The Wizards would certainly prefer to be in a better position as they reach the midway point of the 2022-23 season, now at 17-24 through 41 games, losers of three straight. Amid injuries, one of the most difficult schedules in the league so far, and other obstacles, they are currently outside of the play-in tournament picture in a season they hope ends with a playoff berth.
As the Wizards enter the second half hoping for better results, here are 10 takeaways from what we have seen so far…
One overarching storyline of the season has been Bradley Beal’s struggles to stay on the floor. With a slew of leg injuries, plus a stint in health and safety protocols, Beal has missed 17 of the Wizards’ 41 games. This is, of course, coming off a 2021-22 season in which he played a career-low 40 games. Beal has put up good numbers while he’s been out there with averages of 22.9 points and 5.2 assists per game while shooting a career-best 52.5% from the field and 34.0% from three. He just hasn’t been able to stay healthy in this first season of his five-year supermax contract.
Kuzma, Porzingis have played well
Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis each have to be happy with how their seasons have gone so far individually. Kuzma has averaged a career-high 21.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 46.1% from the field. Porzingis has scored 22.0 points per game along with 9.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 47.6% and, most importantly, staying healthy. Both players have player options after this season and, if they keep this up, will likely be earning significant contracts in the summer, either in Washington or elsewhere.
3-point shooting is lacking
Outside shooting remains an issue for the Wizards, who have struggled to make threes consistently, even as they have gotten healthy. They made 15 threes against the Magic on Dec. 30 and 14 threes against the Pelicans on Monday but made seven, eight and seven threes in the three games in between. For the season, the Wizards rank 26th in the NBA in 3-pointers made (10.8/g) and 19th in percentage (34.4). That seems like an obvious area to address at the trade deadline.
Hachimura has been good
One of the Wizards’ standout players this season has been Rui Hachimura, who is in his fourth year and the final season of his rookie contract. Hachimura returned from a month-long injury absence on Dec. 22 and has since reminded the team of his value as a scoring presence off the bench. Hachimura can count recent games of 30, 26 and 21 points. With their bench having mostly been a weakness this season, Hachimura has injected some life into an area of the roster that needs it. So far he’s averaging 13.0 points on a solid 49.8% from the field and 36.9% from three.
Barton out of rotation
Will Barton continues to have a disappointing season for the Wizards and is now out of head coach Wes Unseld Jr.’s rotation entirely. He didn’t even come off the bench in garbage time during their loss to the Pelicans on Monday. This is not what anyone expected for Barton, who arrived in Washington with a long track record as an NBA veteran. But the success he had in Denver just hasn’t translated yet and it’s fair to wonder how he will factor in as the Wizards approach the trade deadline, given he is on an expiring deal.
Wright makes a difference
The Wizards started out the year 3-1 with Delon Wright, then went 9-19 after he went down with a hamstring injury. He has since come back to make an obvious impact, especially on the defensive end. The Wizards are now 8-4 in games he’s played this season and he has the best defensive rating on the team. Wright hasn’t found an offensive rhythm yet and he doesn’t even play 20 minutes a night, but the Wizards’ defense looks completely different when they have him out there disrupting passing lanes.
When the Wizards arrived at the first quarter mark of the season, Daniel Gafford was basically out of their rotation, playing about six or seven minutes a night. After he regained his spot, he admitted it was an especially frustrating time, one that required him to lean on his support system to get through. Things are much different for Gafford a quarter of a season later, as he’s now in the Wizards’ starting lineup and thriving. He’s scoring like never before with a career-high streak of six straight games with double-digit points. He’s the only player on the Wizards to appear in all 41 games so far and he’s currently shooting the highest field goal percentage (75.0) in NBA history. Things are looking up for ‘The Landlord.’
Goodwin has stood out
Jordan Goodwin continues to be one of the biggest positives for the Wizards this season, as he emerged unexpectedly in the first half to establish himself as a legitimate NBA player. Even after he was bounced from the rotation due to Wright’s return recently, it was only a handful of games before he got back in. Now, things could get interesting when it comes to Goodwin’s contract as he is on a two-way deal, which only allows for a player to be active for 50 games. Goodwin has now been active for 40, all but one of the Wizards’ games so far. After that, the Wizards will likely need to convert his deal and give him an NBA roster spot. They just can’t do that at the moment without bumping up against the luxury tax, as they are only about $346,000 under the threshold. It seems very possible that gets sorted out around the trade deadline, as they could free up a spot in a trade.
Davis’ slow start
Halfway through Johnny Davis’ rookie season, he has barely played for the NBA club, spending most of his time with the Capital City Go-Go in the G-League. The 10th overall pick in June, Davis has played a total of 50 NBA minutes in 10 games, scoring 11 points. It goes without saying that he has a long way to go in order to establish himself at the NBA level. Davis has dealt with a series of injuries, all while adjusting to the differences from college. All he can hope for is for things to improve moving forward. Maybe that can start with a better second half.
Trade deadline should be interesting
The Wizards have 14 games left before the Feb. 9 trade deadline arrives and it’s still not entirely clear whether they will be buyers or sellers. One has to imagine they will be making that determination based on how they play over the next several weeks. If they can regain some momentum, maybe they look to add some shooting and/or defense. If they continue to lose, maybe they decide to shed some salary and accrue some draft capital for the future. The one positive of that scenario may be that they should have some attractive pieces for other teams, given their top players are putting up good numbers in spite of the overall results.