The Washington Wizards were forced to retool on the fly after
last season, with serious consequences potentially looming for the
Russell Westbrook asked for a trade after just one season, but
the front office somehow swindled draft capital plus three rotation
players from the Los Angeles Lakers as they escaped that albatross
From Washington’s point of view, it made too much sense not to
capitalize and switch some pieces around their rotation with an
important 2021-22 campaign looming. Bradley Beal rumors have been
running rampant for multiple years now, and the potential of Beal
leaving has never been higher since he can hit unrestricted free
agency in the summer of 2022.
With a roster that seemed to perfectly complement their
superstar shooting guard with two-way versatility across the board,
I bought the team's stock hook, line and sinker as it related to
their strong start.
Kicking off the season going 10-3, Washington was well on its
way to finally showing progress before Beal’s career-altering
decision to apparently not sign an extension this summer. However,
the team has completely gone off the rails ever since. A 10-3
beginning led to a disappointing 14-24 mark afterwards. Washington
is on the outside looking in right now in the reloaded Eastern
Take a look at the advanced metrics from the Wizards’ red-hot
start followed by their big-time regression to the mean:
10-3 start: 107.5 OffRtg (16th), 102.7 DefRtg (4th), +4.8
14-24 since: 109.7 OffRtg (22nd), 114.7 DefRtg (27th), -5.0
As showcased with the advanced look within the Wizards’ on-court
successes and failures, the main culprit is on the defensive end.
The Wizards’ defense was clicking early on, but they benefited from
a league-wide slow start offensively.
Zooming back out, Washington’s 10-3 clip always flashed a buyer
beware sign. Scoring 107.5 points per 100 possessions, Washington’s
early-season mark would now rank them No. 27 in the
Washington’s seismic collapse on the defensive end is the
inverse of what’s going on with the Charlotte Hornets. Twelve
points per 100 possessions worse over this span, the Wizards have
multiple holes being exposed along the way to a tumultuous trade
According to longtime NBA insider Marc Stein, Washington has let
it be known three players are available for the team with the best
offer: Spencer Dinwiddie, Montrezl Harrell and Thomas Bryant. The
latter two make sense, especially as Daniel Gafford has emerged
into a long-term piece in D.C. Clearing the way for heavy Gafford
minutes makes a lot of sense, but let’s circle back around to
Entering this season, Dinwiddie checked all of the boxes for a
potentially perfect backcourt fit for Beal. Dinwiddie’s profile
featuring on-ball creation, playmaking, as well as nights where he
can take scoring pressure off Beal was rightfully attractive to the
Wizards. Washington acquired Dinwiddie from Brooklyn via
sign-and-trade, inking a three-year, $54 million deal.
Having Westbrook leave and adding Dinwiddie was supposed to fix
the issues Washington observed with a high-usage ball handler
alongside Beal. Instead, this fit hasn’t looked good at all
When Beal and Dinwiddie have shared the court this season,
Washington has a 13-18 record. Among two-man lineup combinations
around the Wizards’ star, Dinwiddie checks in low on the totem
pole. The Dinwiddie-Beal backcourt was a nightmare on the offensive
end, showing no true chemistry with a 101.7 OffRtg. The defense was
passable at points between this duo, but the offense was truly a
disaster to watch unfold.
Beal’s scoring compared to when Dinwiddie is in and out is a
Beal with Dinwiddie (22 games): 21.5 PPG
Beal without Dinwiddie (9 games): 29.0 PPG
The player-team fit on display between Washington and Dinwiddie
has been a nightmare scenario. According to The Ringer’s Kevin
O’Connor, Wizards teammates believe Dinwiddie is a shell of himself
post-knee injury, so now they don’t want him there.
Dinwiddie also said last week that he tried to be a vocal leader
with the Wizards, but the reception he got for it wasn’t
“It’s an interesting situation. I spoke up a little bit early
on,” Dinwiddie said. “It wasn’t necessarily welcomed. And so, like
I said, I try to do whatever is asked of me. At the end of the day,
everybody has a role to play.”
Dinwiddie’s fit in D.C. hasn’t allowed him to play at the same
level we saw in Brooklyn, but he’s done himself no favors with his
new team. Compared to his breakout campaign in 2019-20, Dinwiddie
does look like a shell of himself from a scoring perspective.
Washington was expecting an 18 to 20-points per game scorer, but
they’ve instead received a Dinwiddie who’s been unable to
complement Beal. We’ve also witnessed an epic collapse from the
Wizards’ defense, which has led to multiple double-digit leads
being blown in the process.
So, what’s next for the Wizards after admitting their failure
with the Dinwiddie experiment? Will the Wizards now pivot to
full-on selling, or make one last big swing to appease Beal?
Whatever button Washington decides to push will have major
ramifications leading up to next week’s trade deadline.
If the Wizards decide to become buyers, don’t be stunned if they
make an eye-opening move for Jerami Grant or Domantas Sabonis. On
the other side, if the Wizards sell, does that seal Beal’s
long-term fate in D.C.? It certainly feels like foreshadowing, if
that indeed is the Wizards’ decision.
Regression has hit Washington to the point that huge decisions
needs to be made immediately. It might be time to say goodbye to
the Beal era, which has spanned many seasons, but led to
disappointing results far more often than not.
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