In a way, the Wizards have for years been defined by speed, at least by reputation. Since 2010, they have featured one of the fastest players in the NBA in point guard John Wall. When healthy, he flies up and down the court, a blur in transition and often with a supporting cast designed to maximize that skill.
With Wall at the helm, the Wizards have often ranked in the top 10 of the NBA in pace, measured as possessions per 48 minutes. They were 10th in 2016-17, his last full season, and fifth the year before.
The past two seasons for Wall have been greatly affected by injury and especially the 2018-19 campaign. He was lost for the year in late December to what was ultimately diagnosed as a ruptured Achilles tendon. He has appeared in only 32 of their games.
In a counter-intuitive twist, the Wizards have become faster without Wall and especially in recent weeks since they traded for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis. Both are quicker up and down the floor than the players they essentially replaced in the rotation, Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris.
In the 14 games since Parker and Portis were added to the lineup, the Wizards have upped their pace by about 1.6 possessions per game. Their 103.98 pace factor in that span ranks fourth in the NBA. If it were carried over a full season, it would be the Wizards' fastest pace since 1978-79.
That is about five possessions faster than they played last season and four possessions faster than they did in the 2015-16 season, their fastest in a year when Wall played the majority of their games.
Playing faster has led to more scoring. Since the Parker and Portis additions, the Wizards have added five more points per game on average and rank third in the NBA during that span. They are second in the NBA in assists (28.9) and fifth in offensive rating (113) after previously ranking 16th.
With Wall out, the Wizards believe a run-and-gun style is their best bet to keep the offense churning.
"You have to always evolve and think of ways to score and play. I like how we're playing offense," head coach Scott Brooks said.
"There's only a few times in games where the ball becomes sticky and a guy doesn't make the extra pass. It's very rare now. It used to be where we were going to have some interesting film sessions the next morning. But now, very rarely do I even think that during a game."
"I think it's basically the easiest way for us to score," point guard Tomas Satoransky said of the super-charged attack. "It's just a lot of flowing on offense and trying to score as fast as we can."
Parker is the biggest difference, if you ask Brooks and his players. The former second overall pick is unusually swift for his size. At 6-foot-9 and with a wide build, he can run in straight lines like a guard and use his power to stomp through the lane to the rim.
He can also rebound, ranking second on the Wizards since joining them with 6.9 per game. And once he gets the ball, he has the greenlight to take off as a point-forward.
"Jabari is as fast as anybody that I've seen at that position and that size," Brooks said. "The strength that he has and the force that he plays with, there aren't many guys in the history of the game that have played that way. We're giving him opportunities to do that. If you get the rebound, you're the guy to push."
"It's real fun because we've just got so many weapons," Parker said of running the fastbreak offense.
Parker has helped lead the Wizards to become much faster especially after forcing turnovers. Only two teams have forced more turnovers this season than the Wizards and now they are turning those into points on the other end in shorter periods of time.
According to Inpredictable.com, the Wizards lead the NBA since Parker and Portis joined the rotation in seconds per possession after turnovers at just 6.5 seconds. That's down from their previous number of 8.6 seconds, which was 13th in the league. With Parker and Portis, the Wizards average 1.30 points after turnovers compared to 1.17 previously.
Portis has helped by adding a second center with speed. The Wizards now have two centers in Thomas Bryant and Portis that are young and can run with some of the fastest big men in the NBA.
"When your two fives are running the floor, that opens up things for other guys," Portis said. "I was always taught just run rim to rim. Even if I don't get the ball on that possession, I might create something for my teammates."
The Wizards are a modest 7-7 since Parker and Portis showed up, but they have won five of their last eight. Offense has been the biggest reason and the extra speed has helped.
As for the defense, well, let's save that for another day.
"Someone told me the other day [our offensive stats]. I didn't look at the defensive numbers during that time. I was really excited with the offensive numbers," Brooks joked.
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