From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Washington Wizards, who had something to build on last season.
84.4 - Points allowed per 100 possessions by the Wizards’ lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene and Emeka Okafor, the league’s best defensive lineup among 158 that played at least 100 minutes together.
Not only was that lineup ridiculously good defensively, but it was pretty strong offensively, scoring 108.4 points per 100 possessions. Overall, only one lineup around the league was better in as many minutes. That Knicks lineup included Jason Kidd, so you could say that the Wizards’ lineup is the best returning lineup in the league.
The unit allowed opponents to shoot just 50 percent in the restricted area and 13-for-53 (25 percent) from 3-point range. It didn’t force a lot of turnovers, but kept its opponents off the free-throw line and was great on the glass.
The video above is from a Jan. 26 game in which the Wizards’ starting lineup outscored the Bulls 27-16 in 12 minutes. It turned into a 13-point win for the Wizards, who went 11-7 in games that this lineup played together. That included a 6-1 mark against playoff teams.
The issue, of course, is that 18 games and 142 minutes isn’t a lot. Wall missed the first 33 games of the season, Beal missed 24 of the last 39, and Nene was in and out of the lineup all year. The lineup wouldn’t have been able to sustain a +24.0 NetRtg over 1,000 minutes, but the Wizards would have been a much better team if these guys were all healthy.
This year, Okafor is already out with a neck injury and Nene says his knee is “still sore” and his foot “still hurts a little bit.” The two were a big reason why Washington ranked eighth in defensive efficiency last season. The Wizards allowed 97.1 points per 100 possessions in 912 minutes with the bigs on the floor together.
Wizards opponents attempted only 43.8 percent of their shots from the paint last season, the lowest rate in the league. That number was just 41.2 percent with Nene and Okafor on the floor together.
With those guys protecting the paint, the Wizards’ perimeter defenders were allowed to be more aggressive. And when the Wizards got stops, Wall was able to get out on the break. He ranked third in the league with 5.5 fast break points per game. If Okafor isn’t healthy, Washington will have a difficult time remaining a top 10 defensive team and Wall will get less fast-break opportunities.
But the developing chemistry between Wall and Beal is still something to look forward to. Beal shot 50 percent (33-for-66) from 3-point range and 47 percent overall with Wall on the floor last season. He shot 34 percent from 3-point range and 39 percent overall with Wall off the floor.
One final note: Given the success of this lineup, it was surprising to see Randy Wittman start Trevor Ariza instead of Webster in the Wizards’ first preseason game on Tuesday. Even if you ignore the bigs, the Wiz were a plus-18.7 points per 100 possessions in 303 minutes with Wall, Beal and Webster on the floor together.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions