The Wizards are charting towards history on the defensive end and not for good reasons. They currently have the worst defensive rating in the NBA (115.7), which would rank second-worst all-time over a full season. They are also allowing the most points, 122.7 on average, the most by any team since the 1990-91 Denver Nuggets.
Though they struggle in many areas on defense, including locking down the perimeter, arguably their most glaring issue is protecting the paint. The Wizards are allowing 53.3 points in the paint per game, most in the league. That is more than any team since NBA.com began tracking the stat back in 1996-97.
One reason for that is second-chance points, where the Wizards rank 25th in the NBA. They aren't a good rebounding team and putbacks are a byproduct of allowing offensive boards.
The Wizards have also had trouble stopping shots at the rim, allowing the eighth-most field goals within five feet of the basket and the seventh-highest field goal percentage from that range.
Interestingly enough, that is not the biggest reason. According to NBA.com's tracking data, they are much worse at defending shots in the five-to-nine feet range from the rim. They allow the second-most made shots from that area and the third-highest percentage.
That suggests the Wizards have holes in the midrange. Their players are either overcompensating at the rim and the perimeter, or they aren't covering enough ground to take away those spots.
Tracking data doesn't suggest it is because they spending too much time defending threes, however. They are merely average in contested threes per game, placing 16th in the NBA. And that is with one of the league's best in the category. Bradley Beal is third in the NBA in contested threes (4.6/g) and this season and is annually near the top of the leaderboard.
Ultimately, the points in the paint issue fall on the Wizards' big men, including their starting frontcourt of Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant. Hachimura is not big for the four positions and has never been mistaken for a rim protector. Bryant has some skills that suggest he could be a solid rim protector, but he hasn't been able to do it consistently yet.
While Bryant ranked as one of the top shot-contesters in the NBA early this season, he has fallen off considerably. Bryant currently ranks 51st in contested shots per 36 minutes among qualified players.
The Wizards' trouble with paint points has been keyed in on by opponents in recent games. The Lakers are second in the NBA in the stat and on Friday night outdid the Wizards 56-36 in the paint. The Clippers are fifth in points in the paint and dropped 66 of them on the Wizards in Sunday night's blowout. Kawhi Leonard had 20 of them by himself and Montrezl Harrell had 18.
There are no easy answers for the Wizards in the paint. But they will need to do something there to improve their defense.
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