Wizards Plagued by Poor Defense, Lack of Scoring Depth


To say that the Washington Wizards are in a “slump” would be an understatement.

Randy Wittman’s team has lost 10 of their last 14 games and have dropped from the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference to the sixth seed. The Wizards are only 1.5 games up on sixth-seeded Milwaukee and are showing no signs of returning to the form we’ve grown accustomed to over the last calendar year.

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And while fans can point the blame at a number of scapegoats – Wittman himself, Ernie Grunfeld, injuries – one of the biggest reasons for Washington’s poor play has been the inability to not only guard the three, but to make the three.

Defensively, Washington is just not getting it done.

The Wizards have allowed opponents to score over 100 points in eight of the team’s last 14 games, and Washington has only walked away with a victory in one of those games (Jan. 25 at Denver).

For the season, opponents have made roughly eight three pointers per game and are hitting 35 percent of their threes against Washington. In Friday night’s blowout loss to Cleveland, the Cavaliers hit a staggering 14 threes with ease.

And as team’s are finding success from behind the arc against Washington, the Wizards are struggling to find that same success.

While Wittman watched the Cavs repeatedly drain threes on Friday, his team was equally as bad if not worse. The Wizards only made one three pointer on 16 attempts and haven’t found much success from three throughout the season. Washington is averaging just six made threes a game while attempting an average of 16. Their six threes per game is fifth worst in the NBA, and the team’s lack of production in that area has affected the rest of the offense.

As other teams have taken notice of Washington’s poor performances from outside, they’ve focused their defense inside and eliminated lanes for John Wall.

When Rasual Butler was making about half of his three pointers per game and with Bradley Beal healthy earlier in the season, Wall was able to penetrate the paint because defenses were forced to respect the outside shot. From there, Wall could go for a layup, pass the ball to one of the bigs or kick the ball back out if the defense collapsed.

Feb 7, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) attempts a shot as Brooklyn Nets guard Alan Anderson (6) defends during the second half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Now, opponents appear to be worrying less and less about Washington’s three-point offense, and for good reason. Nobody in Washington is averaging two made threes a game (Beal makes 1.8 per game) and Butler’s three-point percentage is down to .411. Paul Pierce is making just 38 percent of his three-point attempts, and Washington’s other wing players in Otto Porter and Martell Webster can’t seem to get anything done offensively.

There are also very few people on the Wizards who can create their own shot, something the Wizards failed to address by the trade deadline with their less-than-spectacular trade for Ramon Sessions.

If you look at the top teams in the NBA, eight of the top 12 three-point shooting teams in the NBA are a top-five team in their respective conference.

When Beal returns from injury – whenever that may be – Washington should expect a better output from outside. But having to rely on just one player to carry the load when it comes to making threes isn’t going to cut it. And neither will poor defense.

Randy Wittman has to revamp his team’s mental and physical toughness while finding ways to open up the offense. If he doesn’t his job will be in jeopardy and Washington’s season will end early.

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