10 takeaways from first quarter of the Wizards' season originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
With their 120-113 loss to the Celtics in Boston on Sunday night, the Wizards have arrived at what is essentially the quarter-mark of their season. They have played 20 of their 82 regular season games and so far they have a .500 record at 10-10, currently holding the eighth seed in the East.
With the Wizards having played roughly 1/4 of their games, it seems like a good point to take a step back and take a macro view of what we have seen from them so far.
Here are 10 takeaways…
1. This might be what they are
The Wizards having a .500 record and being eighth in the East may sound just about right when compared to the preseason expectations many had for this team entering the year. They seem pretty clearly better than they were last season, but are navigating a very good Eastern Conference. And while their 10-10 record may suggest stability at face value, a lot can fluctuate from night to night in the NBA where teams go hot and cold from 3-point range.
So, even though they have won the same number of games they have lost, there have been some high highs and some low lows along the way. They have suffered the worst home loss in franchise history to the Brooklyn Nets, for instance. They are kind of still waiting for a signature win since, if you think about it, all the best teams they have beaten were missing key players like the Sixers without Joel Embiid and the Grizzlies without Ja Morant.
2. Trio of Beal, Porzingis and Kuzma off to a good start
In perhaps a really good sign of things to come, the Wizards can’t really ask for much more than what they’re getting from their top-three players, at least on the offensive end. Bradley Beal is averaging 23.6 points with 5.6 assists while shooting 52.1% from the field, 38.6% from three and 89.8% from the line. Kristaps Porzingis is scoring 20.3 points per game along with 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, while shooting 35.5% from deep. And Kyle Kuzma is averaging 20.3 points with 8.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
The Wizards are one of only three teams with three 20-plus scorers this season. The Wizards/Bullets franchise has never had three players average 20-plus in a single season. So, statistically things are going great. If someone told you all three would be putting numbers like that, you may have expected better than a .500 record. Still, it’s proving to be a good core for the Wizards to move forward with.
3. Beal’s role is different
Beal would probably tell you his approach changed dramatically last season, not this one, but so far there have been some positive signs for how Beal could fit on this new-look roster. Namely, his efficiency is way up from last year as he has been more selective with his shooting in an offense that has himself, Porzingis and Kuzma all averaging between 15 and 17 shots per game.
Beal’s 3-point percentage seems to have finally recovered from a yearslong slump, perhaps as a result of shot selection and the presence of others on the court who add space with their shooting. Beal has also drawn rave reviews from head coach Wes Unseld Jr. for his defense. Beal just needs to cut down on his turnovers, as nobody in the league has more in clutch situations than he does (seven) so far this year.
4. Bench needs to improve
The Wizards haven’t gotten much of a boost from their second unit so far this season. Their starters are 14th in the NBA in net rating, at a positive 0.9, but their bench is -3.6, 25th in the league. Now, injuries have certainly affected their depth, especially with the extended absence of Delon Wright. And every time a starter goes down, the bench takes a hit when someone moves up as the replacement. But the bottom line is the Wizards need more from their bench moving forward, as depth can be a key separator for good NBA teams.
5. Barton hasn’t broken out yet
One player on the bench who seems to have a lot more to offer is Will Barton. The 11-year NBA veteran is averaging just 8.0 points while shooting 36% from the field and 32% from three. The field goal percentage is the worst of his career. It’s still pretty early in the season, so not time to write him off. But to get more from his bench, Unseld Jr. could start by finding a way to unlock Barton on the offensive end.
6. Defense looks decent so far
After the Wizards had one of their worst defensive performances of the season against the Celtics on Sunday, their overall numbers for the season took a hit. They went from having the eighth-ranked defense to 15th. Still, that would represent a sizable improvement from last season when they were 25th. For the most part, their defense has been better, led by Porzingis in the middle. They need to get better on the perimeter limiting threes, but it’s an encouraging start nonetheless.
7. 3-point shooting might be better
Another area the Wizards need to improve in year-over-year and have so far shown progress in is 3-point shooting. Just like their defense, they took a step backward against Boston on Sunday, but the Wizards ranking 23rd in made threes (10.9/g) and 20th in percentage (33.8) technically represents improvement, even though they are shooting a lower clip than they did last season (34.2).
Some important context, though, would be that they recently set a franchise record by making 15-plus threes in four straight games. They have some decent 3-point shooting firepower and have proven it, they just need to do it more consistently.
8. Goodwin was a good find
The most positive surprise for the Wizards so far has been Jordan Goodwin’s emergence and few would probably debate that. He has been a real plus with Wright out, providing many of the things the Wizards were missing when he went down. But Goodwin also represents plenty in the big picture as the type of diamond in the rough acquisition the Wizards need to produce more of moving forward, and as one of the best examples yet of the investment they have made in their G-League affiliate.
The Capital City Go-Go have been in existence for four years now and lots of money has been spent on the program’s development, all in hopes it pays off over time. Success stories like Goodwin make that effort worth it. That’s why the Wizards wanted to build that system, to find contributors out of nowhere like Goodwin, who was undrafted out of Saint Louis University.
9. Davis will take time
First round pick Johnny Davis has been a different story so far, only appearing in seven games and not making much of an impact at all. He has spent considerable time in the G-League and is currently dealing with a groin injury. It has certainly not been the start he was likely hoping for as a rookie. But it is still very early and all this means is he has a ways to go. It will be interesting to see where he is at after another quarter of the season goes by and then another quarter. Perhaps he can play a factor by the end of the season or at least set himself up for better success next year.
10. No major leap for young players yet
The Wizards’ other three first round picks – Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert – have been just fine so far. You could argue all three have made at least some progress in their games, but debating who has made the biggest improvement would not provide an easy answer. All three have been solid, but none have so far taken a major step forward. Hachimura has been the most consistent by far, while Avdija and Kispert have looked legitimately good at times. Whether any of them will have a true breakout season remains to be seen, but it will be something to watch moving forward.