Scott Brooks is in his inaugural season with the Washington Wizards, and the team left their dreadfully rocky start in 2016.
After seven seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Washington brought Brooks on board with the hopes of him leading them to the postseason. When he was stationed in the Midwest, he amassed a 338-207 record that included 39 playoffs wins and an NBA Finals appearance back in 2012.
Of course, there was some speculation about how much of the Thunder’s success was rooted in their coaching because they had such tremendous talent in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. A lot of it is placed on the players, but all of that talent tells us that Brooks knows how to deal with superstars, and it’s no fluke that he won Coach of the Year in 2010.
He was also just named the NBA’s Coach of the Month for January, and the Wizards went from a .500 team to the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed in a 30-day span. Washington was 12-4 last month, and they finished winning nine of their last 10, and that includes five in a row.
Their offense has been clicking on all cylinders, and defensively they’ve brought the clamps out with them on a nightly basis. Washington was seventh in scoring (109.4) and third in field goal percentage (49.2), and they limited opponents to just 102.6 points on 43.4 percent from the field — those were fourth and first in the league, respectively, according to NBA.com.
Brooks’ offense is centered around John Wall, whose play style is very similar to Westbrook’s. Both guards love to get out in transition, but Wall is a more refined passer whereas Westbrook uses his godly athleticism to collapse the defense and make dump off passes.
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Wall’s health was an issue heading into the season after he underwent knee surgery, but he was just named an All-Star, and January featured some of the best basketball of his career. In 36.3 minutes a night, Wall averaged 21.2 points (29th) but finished second to Chris Paul with 10.9 assists a night.
Bradley Beal also had an outstanding January and is looking like he’s worth the max contract he netted. He ended the month as the Wizards’ leading scorer with a 22.2 per night clip, and he did so by shooting 48.9 percent from the field, 37.7 from three and 85.2 from the line.
Both Wall and Beal were expected to put up All-Star caliber numbers, but the surrounding pieces were what would make or break Washington’s season. Brooks rallied his troops and is getting the best production ever from Markieff Morris and Otto Porter. The two forwards were lights-out from three over their 16 games, and Porter’s mark of 49.4 percent from downtown was third-highest among players who attempted at least four threes a night; Morris wasn’t as accurate, but 41.4 percent is far from shabby, and his biggest impact came on the glass. The former Jayhawk was second to Marcin Gortat with 8.6 rebounds a night, and that’s way up from his season average of 6.8.
I’m a firm believer that a coach can never get blamed for all of his team’s struggles, and he can also never get all the praise when the team gets hot. However, he does play a part in both scenarios. With Scott Brooks, it’s clear that he and the Wizards have moved beyond their growing pains, and they’re a legitimate threat to snag a top-three seed if they continue to level of play.
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