Time and again, the Washington Wizards have said that their defense needs improvement. It has still yet to happen, arguably over the course of four-plus years under Scott Brooks. Allowing 133 points to a Chicago Bulls team without Lauri Markkanen and Tomas Satoransky due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols is an inexcusable way to end 2020. Washington is now 0-5 on the season following a 133-130 loss and has shown little reason for hope with the schedule only getting harder. Deni Avdija had six points on 2-for-5 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes of play while Rui Hachimura who was playing in his first game checked in with 17 points and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes of play.
“None of us want to be 0-5, but I’m still very confident in our group,” Scott Brooks tried to spin optimistically. “This is not the worst thing that will happen to any of us. We’re not happy with the start. We know we can play better, we know we can play better in longer spurts. We’ve had some great moments even tonight where things were looking good and clicking on both ends, but we have to be able to sustain that.”
The Wizards defensive problems boil down very simply, they are not doing the fundamentals. Their on-ball defense is terrible forcing help to come possession after possession and opening up open 3-point attempts on the weak side of the floor that their opponents are knocking down. That or easy shot opportunities at the rim for Wendell Carter Jr. and Daniel Gafford who went a combined 14-for-19 for 31 points. They are also messing up what should be simple switches because of a lack of communication despite harping on that subject every day in practice and walk throughs.
“We got to be better guarding the ball, we got to be better in pick and rolls, fighting over screens, guards getting up into the ball, bigs being at the level,” Bradley Beal listed. “We all got to be in unison, we’re not in unison every single time. It’s a lot of inconsistencies on the floor. We’ll get a stop or two here and then they’ll get four, five buckets. We got to be more consistent. We’ve shown we can do it, we have spurts where we can do it, but consistency is key.”
Deni Avdija continues his smart fundamental defense. Picks up Coby White in transition to stop ball and then doesn't leave his feet eventually forcing the travel. pic.twitter.com/goIahJ6p7q
— Hoop District (@Hoop_District) December 31, 2020
Part of Scott Brooks’ curious rotations includes but is not limited to Deni Avdija not playing at all in the fourth quarter. Despite being a 19-year old rookie, the forward has already shown he is one of the Wizards’ better defenders. He should be receiving a bigger role when the likes of Davis Bertans and/or Troy Brown Jr. are struggling as they have been so far early into the 2020-21 season.
When Avdija was on the floor, he was not able to hit any of his three 3-point attempts despite good looks, but everyone wants him to continue taking those shots because they are quality offensive opportunities. At the same time, Avdija understands turning good shots into great ones, which he achieved in the first half twice by making the extra pass around the perimeter to an on fire Thomas Bryant.
Washington immediately continues play on New Year’s Day 2021 with the second night of a back-to-back in Minnesota against the Timberwolves who will be without Karl-Anthony Towns. Russell Westbrook is unlikely to play because of the back-to-back and the Wizards hoping to take the long-term benefits of load management.