Life is about expectations and in Washington, they were high entering the 2020-21 season, with many predicting a top-6 seed in the conference. Westbrook missed one of the Wizards’ first four contests but in the other three, he looked like vintage Russ, notching a triple-double in each. Yet, one stat he didn’t accumulate was in the win column.
“A lot goes into winning a game…and we’re still figuring that out.”
— Chris Crouse 🏙 (@NBACrouse) December 30, 2020
Brooks is right in that it’s not all on Russell’s shot selection; there’s a bevy of issues at play.
Bradley Beal takes defensive possessions off, something that was more understandable when he was carrying the major chunk of the offensive load. The forward rotation is dicey, leaving Brooks to experiment with three-guard lineups that in theory, boost the offense but in a reality, they are further deterring the team’s defense. Can’t blame Brooks for trying something given his options.
Washington’s Realistic Hope: Rui Hachimura will be back in approximately two weeks and Davis Bertans, who is still working his way back into game shape, playing more minutes should help the forward spots. At full capacity, this is a team that is thin at the small forward spot but with those two guys back, the Westbrook-Beal engine can run more efficiently.
Let’s be realistic about this team: it’s not a top contender in the East. There are simply too many blind spots in the rotation. This team is relying on Raul Neto to give them constancy—I nearly spit out my drink when Brooks said Neto was “not a good shooter, he’s a great shooter” during Tuesday’s post-game presser; Brooks said this twice, hyping up the former Sixers like I would players in my fantasy basketball league.
With that said, Neto would be fine if he was the only iffy proposition in the rotation and if the team defense was sound around him. But it’s not. The backcourt is undersized and the wings are not experienced enough to overcome the detriment. Deni Avdija is still a rookie, learning the nuances of an NBA defense. Isaac Bonga‘s development is promising but expecting him to be starter-worthy is a tall task. Troy Brown Jr. entered the year with hope but hasn’t shown progress through four games.
Fans in Washington aren’t falling for the glitter of Westbrook’s triple-doubles—perhaps afraid to fall in love again after John Wall‘s expeditious exit—they’ve seen something resembling gold via playoff wins in the past. Winning a round in the postseason seems like a monumental task for this year’s club, however, if Hachimura can take his anticipated step forward upon his return and there’s a concerted effort to improve the defense, this team can easily earn a spot in the play-in tournament (7-10 seeds this year) and give themselves a chance to notch their first playoff appearance in three seasons.
Though, after surging preseason expectations, Washington’s best-case scenario may seem like a consultation prize.