WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards have learned to pass the ball well without John Wall, but at the same time, their ball-handling mistakes underscore how much they miss the all-star guard.
Since Wall went down with a knee injury in late January, the Wizards have played 17 games and won 11. During this span, the team has developed a knack for passing the ball.
In their last 15 games, the Wizards have put up an impressive 68.3 assist percentage, the second-highest percentage in the NBA behind only the Golden State Warriors. This means that nearly 70 percent of every field goal the Wizards made during that stretch came right after a pass.
The Wizards also have the fifth-highest assist per game rate this season, with a total of 24.6 assists per game as a team. In their last 15 games, however, the Wizards have passed the ball well enough for the third-best rate in the league, with 28.1 assists per game.
These are impressive statistics considering that Wall, the team’s primary ball handler, has missed significant time this season and yet still leads the team in total assists.
The Wizards have managed to keep up this high-assist total without the all-star guard thanks to improved passing from both shooting guard Bradley Beal and Tomas Satoransky, who has taken up the role as the team’s starting point guard in Wall’s absence.
“We’re just trying to always find the open man, trying to play smart, trying to move the ball,” Satoransky told Capital News Service after the Wizards’ loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday. “They’re putting a lot of pressure on Brad so we try to cut, looking for the open man.”
While assists have gone up without Wall, the team has also been turning over the ball excessively. In their last 15 games, the Wizards have averaged 15.5 turnovers a game, the fifth-highest total in the league during that span.
Although the Wizards picked up a narrow 117-113 win over the Miami Heat in overtime Tuesday night, the team allowed 19 turnovers that turned into 29 points for the Heat. It was a close game that the Wizards could have won in regulation had they not turned over the ball so much.
The team’s struggle with turnovers has resulted in easier offense for opposing teams this season. During their last 15 games, the Wizards have allowed opponents to score 20.5 points off of turnovers, the second-highest total in the league behind the struggling Memphis Grizzlies.
“We just need to be simple,” Beal said in a statement. “Sometimes we try to make the home-run play or a play that’s not there to get the assist, or whatever it may be.”
Part of the problem with the turnovers is that Wall was usually the player who took the ball up the court. He helped determine the flow of the offense, which is something Beal and Satoransky have been unable to do as effectively as Wall.
With the all-star guard still weeks away from returning to action, the Wizards will have to find a solution to their turnover problem soon. There are only 17 regular season games left and these games will help determine seeding when the playoffs start.
“All we have to do is move the ball, share it and shoot it,” Beal said. “Shoot it when you’re open and if you don’t shoot it when you’re open, that’s when the turnovers are allowed to happen.”