The Washington Wizards started off the season on fire with a lot of momentum on their side. With expectations being low for fans, the team easily passed the bar that was set for them. After the all-star disappearance of Russell Westbrook being traded to the Lakers for a handful of reasonable players, the Wizards had a new look. With Westbrook leaving Washington, so did the expectations for this team. I mean as far as the things this team could accomplish this season. Yet, with a squad full of new faces, the team has managed to have great success to begin the season. Positive results have been occurring with the new additions of Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezz Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
The impression has been shocking with such a hot start from Washington. However, even I was aware that the Washington Wizards needed a solid big man to be competitive in this league. With that being said, Harrell and Daniel Gafford have been able to provide this presence I speak of. I know having a good inside presence sounds like such an obtainable thing. Yet the Washington Wizards haven’t had a solid big man since Marcin Gortat back in 2016. Although having Ian Mahinmi and Thomas Bryant in the meantime, neither of them could stay healthy and active. Although Bryant is a good player, he needs to put on some weight before he comes back. Joel Embid was too strong for him in the playoffs last season.
With the new bunch of players, the team got off to one of the best starts in Washington history, starting the season 10-3. Since then, they have lost twice as many games that they’ve won with a record of 5-10. Are you asking “Why?” First, they have a target on their back with such a good record. As before they could easily catch a team on an off night or play indolent; going into games, teams constantly overlook the Wizards squad and their possibilities. Underestimating the team is a common theme as the Wizards roster on paper does not look like much. Compared to many of the super teams that have numerous all-stars on their squadron, the Wizards definitely don’t have the star power to equal up.
This is why the Wizards were able to outplay teams at the beginning of the season – if they happened to run into a team that didn’t take them seriously. With opponents now adapting to the sneaky talent of the Wizards, the team is forced to play a good game from start to finish. Before, Washington could take a quarter to try and figure out a game plan and adapt to what the opposing team was doing. Previously they had the luxury of taking time to adjust and spark a comeback later in the game, that sneaky talent giving the Wizards the ability to win in the clutch. However, after spending a few weeks as one of the top three seeds in the eastern conference, other teams took notice. The Wizards at one point even held the number one spot in the entire conference.
Beginning with such a hot start, it was only a matter of time before the league took notice and decided to adjust to the new Wizards. Not to completely discredit them – they deserve their props. With every new addition to the team, this season they’ve been playing with an urge to win. With Montrezz Harrell holding down the paint on both ends, he has been the spark for this team. He has been giving the Wizards the majority of their energy to outdo their opponents. Kyle Kuzma has also come up big for this team in their effort to extend the floor. Late in games, Kuzma has come up big with his three-point shooting in the 4th quarter helping Washington seal a few games.
Kuzma has also improved his defense during his time in Washington as he’s usually guarding the four, which is the power forward. Guarding this position, Kuzma sometimes becomes overmatched against taller players. Yet he has been able to hold his own against most “bigs” around the league. Spencer Dinwiddie started the season blazing, scoring over 30 and 20 multiple times. But just like his fellow Wizards, he has fallen off in the month of December. So far, Dinwiddie has not been able to score over 15 points against any team. KCP has been doing well with the defense he has been providing, guarding opposing teams’ backcourts. His performance has been spotty on offense, but when he does score, he has a chance of getting hot and streaking for great output.
However, the person who has slipped the most since the beginning of the season has been their franchise player, Bradley Beal. Beal has not been looking like the player worth the $70 million dollar extension that Washington signed. With the Wizards losing 9 of their last 14, the missing production from Beal has been costly for the team. The Wizards star has had one of the worst seasons of his career playing in the NBA, and it’s evident. His performance has been extremely underwhelming and Beal knows that himself, saying “I’ve been sh*tty all year… I have to be better; I have to lead better.” This was after the Wizards’ blowout loss to the Utah Jazz.
Beal’s numbers this season back up his claims and mine. This season he is averaging 22.7 points per game, which is his lowest since 2016. His field goal percentage this season averages out at 44.6 percent, his lowest field goal percentage since 2015. Beal is currently averaging a 27.1 three-point percentage, which is the worst three-point percentage of his career. As an all-star player known for his lethal jump shot, the Wizards cannot afford to have their leader missing this many shots from the perimeter. In hopes of success, Beal must correct his efficiency if they wish to stay high in the rankings. Matters, however, continue to worsen for the team with news about Beal not wanting to sign the $181.5 million contract extension offered by Washington.
Claiming “I want to win,” Beal says he wishes to have a good start with the team before signing any contracts. Suspicion rises because there actually could not be a better start for the Wizards. Yet, Beal has had a terrible season with a supporting cast that has almost carried him. With a winning environment, it is unsettling for a Washington fan to hear that Beal still has not signed an extension with the Wizards. Now it becomes the question of does he want to win with this team, or does Beal wish to find better results elsewhere?