WASHINGTON — On one end of the NBA roster-building spectrum is analytics where metrics and efficiency are supposed to translate into wins. On the exact opposite end are intangibles, the things that those who play and coach the game know exist but can’t be quantified with a number. Among those intangibles, and one some Wizards players believe the team lacks, is the ‘dog’ mentality.
There’s really no tried and true definition for it, but basically it means competitive fire and aggressiveness, particularly on the defensive end. Bradley Beal, for instance, said on NBC Sports Washington’s Postgame Live in March he believes the Wizards need to find “some dog wings.”
Wizards president Tommy Sheppard offered some comments on that notion during his pre-draft press conference Monday at Capital One Arena.
“We need some more dogs. You hear that a lot, our players love to say that. And what does that mean and how are you going to do that, how much is that a mindset that we don’t have or that we can bring out in players, that’s up for debate,” he said.
That seems to be the undefined missing ingredient for the Wizards’ struggling defense, which ranked 25th in efficiency last year after a major effort last summer to improve in that area. There are also more specific needs Sheppard believes he can address.
Everyone knows by now they need a point guard and Sheppard thinks that is the starting point to fixing their defense.
“For us, I think guarding your position is going to be critical. If I told you that we’re getting gashed an awful lot from the point position, then it tells you we need someone with a defensive mindset that we can put out there,” he said.
Where the Wizards can find a defensive point guard remains to be seen. If Dyson Daniels of G-League Ignite falls to the 10th pick, he could make sense in that regard, though at this point he is expected to be selected earlier.
There is also the trade market. Washington has shown some interest in Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, as multiple outlets have reported. Some defensive options in free agency could include Dennis Schroder and Tyus Jones.
Sheppard sees potential for wide-ranging benefits in getting a defensive-minded point guard. He thinks it could help Beal unlock his own upside on that end of the floor.
“I think one of our best defensive players is Bradley Beal. We’ve asked Bradley to do a lot over the last few years. To be a two-way player, you need a little bit more assistance on both ends. That’s something we’re trying to continue to add,” Sheppard said.
Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. also expressed support for Beal’s defense last year when he took over the job. Beal was then part of a Wizards defense that ranked among the worst in the NBA.
But if they find the right defender to join him in the backcourt, perhaps the results will be different moving forward.