NBA.com's John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Washington Wizards, who got back to playing top-10 defense after initially taking a step backward.
The Washington Wizards were the most improved defensive team after the All-Star break last season, allowing 3.9 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did before the break.
After having success in the 2015 playoffs with Paul Pierce at the four, the Wizards tried to give their offense a boost by playing small and spacing the floor last season. Bigs Marcin Gortat and Nene played just 111 minutes together last season after playing more than 10 times as many (1,189) the year before.
But their defense, which had ranked in the top 10 in each of the previous three seasons and was at its best with the two bigs playing together, took a big step backward. Overall, only five teams regressed more defensively than the Wizards, who allowed 3.6 more points per 100 possessions last season than they did in 2014-15. Washington had the league's biggest increase in opponent effective field goal percentage, dropping from fifth (48.1 percent) in '14-15 to 21st (51.5 percent) last season.
The offense didn't get much of a boost either. They saw a jump of just 1.1 points per 100 possessions in offensive efficiency in a season when the league average increased by 0.9. Ultimately, it was the Wizards' eighth straight season as a below-average offensive team. Only the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings (10 seasons each) have longer active streaks.
The good news is that the Wizards were able to play small and play top-five defense after the All-Star break. Markieff Morris shot just 32 percent from 3-point range after arriving at the trade deadline, but he made an impact on defense by giving Washington more size and much better rebounding at the four than Jared Dudley did.
The Wizards went 18-13 after the break, outscoring their opponents by 2.3 points per 100 possessions. Over a full season, those are the numbers of a playoff team. And the Wizards wen 30-22 within the Eastern Conference last season.
Morris is back, the Wizards brought in more size this summer and Ian Mahinmi will really help their second-unit defense when he gets healthy. New coach Scott Brooks had top-10 defenses in five of his six full seasons in Oklahoma City. A return to the top 10 for the Wizards would go a long way in getting them back to the playoffs.
10 MORE WIZARDS NOTES
- The Wizards ranked eighth in offensive efficiency in the first half, scoring 105.0 points per 100 possessions, but 28th in the second half, scoring just 100.9. That was the league's biggest offensive regression from half to half.
- According to SportVU, the Wizards took 19.3 percent of their shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock, the highest rate in the league. But their effective field goal percentage in the first six seconds (58.1 percent) was below the league average (60.3 percent).
- Washington isolated on just 4.9 percent of its possessions, the lowest rate in the league, according to Synergy.
- Washington recorded assists on 61.9 percent of their field goals, the third highest rate in the league. But recorded secondary assists on only 22.8 percent of their assists, a mark that was below the league average (24.3 percent). According to SportVU, the Wizards ranked 20th with 2.98 passes per possession, but led the league in outlet passes and ranked second in skip passes.
- John Wall made about half (420/846) of those skip passes and led league with 276 assists (to 13 different teammates) on 3-pointers. Only Steve Nash (284 in 2004-05) has had more in a single season over the last 20 years.
- According to SportVU, Gortat set 1,140 ball screens for Wall last season, a number that ranked second among ball screen combinations (behind Jackson/Drummond).
- Gortat was one of four players last season to shoot at least 65 percent on at least 300 shots in the restricted area and at least 45 percent on at least 100 shots elsewhere in the paint.
- The Wizards scored 105.1 points per 100 possessions in 1,241 minutes with both Wall and Bradley Beal on the floor, 102.4 in 2,011 minutes with one of the two on the floor (mostly Wall without Beal), and 100.8 in 697 minutes with neither on the floor.
- Though he shot just 32 percent from 3-point range after the trade, Markieff Morris had the league's fourth biggest post-break increase in effective field goal percentage among players with at least 250 FGA before the break and 200 after it, going from 42.2 percent with the Suns to 51.0 percent with the Wizards.
- Opponents shot just 34.5 percent at the rim in the playoffs when Mahinmi was there to protect it. That was the postseason's best rim protection number among players that defended at least five shots at the rim per game.
NBA TV's Wizards preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Monday, Oct. 17.
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