The Wizards are playing a style rarely seen in NBA history, and it could work

Chase Hughes
NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- Chances are that you have never seen an NBA team quite like the 2019-20 Washington Wizards

They aren't good. In fact, only one team - the Warriors - currently has fewer wins than they do. But these Wizards are playing a brand of basketball rarely seen throughout NBA history.

That brand is essentially elite-level offense contrasted with arguably the worst defense in the league. It is a dichotomy not often seen to this extreme.

After beating the Spurs on Wednesday night, the Wizards rank first in the NBA in points scored (119.7) and last in points allowed (121.1). They are second in offensive rating (114.6) and 29th, or second from the bottom, in defensive rating (116.0).

Right now that combination is not leading to victories, as the Wizards are 4-8 and on pace for 27 wins on the season. But history shows their style can actually be successful if balanced correctly. As of now, it's tipped in the wrong direction, as the Wizards' point differential is -1.4.

No team has ever gone a full season with their offensive and defensive ratings as high as those of the Wizards. But the best comparison may be the 1981-82 Denver Nuggets, the only team ever to have both numbers above 113.

Those Nuggets, led by Hall of Famer Alex English, won 46 games and made the playoffs. They went a full season both scoring and allowing at least 100 points in every game. They were first in the NBA in points scored (126.5) and offensive rating (114.3) and dead-last in points allowed (126.0) and defensive rating (113.9). But both offensive numbers barely edged the defensive ones, so it worked.

Throughout NBA history, 38 teams have gone a full year with their offensive and defensive ratings both above 110 and 24 of them made the playoffs. Last season, seven teams had the 110/110 distinction and five of them made the postseason.

Interestingly enough, one of the most statistically similar teams to this year's Wizards were the 2006-07 Wizards, back in Gilbert Arenas' heyday. That team won 41 games and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

As statistically strange as the Wizards have been this season, their recipe could technically work. They have managed to stay in games despite their defense, as most of their losses have been narrow defeats. 

Head coach Scott Brooks, though, isn't convinced it is sustainable.

"That combination of 30th in defense and first or second in offense is not good. We all take ownership and it starts with me," he said. 

"We've still gotta focus on the defensive end to get better and give ourselves a chance to win."

What Brooks does like is the Wizards' three-point shooting. They are attempting 34.6 threes per game this season, and making 13 of them on average, both the highest numbers in franchise history.

Back in Dec. of 2017, in Brooks' second season in Washington, the Wizards tied a then-franchise record with 18 threes in a game against the Rockets. This season in only 12 games, they have already made 18 or more three times. They set a new franchise mark with 20 against the Rockets (ironically) and also made 19 against the Magic on Sunday.

"We can shoot the ball. I've been saying it all along," Brooks said.

Lots of points, lots of threes and very little defense; that is the 2019-20 Wizards in a nutshell. They aren't winning games playing that way yet, but history shows that it actually could work for them.


The Wizards are playing a style rarely seen in NBA history, and it could work originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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