- Teams: Washington Wizards (15-35) at Detroit Pistons (20-33)
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
The Detroit Pistons have defeated the Washington Wizards twice already this season and will be looking to bump that number up to three victories when they host the Wiz at the Palace of Auburn Hills tonight.
There’s just one thing: they haven’t played against these Wizards this season.
Indeed, Washington was manhandled by Detroit earlier in the season because they looked nothing like a professional basketball team. In writing the preview for the December 22nd contest between both teams, I stated:
[…] the Wizards have a roster full of players that find ways to regularly attempt to do things they cannot on offense. Whether it’s the big man firing a bullet pass to a cutting player that was open for a split second, or a perimeter player taking a jump shot after getting trapped hard in the pick-and-roll, Washington has built so many poor habits that it’s tough to consistently expect some solid offensive possessions.
Their defense at the time was one of the best in the league, but their offense was a train wreck.
The Wizards made the Sacramento Kings look like a disciplined offense reminiscent of the 1999 Utah Jazz.
Randy Wittman’s players took some incredibly ill-advised shots, made passes to fans – i.e. in the stands – and even occasionally treated passing as a mere option of their said “offense”.
Their defense helped them stay in games where there offense did everything to keep them out.
But then, something interesting occurred 17 games ago: John Wall returned to the lineup.
It may seem hyperbolic to say that the Kentucky product all by himself changed the culture of the team but that’s the exact truth. Here’s the simple breakdown:
- Record without Wall: 5-28
- Record with Wall: 10-7
The Wizards have looked sharper with their starting point guard now back into the fold and actually resemble a professional basketball team.
Keep in mind, Wall hasn’t exactly played terrific basketball, but rather he’s been himself so to speak and has played his decent brand of ball, and Washington is much better for it.
They run pick-and-rolls, post ups, break down defenders off the bounce for drive and kicks and get out in transition after forcing turnovers for some easy scores.
While Wall was sidelined, the players just had a lot of trouble doing these things and thus it resulted in their inability to consistently produce points.
NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us that with Wall either sidelined or on the bench, the Wiz score 94.1 points per 100 possessions, which is easily the worst mark in the NBA. However, when the point guard joins his teammates on the floor, that figure gets a boost and stands at 100.7 points per 100 possessions, which would be just around the 19th best mark in the league.
The offense isn’t great with Wall on board, but it’s night and day in comparison to what it looked like without the former Wildcat. More importantly though, because Washington owns the sixth best defense in the league, they have a much better chance of winning ball games with an average or below average offense as opposed to the worst one in the Association.
If further validation is needed, just look at their current four-game win streak:
- February 4th: 98-90 win against Los Angeles Clippers
- February 6th: 106-96 win against New York Knicks
- February 8th: 89-74 win against Brooklyn Nets
- February 11th: 102-90 win at Milwaukee Bucks
Those four victories have all come against teams that will more than likely be part of the playoff picture come April.
The sample size is obviously incredibly small, but through 17 games with John Wall, Washington looks like a team that would be playing for a playoff spot if projected over a full season. Their winning percentage of .563 would have put them just above the Atlanta Hawks (.560 winning percentage) in the Eastern Conference standings.
In other words, these Wizards can play.
Read about the Wizards
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.
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