The Wizards are sharing the ball and the offense is flowing


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Four games into the young NBA season, the Washington Wizards have found success attacking opposing defenses with unselfishness. The team has showed off a new level of offensive versatility, allowing their depth to shine unlike in years past.

“It’s a solid balance where the ball is moving. That means they’re moving bodies, moving the ball. Everybody’s involved,” Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “I think that helps also on the defensive end. Your overall offensive efficiency, but also guys feel like they’re part of it. They’re more invested in trying to defend at a high level.”

Following Tuesday’s 120-99 victory over Detroit, the Wizards have had at least five players reach double digits in three of their first four games. At least four players have reached double figures in every game. This balance has helped maintain offensive rhythm while keeping opposing defenses guessing.

Buckner: These Wizards really seem to like each other. Last season, not so much.

“At the end of the day, if everybody is in double figures, it’s contagious. It’s going to be a different person’s night every night,” guard Monte Morris said. “It’s not going to be the same doses and I think that’s a really good dynamic on our roster.”

In years prior, a majority of the offensive responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of Bradley Beal. He has consistently been tasked with generating shots for himself and others, leading to the growth of his playmaking.

While he remains the clear engine for Washington, the scoring burden that Beal has to carry is lighter than in past years. Furthermore, his willingness to leverage his offensive gravity to benefit his teammates has set a clear tone in the early going.

“I think it starts with Brad. Brad has been making plays for everybody, sharing the ball even though he’s the most talented guy, the best scorer we have on the team,” center Kristaps Porzingis said. “He’s setting that example for everybody else and we have to play that way to be a team that plays the right way, makes the right pass.”

In a small sample size, Beal is averaging 14 shot attempts per game this season, down from 19.3 in 2021. This decreased workload would serve to benefit Beal’s efficiency and effectiveness as the year rolls on. He is averaging 20.5 points per game, 6.3 assists, and is shooting 58.9 percent from the field.

“That does take pressure off [Beal]. We’re asking him to do a lot, make plays, score for us,” Unseld said regarding the Wizards’ offensive continuity. “When he has the confidence to make those right plays at the right time and guys step up, make shots, I think that just reinforces his level of confidence in his teammates.”

Another catalyst for the Wizards’ offensive diversity has been a clear upgrade in versatility. Multiple players on the roster have the ability to initiate offensive sets and put pressure on opposing defenses to create quality shots for themselves or others. This creation ability was highlighted by 26 assists on Tuesday.

Will Barton also personified the team’s versatility and depth, providing a major spark against the Pistons. When Beal needed rest due to back tightness, Barton stepped in to help initiate the offense. His flashy dribble moves and passing energized the team, leading a Wizards’ surge in the second quarter. He finished with 16 points on an efficient 6-for-9 shooting to go along with four assists.

“I just try to take what the game gives me. If I need to be a scorer, I’ll be a scorer. If the pass is there, I’ll pass,” Barton said. “My mentality is to be the ultimate professional. I have the utmost confidence in my game. I work hard every day. I get my reps up so I can thrive in any role.”

Throughout his NBA career, Barton has proved that to be true. As a pivotal part of several playoff teams in Denver, his well-rounded game was an important part of the team’s success. In 32 minutes per game last season, Barton averaged 14.7 points, 3.9 assists, and shot 36.5 percent from deep.

His production was only amplified by his versatility. Whether he was starting, coming off the bench, or filling in at point guard, Barton consistently had his fingerprints all over Nuggets’ victories. After being traded to the Wizards in July, Barton will look to grow into a similar role for a team looking to return to the postseason.

“He’s been a part of a winning culture with a winning team and he’s mature enough at this point to understand the role,” Unseld Jr. said. “In that second unit, he gets an opportunity to shine.”

As the Indiana Pacers roll into town Friday, Washington will strive to maintain its offensive continuity. Their goal is to keep things simple, trust one another and play the right way. So far, this has been a winning recipe for the Wizards.

“Just share the ball. That’s it. Make the right play,” Morris said. “If we can do that, I think we’ll be good.”



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