Wizards dysfunction leads to disappointing start

Koby Epstein

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Photo by Keith Allison.

Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. skies for a slam dunk. Oubre is currently in his fourth season with the team.

Immediately after the Wizards’ Game 6 loss in the first round of last year’s playoffs, there were questions. Otto Porter’s performance in the playoffs was very underwhelming, John Wall’s lack of explosiveness since his return from knee surgery was a concern and  the Wizards’ future was looking bleak. With almost no money going into free agency, the team looked like they were on the verge of a rebuild.

On June 26, the Wizards front office finally pulled the trigger on the inevitable trade of center Marcin Gortat. In return, the Wizards received guard Austin Rivers from the LA Clippers. This was a good start to the Wizards offseason, but they no longer had a starting center.

The first nine days of free agency, the Wizards made no notable moves and things were looking even more disappointing for the upcoming season. On July 10, the Wizards signed veteran forward Jeff Green, bringing him to his hometown of DC after a short stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The next day, the Wizards made a bold move when they signed veteran center Dwight Howard to a two year, 11.5 million dollar deal with a player option. This was a very questionable move by the Wizards as Howard has a reputation as a bad presence in the locker room, but considering how cheap his deal was, it seemed like it was worth the risk.

The Wizards ended up looking very good going into the season and were seen as a dark horse team to make the Eastern Conference Finals. During training camp, reports surfaced saying that Dwight Howard would miss the start of the season due to back problems. On October 15, three days before season started, the Wizards traded shooting guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks for a future second round pick.

On opening night against a deep Miami Heat team, the Wizards played well but when in came down to the last couple minutes, they just couldn’t defend. With two seconds remaining and the Wizards up by one, Heat center Kelly Olynyk grabbed an offensive rebound and banked in an open layup for the win. The Wizards lost on a depressing game winning shot that put a sour feeling on the start of their season.

“They have the talent, they have the work ethic, all they need is chemistry,” sophomore Peter Morrison said.

However, the return of Dwight Howard has a lot of Wizards fans excited for the rebounding, scoring and defense that he will bring for the remainder of the season. Howard made his debut on November 2, in a blowout loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He put up 20 points and impressed everyone when he threw down a monster dunk early in the first quarter, marking his territory as the new starting center of the Washington Wizards. Defense has been a huge issue for Washington as they currently have the fifth worst defense in the league according to NBA.com.

“The Wizards have struggled on defense which has led to their slow start,” sophomore Jaden Gaines said.

Wizards star point guard John Wall has had an interesting start to the season. Previously, Wall was known as a very quick, athletic player. Now, after two knee surgeries, Wall has clearly lost some athleticism and no longer has the fire in him that we saw in 2017. On the bright side for the Wizards, Wall is scoring well although his assists are down.

“They need to trade John Wall for another star. The team is falling apart because of him,” sophomore Konchok Chopel said.

The other half of the Wizards backcourt, Bradley Beal, has had a solid start to the season, averaging similar numbers as last year and showing the fans that he has the veteran experience to make clutch shots as he hit a game tying three against Portland in October.

Now we get to the odd man out on the Wizards, forward Otto Porter. In the 2017 offseason, Porter agreed to a four year, $106 million dollar deal with the Brooklyn Nets. Because it was Porter’s first free agency, he was restricted so the Wizards made the worst decision of the last five years when they matched Brooklyn’s offer. Since Porter got his massive deal, he has improved slightly and put up solid numbers but not enough to warrant paying him $26 million for four years. Porter had a minor hip injury in last years playoffs and hasn’t been the same player since. So far this season, Porter is averaging only 12 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes shooting 36% from three point range. 36% from three is solid but Porter has been among the best shooters in the NBA for the past two seasons, averaging a very impressive 43%. This drop in percentage is a huge concern for DC, as Porter has not been effective in his first 24 games. Clearly it’s time to pull the trigger on a trade involving Otto Porter and his massive salary.

Forward Markieff Morris has had a good start to the season, showing more and more versatility as a big man and putting up consistent numbers. The Wizards bench has been an issue in the past, and in 2017 the Wizards had the worst bench in the NBA. This season the Wizards have one of the deepest benches in the league with forwards Kelly Oubre Jr. and Jeff Green being very solid two-way players and leading the way for the reserves.

On November 19, reports began to surface saying that everyone on the Wizards roster was available for trade. According to ESPN, Wizards point guard John Wall unleashed a verbal barrage onto head coach Scott Brooks during practice. This incident was rumored to be the main reason behind the availability of every Wizards player. This caused a big stir in the NBA community and many teams engaged in trade talks with Washington, but no deals were made.

On December 1, center Dwight Howard had a small surgery on his lower back and has been ruled out for two to three months. The Wizards have had a lot of issues with rebounding and defense when Howard doesn’t play which makes this news very scary for the team. On the bright side for Washington, backup center Thomas Bryant has been put into the starting lineup and is putting up solid numbers of 10 points, seven rebounds, on 60% from the field in 20 minutes of play. Bryant is currently 21 years old and in his second season in the NBA. Given his current production and the amount of time he has to develop, Wizards fans will most likely be seeing a lot more of Thomas Bryant in the coming years. Head coach Scott Brooks took a chance on the 6’10 center from Indiana and it has certainly payed off.

As of December 5, the Wizards are 11-14 and are one game out of the playoffs. After a very disappointing start, the Wizards seem to have turned it around. On November 26, the Wizards had a very impressive overtime win against the Houston Rockets. After being down by as much as 17 in the first quarter, the Wizards rallied and were able to tie the game by halftime. The DC backcourt combined for 68 points and John Wall added 11 assists. After the game, star shooting guard Bradley Beal decided to set the record straight regarding trade rumors.

I got this Washington jersey on, I come out and work everyday until otherwise. This is where I want to be,” said Beal.

All in all, the Wizards look like they will have another subpar season, which will only end in disappointment and tears for the fans, but that’s okay. It’s DC, we’re used to it.