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The Wizards are playing a style rarely seen in NBA history, and it could work

The Wizards are playing a style rarely seen in NBA history, and it could work

WASHINGTON -- Chances are that you have never seen an NBA team quite like the 2019-20 Washington Wizards. 

They aren't good. In fact, only one team - the Warriors - currently has fewer wins than they do. But these Wizards are playing a brand of basketball rarely seen throughout NBA history.

That brand is essentially elite-level offense contrasted with arguably the worst defense in the league. It is a dichotomy not often seen to this extreme.

After beating the Spurs on Wednesday night, the Wizards rank first in the NBA in points scored (119.7) and last in points allowed (121.1). They are second in offensive rating (114.6) and 29th, or second from the bottom, in defensive rating (116.0).

Right now that combination is not leading to victories, as the Wizards are 4-8 and on pace for 27 wins on the season. But history shows their style can actually be successful if balanced correctly. As of now, it's tipped in the wrong direction, as the Wizards' point differential is -1.4.

No team has ever gone a full season with their offensive and defensive ratings as high as those of the Wizards. But the best comparison may be the 1981-82 Denver Nuggets, the only team ever to have both numbers above 113.

Those Nuggets, led by Hall of Famer Alex English, won 46 games and made the playoffs. They went a full season both scoring and allowing at least 100 points in every game. They were first in the NBA in points scored (126.5) and offensive rating (114.3) and dead-last in points allowed (126.0) and defensive rating (113.9). But both offensive numbers barely edged the defensive ones, so it worked.

Throughout NBA history, 38 teams have gone a full year with their offensive and defensive ratings both above 110 and 24 of them made the playoffs. Last season, seven teams had the 110/110 distinction and five of them made the postseason.

Interestingly enough, one of the most statistically similar teams to this year's Wizards were the 2006-07 Wizards, back in Gilbert Arenas' heyday. That team won 41 games and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

As statistically strange as the Wizards have been this season, their recipe could technically work. They have managed to stay in games despite their defense, as most of their losses have been narrow defeats. 

Head coach Scott Brooks, though, isn't convinced it is sustainable.

"That combination of 30th in defense and first or second in offense is not good. We all take ownership and it starts with me," he said. 

"We've still gotta focus on the defensive end to get better and give ourselves a chance to win."

What Brooks does like is the Wizards' three-point shooting. They are attempting 34.6 threes per game this season, and making 13 of them on average, both the highest numbers in franchise history.

Back in Dec. of 2017, in Brooks' second season in Washington, the Wizards tied a then-franchise record with 18 threes in a game against the Rockets. This season in only 12 games, they have already made 18 or more three times. They set a new franchise mark with 20 against the Rockets (ironically) and also made 19 against the Magic on Sunday.

"We can shoot the ball. I've been saying it all along," Brooks said.

Lots of points, lots of threes and very little defense; that is the 2019-20 Wizards in a nutshell. They aren't winning games playing that way yet, but history shows that it actually could work for them.


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Former NBA Commissioner David Stern has emergency brain surgery

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Former NBA Commissioner David Stern has emergency brain surgery

The NBA says former Commissioner David Stern suffered a sudden brain hemorrhage Thursday and had emergency surgery.

The league says in a statement its thoughts and prayers are with the 77-year-old Stern's family.

Stern served exactly 30 years as the NBA's longest-tenured commissioner before Adam Silver replaced him on Feb. 1, 2014. Stern has remained affiliated with the league with the title of commissioner emeritus and has remained active in his other interests, such as sports technology.

Zach Brook contributed to this report.


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Wizards, Rui Hachimura get a glimpse at Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant

Wizards, Rui Hachimura get a glimpse at Rookie of the Year favorite Ja Morant

For a game featuring a 7-16 Wizards team and the 8-16 Grizzlies, Saturday's matchup packs plenty of intrigue. 

With Rui Hachimura showing plenty of promise in Washington and Ja Morant nearly running away with the Rookie of the Year Award, we're all in for a classic battle of two of the game's best newcomers. 

Outside of that for the Wizards, Saturday night should absolutely be a win. The Grizzlies are 24th in NET rating (25th offense, 21st defense) and while their young core is as promising as any in the league, they don't quite know how to put together wins yet. 

Here's a breakdown of two players the Wizards should be wary of. 

Ja Morant

As we stated earlier with Morant, he's been far and away the best rookie this season. He's averaging 18.7 points, 6.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds on 46.3 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from three. 

Morant had the generational physical tools and exciting upside that got him drafted second overall, the question was whether he'd be able to put it all together at the NBA level, especially playing the hardest position in the league as a lead guard. 

It's safe to say he's answered almost all of those questions just 19 games into his career. 

The Wizards will have to contain his drives to the rim and force him into contested jump shots, which is a lot easier said than done for this defense. 

If they can't keep him in front and he starts breaking down the defense off the dribble, look out. He could mess around and get a triple-double. 

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Before the Grizzlies drafted Morant, Jackson was their crowned jewel prospect. Don't get me wrong, he's still one of the best young players in the league, it's just a testament with how good Morant has been. 

Jackson has the potential to be one of the best defenders in the league one day. When he's playing well, he provides the Grizzlies defense incredible versatility since he can switch onto nearly every position while being able to protect the paint and rebound at a high level. 

Then on the offensive end, Jackson can stretch the floor on pick and pops (37.8 percent 3P) and put the ball on the deck to attack closeouts. He truly is the embodiment of the modern NBA center. 

The Wizards have been used to paint-dominant centers after playing the Sixers and Nuggets over the last few weeks. Jackson just might present a better matchup for their injury-riddled frontcourt. 

Washington would be wise to use Moe Wagner to keep him stretched out of the paint and then take advantage of the Grizzlies suspect perimeter defense to get to the basket. That is, of course, if Wagner can stay on the floor. 

The Wizards and Grizzlies are scheduled to tip at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, and you can catch all of our coverage on NBC Sports Washington.