While one obvious story line for the 2019-20 Wizards has been the team’s lack of defensive acumen — and Brooks shared several ideas for upgrading on that end — the most surprising element of the season is how good the Wizards have been on offense.
Despite a 4-8 record, Washington ranked first in the NBA in points (119.7) and assists (27.9) per game entering play Thursday. Although the season remains in its infancy, the Wizards have put up historic numbers. If they maintain their 114.2 offensive rating, the number of points scored per 100 possessions, these Wizards would become the only team in franchise history to produce a rating above 112.
“It’s fun, fun as hell, excuse my language,” reserve center Moritz Wagner said following Wednesday’s shootout, in which every bench player had at least two assists and the unit amassed 63 points.
“When the ball moves like that . . . it’s ridiculous,” Wagner continued. “It’s obviously a lot of fun, and when you play the game with that type of joy, good things happen to you.”
The Wizards have scored 130 or more points four times, the most of any team in the league. They have racked up 30 or more assists in five games and even shot better than 50 percent in more games this season than 28 other teams. Six players average double figures in scoring, led by Bradley Beal’s 30.3 points per game.
“We’re leading the league in assists. I’m shocked in a way,” Brooks said. “Like I said [Wednesday] night, there’s a lot of guys I didn’t know [what] they were capable of doing. I didn’t know how they would perform in game situations, under duress, and a lot of guys have stepped up.”
But here’s the crazy part: The Wizards think they can get even better on offense.
“Yes. That might be surprising but yes,” reserve forward Davis Bertans said. “Sometimes we had some games where we think we didn’t even play all that good on offense, we missed shots, and still scored 130 points.”
Bertans is one of six new players in Washington’s 10-man rotation, as well as a shooter with a green light. Against the Spurs, his former team, Bertans made 4 of 7 attempts from beyond the three-point arc and scored 21 points off the bench. Although Bertans said Wizards shooters have the freedom to launch away, the team has attempted the sixth-fewest three-pointers in the NBA (415). And although Washington tops the league in assists, Bertans recalls rare occasions when the ball has stuck.
So just imagine what would happen if the Wizards start taking more threes and perfecting their already strong ball movement?
“On offense, I feel like there’s still a lot of games where we’re not making our open threes. If we make those, we get to 150,” Bertans said. “Sometimes we get away from moving the ball. We get stuck a little bit and don’t score for a couple of minutes and stuff like that. You get rid of that and start making some open shots, then every game is going to be like the Houston game on offense.”
A smile eased across Bertans’s face as he recalled the Oct. 30 night when the Wizards and Rockets combined for 317 points, the most in an NBA game decided by a point (a 159-158 win). Washington played that early-season game with plenty of joy but little defense. Not much has changed.
On Thursday afternoon, when he was asked whether the team has settled on trying to win games on the offensive end because the roster lacks stoppers, Brooks objected.
“No, we want to play better defense,” Brooks said. “When you’re struggling defensively, it’s not one guy, and that’s the case with us."
Still, the Wizards think they can progress to new heights — and not just on the end that needs the most work.