We haven't bothered to check, but if we were to pile up all the Washington Wizards recaps from Behind the Box Score this season, the words "stupid" and "clueless" will probably start piling up. It's pretty cruel, but the Wizards don't play smart, attentive basketball.
Even the team's veterans, players like Kirk Hinrich(notes) (overdribbling) and Rashard Lewis(notes) (rebounding), still have bad habits that get in the way of putting Washington's young core over the top. And with Javale McGee(notes) forever roaming for big blocks (and impossible dunks), Andray Blatche(notes) barely even noticing that basketball is played on both ends of the court, and rookie John Wall(notes) still figuring things out? It's been a rough year.
Especially on the road, where Washington has yet to win all season. The group is 13-10 at home, but as many major media outlets have pointed out, the Wiz have yet to top an opposing team away from their nation's capital in 25 tries spread out over three months. And even after watching the team play in Washington, you can tell why. The team takes bad shots, it doesn't communicate well on either end, and fundamental, efficient basketball is in short supply even when things are going great.
But the great Tom Ziller has dug a little deeper, and found that the team's biggest issues lie on the defensive end in terms of contesting shots, and on the defensive glass. And that this comes down to, you guessed it, effort.
Flip Saunders is and will continue to take heat for his team's road performance. If you ask basketball experts where in the box score effort and energy show up, they'd tell you that it can be found in shooting defense and rebounding. Three of the four most impactful negative road splits the Wizards have seen this season are shooting defense, defensive rebounding and offensive rebounding. That tells me the Wizards aren't playing as hard on the road. That tells me that it's not just a mental issue, or a random oddity of noise. It's effort. What the Wizards give on the home floor doesn't travel, and it's leading to an embarrassing campaign.
Well, if it makes Washington feel any better, they do boast an unheralded semi-star whose work is approximating one of the league's more talented big man. That's right, Washington, you might have the next Brook Lopez(notes) on your roster!
Numeranda has put together a few production graphs that detail just how close the wispy Wizards guard, and the burly Nets center have been in terms of box score contributions. The results, especially considering Young's distaste for anything beyond shooting 20-foot jumpers, will surprise you:
Young is averaging 21.5 points and 3.5 rebounds since the start of the new year, and Lopez is averaging 20 points and 4.5 rebounds. In other words, these two guys:
Are close to indistinguishable when it comes to points and rebounds. Just thought that was interesting.
So, good news all around, Washington and New Jersey.