The Wizards will get some much needed rest for the next week thanks to the All-Star break. However, John Wall will have a full plate starting at point guard for the Eastern Conference at Madison Square Garden Sunday night. Hopefully after the weekend the team’s MVP can get some much deserved R&R.
The Wizards were 16-games above .500 on January 19th when they were 29-13. But since then, they’ve gone just 4-8, and they’re now the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, 10-games behind the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards have struggled against stronger teams, with a 10-16 record against those above .500. They also have concerns about Bradley Beal’s health.
This week’s 3 points blog deals with what the Wizards need to do after the All-Star Break to be considered Eastern Conference contenders.
The Wizards have done fairly well without Bradley Beal (8-3), but to be a real contender, they will need him on the floor. To take it a step further, they will need Beal not just on the floor. They will need him to play at a higher level than he did in the first half of the season.
Earlier this week, the team announced that Beal has a ‘mild’ stress reaction on the lower part of his right fibula and will get more tests after the All-Star break. He’s dealt with stress reactions in previous seasons.
The Wizards need to be smart with Beal, but they also need him for the stretch run if they are going to make any progress in the Eastern Conference standings. Beal has yet to reach the level he played at during last year’s post-season. He was slowed by a broken left wrist that cost him the start of the season. He has only had one back-to-back 20-point game stretch this season.
They need Beal to not just get back, but stay back on the floor. He takes the pressure off John Wall with his ability to handle the ball. He also is a valuable defender when engaged on the perimeter.
The other key piece to staying healthy for the stretch run is, of course, Nene. The Wizards are just smarter and better when he is on the floor. He has his inconsistent nights like everyone else, but when he is fully engaged there are few better power forwards in the low block. The team also is better defensively in the paint when Nene is on the floor.
Players need to Step Up
As mentioned above, health and a high level of play are needed from Beal and Nene the rest of the way. But there are others that need to raise their individual games in a hurry, too. First and foremost is Marcin Gortat. Like other players, Gortat has had really good nights and others that were not good at all.
Gortat has suddenly become Carlos Boozer. He starts games, but he’s not finishing them. Head Coach Randy Wittman has used other combinations for a variety of reasons instead of Gortat in 4th quarters. However, Gortat needs to play at a level that makes it impossible for Wittman to sit him.
Outside of John Wall, no one of the Wizards is having what you would call a “breakout season.” Paul Pierce has given the Wizards what they expected at this stage of his career. Kris Humphries has been dependable on most nights off the bench. I would also say they have gotten more than expected from Rasual Butler, but he is slowing down as the season wears on.
Otto Porter’s on-the-job training needs to pick up, and he still lacks aggression too often when he does get minutes. He’s also been an inconsistent shooter from the perimeter. Kevin Seraphin is showing signs of the guy they expected him to be. He can be counted on to score in the post and is actually kicking the ball out these days, and putting forth a much better effort on the defensive end and boards. Andre Miller struggles against athletic backcourts and Drew Gooden is getting caught up in the numbers games, but performs well when called upon.
Randy Wittman needs to continue to work towards finding a more regular rotation, which is easier said than done with the shortcomings of some of the aforementioned players. The team’s offense still needs to be more efficient and could use some tweaking. It’s a cliché, but it truly needs to be a team effort the rest of the way to right the wrongs.
Make a deal
The Wizards need some scoring punch off the bench. Preferably a player that can penetrate, create, and knock down shots. They are missing that right now. Andre Miller is a high IQ guy that makes the right plays, but struggles against more athletic players.
Don’t look for the Wizards to make some blockbuster trade. Remember, this team is still very much in the KD in 2016 mindset. The contracts are set up for the team to make a run next off-season at Durant and they will not jeopardize that for a short term fix this year.
There are players that could help without making a deal. The Wizards are interested in PG Jameer Nelson, who the Nuggets could buy out and they have been linked to PG Will Bynum, who has been playing in China this season. Either player could help the Wizards bench immediately.
Then there is the Ray Allen sweepstakes. The ‘retired’ veteran marksman would be a welcome addition with his pure stroke and clutch ability. The Wizards are severely lacking a go-to shooter in late game situations. Allen could provide that and help space the floor better, helping the Wizards big men. That is, assuming he is actually going to play again.
No matter who it is the Wizards put in that 15 roster spot, it needs to be a player that will provide some scoring off the bench. It also needs to be a player that buys into what the Wizards team is doing on the defensive end.
Even though the Wizards are trending away from being a contender in the East right now, they still have time to make a push in this wide-open season.