The Washington Wizards are stuck in NBA purgatory right now. While they aren’t playoff contenders and would be lucky to make the play-in, they haven’t lost enough games to be in contention for a top pick in the loaded 2022 draft class. Bradley Beal‘s future with the team is uncertain, and after Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans were traded away, they’ve begun to flourish for Dallas. It’s been easy to get down on this team; but here are five positives to look for as we reach the end of the season.
While Dinwiddie and Bertans have been flourishing in new environments, the player they were traded for, Kristaps Porzingis, has been playing wonderfully in Washington. The 7’3″ big man didn’t find much success in Dallas playing alongside Luka Doncic, as he was reduced to a limited offensive role. With around a dozen games logged for Washington, Porzingis is averaging 20.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, a career-high 3.1 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game. He’s doing this on 45.7% shooting from the field, the best percentage of his career.
When you watch a Wizards’ game, it’s easy to see Porzingis’ impact. His long arms make it difficult for guards driving in the lane to score on him. Because he’s so much taller than his opponents, he can make reads that many players can’t, which explains the increased assist numbers. Making Porzingis a key part of the offense was a great coaching decision, and Porzingis appears happy with the move.
I’m assuming either Tommy Sheppard or Ted Leonsis read this article I wrote well before the trade deadline and decided to try and get a better four than the one I suggested. Either way, the Wizards got the All-Star power forward they’ve desperately needed.
The 6’8″ forward is the last man on the Wizards rotation, and is seldom used, only averaging 9.2 minutes per game. However, Gill makes the most out of his limited appearances, and is a fan favorite. When Gill gets the chance, he’s a great shooter, with averages of 63.2% from the field and 57.9% from three.
Most importantly, Gill is loved by his teammates, as he’s one of the hardest workers on the entire team. During a February 10th victory over the Brooklyn Nets, Kyle Kuzma was asked what he was most proud of in the win. “Anthony Gill, that’s what I’m most proud of,” said Kuzma, who afterwards added that Gill is one of the best teammates he ever had. Russell Westbrook, the Wizards’ point guard from last year, gave praise to Gill, saying, “Anthony works his tail off every day, every morning. He does all the right things.”
Rookie Corey Kispert picked Gill to be his workout partner during training camp before the 2021-22 season, saying he wanted to learn to train like a professional. “I want to attach myself to the hardest worker in the room, and A.G. is atop the list,” said Kispert.
“He’s a workaholic, but he’s also an A-Plus human being, and any chance he gets to uplift somebody, he does.”Wes Unseld, Jr, on Gill
“A.G.’s one of our best teammates. He’s one of our hardest workers.”Bradley Beal on Gill
I would definitely read more about Gill’s upbringing and what his teammates have said about him here.
Veteran Point Guards
The Wizards have yet to find their point guard of the future, although there has been speculation that the missing piece could be found somewhere in the 2022 NBA Draft. After trading John Wall for Russell Westbrook, there hasn’t been a go-to starter at the point guard position. Ish Smith was one of the team’s favorite point guards, as he’s one of those scrappy guys who fights for every possession. He’s incredibly smooth and possesses wonderful passing abilities, and at age 33, he’s seen it all.
While Smith signed with the Hornets during the 2021 offseason, he was traded from the Hornets back to the Wizards along with Vernon Carey, Jr, for Montrezl Harrell. Smith was warmly received by his Wizards teammates, as everyone knows the good that he brings to the team. Tomas Satoransky is another one of those veteran point guards. He played for the Wizards until 2018, when he was traded to the Chicago Bulls in a deal centered around Otto Porter, Jr. After the Bulls, Satoransky bounced around to the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs before ending up with the Wizards again, as the team signed him after the Spurs waved him in February.
Both Smith and Satoransky are welcomed presences in the Wizards’ locker room. Until the Wizards find their long term replacement at point guard, Smith and Satoransky can help keep the team afloat at that position. Both have been with the team long enough that they know the playbook very well, and they’re veterans. This means they’ll be good mentors to the young talent the Wizards have acquired, not like the toxic culture in certain NBA franchises. For that, Wizards fans should be grateful.
Wes Unseld, Jr
The Wizards Head Coach, Unseld, Jr, is a much better fit for the team than Scott Brooks, the team’s former Head Coach. It was obvious Brooks wasn’t getting fired while Westbrook was on the team, as their connection goes back to the early 2010s when they both were in OKC. However, it was clear Brooks wasn’t doing a great job with the Wizards’ young talent. During the 2020-21 season, the Wizards were first in pace, which makes sense when you have a team run by Westbrook.
With Unseld, Jr, at the helm, the Wizards are being more selective with the shots they take, looking for great looks instead of the first good look. Last year, the Wizards averaged 116.6 points per game with their run and gun style of play; this year, that’s down to 108.1 points per game. However, the major thing that’s changed with this team is defense. Last year, the defense under Coach Brooks was horrible, which led to Beal saying the team couldn’t guard a parked car. With Unseld, Jr, at the helm, the Wizards had one of the best defenses in the entire NBA for a time.
Of course, with Beal’s injury and little continuity in lineups after the trade deadline, the work that Unseld, Jr, has put into the team seems to have disappeared from their stats. However, based on what we saw at the beginning of this year, they have the potential to be great on defense. Don’t forget, this team was 10-3 with the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference early on. Before their season melted down, the Wizards were also one of the most clutch teams in the entire league. Beal’s season-ending injury ruined all momentum that this team had, but Unseld, Jr, is a huge upgrade from Brooks as Head Coach. Oh, and he’s also the son of the greatest player to ever play for the franchise.
Developing Draft Picks
The Wizards’ recent draft picks, Corey Kispert, Rui Hachimura, and Deni Avdija, have all been performing well. The ninth pick in the 2019 draft, Hachimura, missed the first half of the season due to personal reasons. However, now that he’s back, he’s putting up solid averages of 10.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. This is a decrease from what Hachimura put up last year, but you have to consider a few other factors. The first is that the Wizards acquired Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, two very talented players who play the same position as Hachimura. He’s also been eased back slowly into the Wizards rotation, and is currently averaging around 21 minutes per game, 10 less then in his first two seasons. His shooting has also dramatically improved, as he is shooting 46.8% from three. Last year, his three-point percentage was 32.8%, which shows the huge uptick he’s had.
Avdija had a difficult rookie year, in which he was given an unusual role. Avdija came in as a playmaker from the Euro League, but because Westbrook was so ball dominant, Avdija was given a role just like Porzingis in Dallas. His usage percentage was only 12%, which is fairly low. However, in this new system, Avdija has been able to thrive as a playmaker for his teammates. In particular, Avdija’s defense has been wonderful, especially in isolation against some of the greatest guards in the entire league. He also looks more energized on the floor, and I think if the Wizards keep him, he could develop into a future All-Star.
Rookie Corey Kispert has emerged as a wonderful shooter. He’s broken the record for most threes made by a Wizards rookie (97 as of March 30th), which was previously held by Beal. He’s averaging a solid eight points per game, while shooting 34.6% from three. Kispert is solid, and transitioning decently to NBA play and pace. He’s going to be very valuable for years to come for any Wizards squad.
Do you think the Wizards will keep Bradley Beal in the offseason? Don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!