For a while, after they traded for Trevor Ariza and responded impressively once John Wall got injured, the Wizards were a good defensive team. It lasted about a month. From Dec. 23 until Jan. 26, they had the third-best defensive rating in the NBA and gave up the 10th-fewest points.
That was really good, especially for a team that had previously been among the worst defensive teams not only in the NBA, but in franchise history.
But that honeymoon is officially over, because in the weeks since, the Wizards have devolved back into one of the truly worst defensive teams in basketball. In nine games since Jan. 26, only two teams have allowed more points (122.8) and only three have posted a worse defensive rating (119.2) than Washington.
During this stretch, they have allowed league-highs in three-pointers (14.3/g) and three-point percentage (42.3). Not surprisingly, the Wizards have lost six of their last nine games.
Monday was another defensive dud. They let a Pistons team score 15 points more than their season average. Detroit averages 9.1 threes per game. Against the Wizards they made 15.
Andre Drummond was dominant with 32 points, 17 rebounds, four steals and a block. Blake Griffin wasn’t far behind with 31 points, nine boards and nine assists.
The Wizards have been mostly bad on defense this season, with only four teams worse in defensive rating. But lately, they may have reached rock bottom, struggling to keep teams like the Pistons in check. On Saturday, though they won, the Wizards allowed 125 points to the Bulls, who rank 28th in the NBA with 102.8 opponent points per game.
It may be tough to improve on defense moving forward barring something unforeseen. The trades they made to bring in Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis and Wesley Johnson did more for their depth and their ability to score.
Otto Porter Jr. wasn’t a lockdown defender, but he played with discipline and the advanced numbers always suggested he was among the best on the Wizards. Parker has never been confused for a good defensive player and over the summer caused a stir by saying “they don’t pay players to play defense.”
Portis isn’t much of a rim protector, but should help the cause with his rebounding. Johnson commits on the defensive end, but isn’t going to change games in that area of the game, either.
All three can score. But throw them in the mix with the rest of the Wizards roster and there are going to be some tough times defensively.
On Monday, their inability to slow Drummond, Griffin and the otherwise offensively challenged Pistons proved costly. Detroit took the head-to-head season series, meaning they own the tiebreaker for playoff scenarios. They also pushed the Wizards from two to now three games back from the No. 8 spot.
Defense has been an issue for the Wizards for most of this season and it may be their single biggest obstacle as they maintain hopes of making the playoffs.
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