All-Star guard John Wall means everything to the Washington Wizards—when he’s not in the lineup, the Wizards struggle. Uncharacteristically, Washington has been struggling this season whether or not Wall is in the lineup.
They’ll have to make do without him now, with Wall set to miss two weeks due to fluid build-up and discomfort in his left knee. The news was a blow to the team, but their 1-3 record this week was perhaps an even bigger hit. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Wizards.
Nov. 19: Frazier Steps in, Stumbles as Wizards Fall to Raptors, 100-91
There’s a dramatic drop-off in point guard play whenever Wall is absent, a fact that was never more evident than in Washington’s 100-91 road loss to the Toronto Raptors on Nov. 19. Backup guard Tim Frazier isn’t physically big enough or quick enough to handle the nightly rigors of defending top guards or directing a high-efficiency offense. His six-point performance against the Raptors was evidence of the drop-off in starter to backup. Bradley Beal scored a team-high 27 points, but the fifth-year guard couldn’t put the entire team on his back. Washington’s offense came to a screeching halt in the fourth quarter, as the team scored just 15 points in the final frame.
Nov. 20: With Wall, Washington Wins in Milwaukee
Wall returned the following night against the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington went back to work with a 99-88 road win on Nov. 20. Wall wasn’t great, adding only 15 points and six assists, but his presence was felt as Washington walked away with one of their more impressive road wins this season. The Bucks are a team on the rise in the East, packed with long and lanky athletes up and down their roster. The Bucks struggle to score however, a tendency which played right into the hands of a smothering Washington defense that was re-energized by Wall’s return.
Nov. 22, Nov. 25: Defense Breaks Down in Back-to-Back Losses to Charlotte, Portland
Washington’s defense doomed the team in back-to-back losses to the Charlotte Hornets, a 129-124 defeat on Nov. 22, and the Portland Trail Blazers, a 108-105 loss on Nov. 25. The defense was never worse than during a late meltdown against Portland. Washington led 94-77 with just over eight minutes left in the game before being outscored 31-11 down the stretch. Beal’s missed three-pointer at the buzzer sealed Washington’s fate.
It’s going to be a long season for the Wizards. There’s no consistency on defense, and the offense falls off a cliff as soon as Wall leaves the game, or if he misses one entirely. Philadelphia and Milwaukee are littered with young and promising players, so this could be the season that the Wizards are surpassed on the list of up-and-coming teams. Washington’s window definitely isn’t closed but other teams are emerging, meaning the only way the Wizards can expect to compete in the East will be with a signature trade. Without any juicy trade chips on the roster, however, Washington could be stuck with an expensive roster and no immediate ways to improve.