Although it is still early in the season, the Washington Wizards haven’t been the team many people expected them to be. The offense is still a work in progress, and their once-stalwart defense is nowhere to be seen. The Wizards are defending better as of late, but still give up 102.7 points per 100 possessions, making them the nineteenth-ranked defense in the league. They had the fifth-best defense in the league last season.
Some defensive drop-off was expected when Marcin Gortat and Nene were separated, but the team’s overall defensive discipline was supposed to compensate. That has not been the case. Their perimeter defense, specifically that of the bench, has been a major factor in the team’s disappointing play.
Because of injuries to Bradley Beal and Alan Anderson, guards Gary Neal and Ramon Sessions are playing more, and, unsurprisingly, the Washington Wizards’ defense is suffering because of it. According to NBA.com, the Wizards give up 106.0 points per 100 possessions when Neal is on the floor and allow 109.3 points when Sessions is on the court. While both players are crippling the Wizards’ perimeter defense, they differ in their approach.
Gary Neal’s defensive issues seem to be based on effort. He can defend competently, or at least on an average level, but picks and chooses when to do so. His height can still limit his effectiveness in some situations, but his frame allows him to bother slighter players. According to NBA.com, when he defends a player, they shoot 40.5 percent from the field as opposed to their usual percentage of 40.9. That is not a huge difference, but it is still relevant. Generally, his effort varies on a possession-to-possession basis:
Ramon Session’s defensive problems are easier to identify, though. He is seemingly incapable of being a good defender:
Sessions lacks any awareness on the court and is a perennial ball watcher. He frequently loses his man and helps off his assignment for no reason. These habits are reflected in his stats. According to NBA.com, a player he defends shoots 52.4 percent from the field; 12.2 percentage points higher than the player’s normal field-goal percentage. As long as Sessions is on the floor, opposing teams shoot well against the Washington Wizards. Opponents currently hit half their shots when he plays, per NBA.com. Although the following clip is a few years old, I assure you that it is an accurate depiction of Sessions’ limitations on the defensive end:
It would be one thing if Neal and Sessions helped the offense, but they’re not even succeeding at being the NBA’s version of designated hitters. When Neal or Sessions is on the court, the Washington Wizards only score 96.2 points and 97.3 per 100 possessions, respectively. Neal is a good shooter, but he is also a gunner at heart and indulges his impulses too frequently. Sessions, on the other hand, is a horrible jump shooter who likes to drive to the basket. He usually does end up drawing fouls and creating open shots, but that hasn’t benefited Washington’s offense as of yet.
Fortunately for the Washington Wizards, Garrett Temple is having a resurgence of sorts, giving them another option at the guard spot, but Alan Anderson won’t be back for a while so Neal and Sessions will still see significant court time, and the defense will be affected accordingly. Hopefully, Bradley Beal’s shoulder injury doesn’t keep him out for too long, or the perimeter defense of the Wizards’ bench will end up costing the team some otherwise attainable victories.