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The Wizards are Playing Faster, But Not Better

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The Washington Wizards are playing at the fastest pace they ever have under head coach Randy Wittman, precisely at 104.65 possessions per 48 minutes, nearly nine more possessions than last season, per NBA.com. Unfortunately the change of style hasn’t yielded the expected results.

The Wizards are only scoring 98.1 points per 100 possessions, and their defense has taken a step back, allowing opponents to score 105.2 points per 100 possessions. All of this is based on a small sample size, but the stats aren’t encouraging. Some of the factors affecting the team are out of their control, but others can be altered to put the Wizards back on track.

According to NBA.com, Washington is leading the league with 18 turnovers per game and are giving up 17.9 points off those turnovers. Some of this is just a consequence of a higher pace, but most of the turnovers are derived from the problem the Wizards have always had: a lack of shooters. Otto Porter and Kris Humphries can hit a three-pointer, but they don’t have the reputation of being marksmen. Opposing defenses don’t approach them as threats from long range. Defenders roam off of them freely to pack the paint and contain the ball handler – most often John Wall – leading to bail-out shots or turnovers.

During the offseason, the Wizards acquired players who would fit their new identity and bolster the team’s offense, but those players are either injured or still recovering. Jared Dudley is still getting back into game shape and Alan Anderson is at least a month out from even being able to practice. The current roster is ill-equipped to play small-ball.

Their starting lineup – and most-used lineup – is only scoring 90.7 points per 100 possessions. That offensive rating would rank dead last among all teams this season. With this in mind, there needs to be a change in the starting lineup.

Although Humphries is shooting 40 percent from three-point range, he’s not a true stretch 4. Putting aside the fact that his three-point shooting percentage is probably unsustainable, Humphries is only capable of being a spot-up shooter. When defenses close on Humphries, he’s not going to put it on to the floor and get to the rim or hit a shot off the dribble. Nor is he going to make a play for a teammate. It’s not his fault; he’s a traditional big man who’s being miscast in the role of a shooting/playmaking 4. Although Dudley is still rounding into form, he may be the best option for the Wizards if the offense is going to improve.

Before the season started, I argued why Dudley would be the best option as the starting power forward for the Wizards, and the team’s start seems to validate that argument. As previously mentioned, the Wizards’ starters have an offensive rating of 90.7. When Humphries is replaced with Dudley, that lineup has scored an obscene 131.8 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. This is only based on 11 minutes played together, but that number is staggering nonetheless. The Dudley lineup gives up more points on the defensive end, but considering the current state of the Wizards’ offense, the trade-off is well worth it.

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