Only one night, only one game. The Washington Wizards fell to the Miami Heat in their preseason opener, 106-95. The strong emphasis on the defensive end was not apparent or not received by the entire team for this game. There were a couple of players who played good defense, but it was far from enough. Miami’s Hassan Whiteside had a monster night, finishing with 20 points and 13 rebounds. There’s not typically a ton to take away from preseason games, but the one truly concerning issue is the that of the Washington bigs.
They struggled mightily in screen/roll situations, the guards would play their part and lead their man to the bigs. Only to have the big overcommit, or be slow to step over. Leaving the roll man wide open for easy baskets, against a player that plays above the rim like Whiteside, it was easy baskets for Miami. It could have been just an isolated night, but every big that played outside of Markieff Morris struggled in those situations.
Still, there were a few positives for Washington. Rookie Tomas Satoransky got to see his first NBA game action, Morris showed off his offseason of shooting the ball, finishing with 11 points, including two 3-pointers. Sheldon McClellan made an impression as well, making an impression on the defensive end. It’s far too early to make sweeping conclusions after just one game.
One thing to keep in mind when looking at this game, the Heat have an established culture with a coach that has been in place for years. Regardless of their personnel losses, Miami is going to be a physical, defensive team on that side of the ball. Washington is trying to build and establish a culture here under Coach Brooks, it’s going to take time. TheWizards will travel to Philadelphia next to take on the 76ers. The defense will have to improve as it was surely not up to Scott Brooks standards.
Beal. After dealing with a concussion near the end of training camp, the Wizards shooting guard showed that he’s regained his health. His first basket came off a curl, something he was working on during pre game warm ups. One of the things that stood out to me is that he’s starting to snake off the screen/rolls. This allows him to create space for his smooth pull up jump shot. Another noticeable difference in this offense is that Brad is coming off screens for three point looks versus the midrange variety he often took last year.
Defense. Nonexistent for the most part, there wasn’t any bite on that end of the floor at all. While many seemed to put the onus on the guards, the bigs really struggled in pick-and-roll defense. Not going to make a big deal of it yet, but if it continues, it’s fair to think that will be an area in which the staff decides which bigs make the roster or not.
Tomas. He’s a pro, not once did the rookie look out of place or that the NBA game is too big for him. There were a couple of learning moments in which he realized some of his passes aren’t as easy to make in this league versus his former league. It was very clear that he has more of a feel for the point guard position than Trey Burke. Tomas showed off good floor vision and delivered timely passes to his teammates, he also worked on the defensive end. It’s clear that he understands the game, there were a couple of great off-ball cuts he made in the game. basket.
McClellan. His defensive effort jumped out very early, on a night when not many were fully engaged on that end of the floor. In he first half he got a deflection, than ran it down before beating two Heat defenders for a basket.
Oubre. He started slow, but as he got more time in the game he started to get comfortable. Made a few bad decisions when in possession of the ball in terms of deciding whether to move it or keep it, but a solid night in all for the second year man. He also got involved defensively with a couple of deflections and steals. One thing that showed up was that he is far more confident in catch and shoot situations.
Whiteside. Miami’s man in the middle dominated this game from the opening tip. He was active defensively as usual, but he appeared to have improved his 1-on-1 defense. His blocks all weren’t of the help side vareity, twice he blocked the man he was guarding. Offensively, he looks far more polished. Again, just one game, but he seems more comfortable with his back to the basket.