards shot 51.8 percent and hit 10 threes as they feasted off open looks set up by crisp passes and overall unselfish play.
“Everybody eats. That’s our motto," Beal said. "That’s fun basketball. Everybody gets to touch it, everybody gets shots. It makes life easy. It just keeps the locker room close, it keeps our camaraderie going."
Three games is a small sample size, but the Wizards have had 27 assists against the Thunder and now 30 against the Raptors, two top five defensive teams. They have averaged 32.3 assists per game in their last three, which is well above their season average of 23.7 per game. And it's considerably more than they averaged in the week before Wall went out, 22.7. Considering Wall accounts for an Eastern Conference-best 9.3 assists per game, the uptick is interesting.
Now, for some theories as to why they are doing this all of a sudden. For one, they have healthy point guards running the show. Wall was hobbled with a bum left knee for several games before they decided to shut him down. He wasn't himself and it was affecting the offense as a whole.
RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS
Secondly, Wall's absence has forced the rest of the Wizards players to change their mindset. They have no choice but to move the ball, otherwise their offense will falter.
"With John [Wall] out of the game, we have to find other ways to score," head coach Scott Brooks said. "John gets so many easy shots for our guys and we do not have that. We do not have his speed in transition, we do not have his breakability, playmaking on pick-and-roll plays and we have to make adjustments."
The Wizards will need to continue moving the ball like this to compensate for Wall's absence. So far, so good.