There hasn't been much to celebrate in Washington, with Jordan Crawford hijacking the offense from John Wall. Credit: Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- With Thursday's 93-89 loss to the Indiana Pacers, the Wizards are now 1-4 with their new franchise center Nene. The former Denver Nugget wasn't expected to immediately bolster the franchise into a contender, but a bevvy of close losses and blown leads have been unsettling for the players, fans and media who cover the team.
Following Nene's triumphant debut against the New Jersey Nets on March 21, the Wizards have lost four games by a combined total of 11 points. Excluding last Sunday's loss to Boston, -- Nene missed the game with back spasms -- let's take a closer look at what is going wrong for the Wizards.
*Jordan Crawford is effecting John Wall in a negative way
In the four losses, John Wall is 15-for-47 from the floor (31.9 percent) and many times looks withdrawn from the offense. Wall has pretty much been reduced to a decoy in half court sets. While I commend Wall for practicing his pull-up jumper in these meaningless games, his jumper is still rather ineffective.
Jordan Crawford isn't a guard who can catch and shoot. The second-year player from Xavier loves "trying" to create for himself off the dribble. In advanced stats, Crawford's usage rating is an extremely high 26.1, ranking above Kevin Love, Josh Smith, Paul Pierce and Chris Paul. The basketball is in his hands entirely too much. He's becoming a want-to-be Monta Ellis.
The worst part about this situation is that Crawford does have to shoot the ball 15-plus times a game in order for the Wizards to compete -- he's averaging 17.5 shots in Nene losses. Roger Mason Jr. and newly added Cartier Martin are the only other Wizards who aren't terrible shooters. Crawford is shooting nearly 48 percent during these four losses, but it's evident that playing him alongside Wall isn't a decison that has translated into wins. Crawford should move to the bench -- and still get his 28 minutes per game -- temporarily in favor of Roger Mason Jr. Why not experiment?
Wall has elevated his passing skills throughout the season, making this a puzzling dilema to solve. I'll argue that Wall was drafted number one overall to indulge in his scoring talents. In the four losses with Nene, Wall's averaging 12.8 points per game. Randy Wittman has to come up with more creative ways in which Wall can score. Running more off-ball plays with Wall setup on the wing may become necessary to get him going over the final portion of the season.
The Wizards haven't figured out how to get Nene going in the fourth quarter
Last week at home against the Pacers and the Hawks, Nene got out to a blazing start in both first quarters, which gave the Wizards momentum for most of the game. Washington has not found much success at getting their big man the ball when it matters most, in the fourth quarter.
Nene has attempted 42 shots over the span of the four losses, with 13 of them coming in the fourth quarter. Even though that equals out to more than 25 percent of his attempts, that shot number should be much closer to 20.
Nene was rarely ever the centerpiece of George Karl's offense in Denver. In close games, he was mainly required to play tight defense and grab boards. Well in Washington -- for the time being -- Nene is clearly the Wizards most established presence on the team. In the next close game, Nene should take a minimum of eight shots in the fourth quarter.
Jordan Crawford's shot selection and John Wall's decison making have repeatedly cost this young franchise meaningful close wins. I'd rather lose and try a new strategy than see Crawford make a ridiculous shot for a win, boosting his confidence on the flawed strategy he calls basketball.