clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Warriors vs Wizards preview: Bullets Forever discusses Washington's struggles and the chase for Kevin Durant

To get us ready for tomorrow night's game against the Wizards that could quite easily be a trap game, we asked Bullets Forever a few questions about the team they cover.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Could the Golden State Warriors' upcoming game against the Washington Wizards (Weds, Jan. 3, 5 p.m. PST) be a trap? Absolutely.

The Wizards are a sub-.500 team that has fallen way short of expectations. Bradley Beal has missed almost half of their games, their defensive rating has plummeted from fifth to 22nd, and they're currently 10th in the Eastern Conference after seemingly turning things around by making the postseason the past two seasons.

There's a lot of moving parts there.

So to help us understand what's going on with their season, Albert Lee of Bullets Forever offered to share some insight about the team, their struggles, and where to go next.

Q&A with Bullets Forever

GSoM: Let's start with the positive: John Wall is an All-Star again. For those of us who don't watch the Wizards often, what new wrinkles has he added to his game this season?

Albert Lee: I don't think Wall has added a completely new wrinkle to his game per se this season. But he has improved his three-point shooting from last season (33.7 percent this season on 1.4 of 4.2 attempts per game).
He has also become a more consistent scorer this season, especially in December 2015 when he won the Eastern Conference Player of the Month Award. Much of that is because of necessity, but since he's the Wizards' franchise player, it is good to see that he steps up for any challenge that is thrown his way.

GSoM: How would you summarize why the Wizards have struggled this season?

AL: There are two main reasons:

1. Injuries - Key players like Bradley Beal and Nene have missed over a month, while role players like Drew Gooden and Kris Humphries have also been in similar predicaments. Swingman Alan Anderson was expected to be an additional shooter who Wall could pass the ball to, but he has yet to play this season. Ultimately, the Wizards have missed more games than any other team, and it isn't close.

2. Poor defense - The Wizards created a good amount of buzz last summer when they announced that they would play the "pace-and-space" offense that is more "analytics-friendly." The Wizards' pace is now among the fastest in the NBA. However, their defensive rating fell from Top 5 in the 2014-15 season to a bottom 10 team this season. I find this particularly disappointing because this was the one element that Washington was consistently good at during most of Randy Wittman's tenure as head coach.

GSoM: Ben Becker wrote an article at BF recently about how Ernie Grunfeld's time in DC should be up. But who do think is most to blame for this season's performance: ownership, GM, coaching or players?

AL: I'll let Ben Becker's piece stand for itself, since it articulates the Wizards' problems better than I could.
Ultimately, everything falls on Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. But from a basketball-only standpoint, it's Ernie Grunfeld's responsibility. He has drafted, signed, or traded for every player on the roster. And even though he didn't hire Wittman directly, Grunfeld still extended him in 2014 after their first playoff experience.

GSoM: There have been articles in both the Oklahoman and the Washington Post describing how the poor season might make the Wizards less likely to land Kevin Durant though they don't appear to have a Plan B. So in your mind, is it time to have a Plan B and start preparing for a future without Durant?

AL: Yes, the Wizards should have a Plan B about life without Kevin Durant. The main reason why: If they can't get him -- and they probably won't -- this Washington team ends up being very thin.

Most of the current roster is made up of veteran players who are in contract seasons. It's safe to assume most won't be back next year and everyone knows why. The Wizards will do everything in their power to say to Durant "please come home".

It's quite disappointing that Washington does not have a solid core of young players around John Wall besides Beal and Otto Porter (the other two top-3 lottery picks) and Kelly Oubre. All of these players are guards or wings, which leave them quite vulnerable in the post, which is made up entirely of veterans who aren't homegrown draft picks.
I personally hoped that Kevin Seraphin would have stayed even with his faults. But the combination of Marcin Gortat's and Nene's contracts plus the Kevin Durant strategy made him expendable.

There is a place for free agents of course, but the Wizards can't depend on this alone to "save the John Wall Era." If they don't nail the 2016 and 2017 offseasons in a time when the salary cap is going to increase substantially, I'm afraid that it will be time to rebuild this team again from scratch.

GSoM: I do think there's a blueprint to beating the Warriors and some similarities in how the Bucks and Pistons beat them (as well as how the Raptors and Nets challenged them) that go beyond luck. But what might be something unique that the Wizards bring to the table that Warriors fans might not expect?

AL: The Wizards seem to have this unique nature of "pulling us right back in" when we are "about to pull out." Before last Saturday's 123-122 win against the Rockets, Washington lost three consecutive games, all in disappointing fashion -- which prompted Ben to write his piece.

Washington did beat San Antonio early this season with a Bradley Beal three just before time expired. Therefore, I won't discount the Wizards showing more grit in a home victory over the Warriors. However, even though Golden State is on the last game of a long road trip, if the Wizards come out complacent or sloppy, it will be a long day in the nation's capital.

For more on the Wizards and their season, check out Bullets Forever.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Golden State of Mind Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Golden State Warriors news from Golden State of Mind