The only thing worse than being bad is being boring. Thankfully, the Washington Wizards haven’t been either.
Before the NBA season began, ESPN NBA writer Zach Lowe ranked the 30 squads by their League Pass watchability, citing a number of factors from highlight potential to relevance to style and more. He ranked the Wizards dead last. And while they don’t provide a particularly compelling above-the-rim set of nightly throwdowns, they’ve clearly outplayed that projection.
The team is off to an 8-17 start with a largely-new cast around All-Star Bradley Beal, while John Wall attempts to make his way back from knee and heel surgeries. But through their first 25 games, the Wizards have posted the second-most prolific offense in the Eastern Conference, all while allowing more points than any other team.
That’s not “good,” but it’s certainly not boring, either. The average Wizards game includes more than 240 points. No other team is all that close to such a combined total. The Houston Rockets are closest at 234 combined points per game. Compare that to the putrid New York Knicks who, before a win Tuesday night, were averaging just 101.2 points per game and combining for just 212.3.
A young cast has meant more deference than a standard NBA offense, leading to extra passes setting up better shots. They’re a top five three-point shooting team in the league (37.6 percent), a top five free throw shooting team (81 percent), and their 28.1 assists per game are second-most in the NBA.
They’ve only failed to clear the century mark once, in a 97-85 road win at Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, they’ve scored at least 120 a dozen times, nearly half their games.
THE CAPS won the Cup
THE MYSTICS won the Finals
THE WIZARDS are trying their best
THE FOOTBALL TEAM
THE NATIONALS won the Series
— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) October 31, 2019
Obviously, there are things they don’t do well. They rank 28th in defensive rebounding percentage and allow the highest effective field goal percentage in the league. But it’s impressive that they’ve been able to continue to put an entertaining product on the floor, despite rampant health issues.
The depleted Wizards return home for their last home game before Christmas Wednesday, when they’ll face the Chicago Bulls at Capital One Arena. They’re missing Wall, of course, but also top pick Rui Hachimura for at least a handful of games after a “groin contusion,” which honestly, the less we know, the better. Thomas Bryant has been out with a stress reaction since early December, and fellow big man Mo Wagner has been nursing an ankle injury that has cost him the last two games.
The Wizards opened the fourth quarter of Monday’s win in Detroit with a five-point lead and the five-man combination of Isaac Bonga, Troy Brown Jr., Garrison Mathews, Admiral Schofield and Ish Smith on the floor. That combination kept Washington in front during that stretch and Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans — perhaps the brightest spot on this year’s club, averaging 15.4 points and 45.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc — came back to put the game away, the Wizards outscoring the Pistons 31-20 the rest of the way (with Beal and Bertans combining for 18 of those points).
It’s a shame, in some senses, that the club decided to make a change in broadcast partners right before such a season. The team’s TV ratings were down an astounding 57 percent as of early December, meaning fewer people are getting to enjoy what’s been arguably the most entertaining club in several years. Clearly, the in-person demand isn’t exactly raging, either. Seats to Wednesday night’s game are going for as low as $7 on the secondary market.
Which is a shame. Because, contrary to the predictions, they’ve actually been an enjoyable team to watch, win or lose.