The Wizards currently hold the sixth and 18th selections in the first round of the June 23 draft, and pick fourth (34th overall) in the second round. They have a glaring need at power forward, and upgrading at the wing forward and center positions would help as well, so Grunfeld could go in many directions.
Regardless of the path he chooses, however, improving Washington’s defense should be high on Grunfeld’s checklist. Whatever Grunfeld devises in an attempt to continue the progress owner Ted Leonsis expects, it had better include something for Washington to fare better at slowing opponents on offense.
Defense should be on Grunfeld’s mind whenever he reads scouting reports or analyzes video of top prospects. And if players express lack of interest in defense during pre-draft interviews, Grunfeld’s interest in them should wane.
The need for a major shift in defensive thinking is long overdue. It’s as clear as another blown rotation by Andray Blatche.
During Grunfeld’s eight-year tenure, Washington has been awful defensively, consistently finishing among the league’s worst in opponent field-goal percentage. Even during their stretch of four consecutive postseason appearances from 2004-05 to 2007-08, the Wizards never ranked higher than 20th in that key category and once finished 27th in the 30-team league.
High scoring is generally considered good for a ballclub’s attendance in the regular season. And it’s more common for players to be featured on television when they’re dunking rather than taking a charge.
Defense, though, is a major component of playoff success.
Given the Wizards’ disdain for it, their failure to advance far was not surprising. They lost three consecutive series in the first round and never made it beyond the Eastern Conference semifinals.
That’s not good enough for Leonsis, who envisions the Wizards one day rejoining the NBA’s elite. Washington is following the Oklahoma City Thunder model of team-building, and Leonsis used a similar blueprint to remake the Capitals into a NHL regular season power. (He hasn’t quite gotten the playoff thing figured out yet.)
In addition to patterning themselves after the exciting Thunder, the Wizards should try to emulate the defensive-minded Chicago Bulls, too.
Led by forward Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook, the athletic Thunder finished fifth in the NBA in scoring and has reached the Western Conference finals just three seasons after suffering a franchise-record 62 losses. Oklahoma City’s fast break is one of the best in the game and it has several players who can create their own shots.
Point guard Derrick Rose — the league’s most valuable player — is the Bulls’ only dynamic performer on offense, but they’ve thrived on team defense. Chicago led the league in opponent field-goal percentage, and defensive tenacity has helped it reach the Eastern Conference finals against Miami.