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What’s Going on With the Wizards After the All-Star Break?

Jordan Poole is a huge part of the Washington Wizards struggles.

The Washington Wizards (9-47) have dropped ten consecutive games after having lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 147-106 on Friday Night. Interim head coach Brian Keefe is now 2-11 at the helm in Washington. The Washington Wizards struggles are clear and the future is clear as milk.

What’s Going On with the Wizards After the All-Star Break?

Defense and Rebounding is Non-Existent

Since the All-Star break, Washington suffered lopsided losses to the Denver Nuggets and the Thunder while displaying abysmal defense. Washington gave up 72 first-half points to the Nuggets and 80 first-half points to the Thunder, respectively. In fact, Washington has allowed opposing teams to score 110-plus points for eighteen consecutive games.

The Wizards are currently ranked 29th in team defense (allow 119.8 points per game) and rank last in rebounding (48.1 per game), which have been themes for Washington all season long. Denver and Oklahoma City both shot over 55% from the floor (55.4%-Nuggets, 59.8%-Thunder) compared to Washington having shot under 40% in both contests, respectively. On the glass, Washington was out- rebounded 116-83 collectively over the past two games.

In the clip, Nikola Jokic grabs a defensive rebound and tosses the ball Patrick Mahomes-like across the court to Aaron Gordon. Kyle Kuzma, who stands at 6-foot-8, provided no exertion in disrupting the catch by Gordon even though he was hip-to-hip next to him.

Washington and the Detroit Pistons are the only two teams that have yet to eclipse double-digit victories, respectively. It’s going to be hard for the Wizards to reach ten wins if it keeps giving up 100-plus points and getting out-rebounded every contest.

Jordan Poole Moved to the Bench, Bilal Coulibaly Starts

Meanwhile, Wizards guard Jordan Poole’s first season as a full-time starter continues its downward spiral. Keefe announced prior to the Nuggets contest that Poole would be coming off the bench. The former Golden State Warrior is shooting 39.6 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three-point range, which are both career-lows outside of his rookie year.

Poole’s shot selection, body language, defensive effort, and confidence have been called into question since coming to Washington.

In the video, Poole is inbounding the ball and attempts to pass it to Deni Avdija, but mistakenly passes it to Jamal Murray, thus, causing another turnover. It seemed as though Poole wanted to bounce-pass the ball to Avdija but was hesitant in the action of the pass.

In the matchups against Denver and Oklahoma City, Poole shot a combined 30.1 percent from the field and 29.1 percent from beyond the arc, respectively. Poole’s overall demeanor and dejected approach on the court is alarming to say the least, especially a player of his potential.

Rookie forward Bilal Coulibaly has started in place of Poole for two consecutive games since the all-star break. In the two affairs, Coulibaly contributed 4 and 11 points in each contest, respectively. Despite the minimal scoring impact, the rookie continues to display aggressiveness while on the floor.

Coulibaly receives a pass in the corner three-point range area and is guarded by Shai-Gilgeous-Alexander out in the perimeter. The rookie aggressively comes off his triple-threat stance, drives left, but quickly spins inside to get around Gilgeous-Alexander to finish at the rim despite Josh Giddey providing contention in the paint.

Keefe is giving Coulibaly strong minutes (26 min per game) and putting him in prominent situations to help him grow and mature in the NBA. Player development is Keefe’s specialty.

Deni Avdija Injured, Landry Shamet Starts

Wizards forward Deni Avdija missed Friday night’s game against the Thunder due to a left heel contusion. Avdija has emerged as one of Washington’s premier players with his heavy contributions in the scoring and rebounding departments. In the last ten games, Avdija has averaged 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3 assists, respectively.

The Wizards forward had a rough outing against Denver by having shot 2/12 from the field and only contributed five points. However, expect Avdija to bounce back when he returns to the court.

Due to Poole’s benching and Avdija’s injury, Keefe inserted Landry Shamet in the starting lineup against the Thunder. Shamet started his first game of the season against the Thunder and contributed 3 rebounds, zero points, and had a +/- of -17 in 19 minutes, respectively. It’s understandable that Keefe wants to try different lineups, but perhaps Poole should’ve started despite his poor play as of late.

The Last Word

The Wizards upcoming schedule doesn’t get easier as they face the Cleveland Cavaliers (2/25), Golden State Warriors (2/27), Los Angeles Lakers (2/29), and the Los Angeles Clippers (3/1). Three out of those four teams rank in the top-15 in rebounding (Cavaliers, Warriors, and Lakers) and two out of the four teams rank in the top-6 in defense (Clippers and Cavaliers), respectively.

Despite the losing streak, there are still 26 games remaining for Keefe and the Wizards to find positive aspects of the season to takeaway from.

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