Randy Wittman and John Wall are hoping that the struggling Wizards can turn it around (Keith Allison/Flickr)

Randy Wittman and John Wall are hoping that the struggling Wizards can turn it around (Keith Allison/Flickr)

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Despite the offseason departure of Paul Pierce, the Washington Wizards and their young core were widely expected to turn in another quality season. Well, things haven’t quite gone that way. SB Nation NBA editor Mike Prada was gracious enough to stop by to discuss what’s holding this young team back, such as a porous defense and an onslaught of key injuries. Here are some of the highlights:  

1:55-2:25: On why the once elite defense has taken several steps back this season: “This year, of course, they’re playing small. They only have one big on the floor, and to try to compensate, they’re doing a lot of different switching, overcompensating, and trapping and recovering. It’s not working out very well, they don’t have the personnel for it… Even last year, they didn’t really have great defensive personnel, but they had a system and they had size that they could funnel everyone to. They don’t have that anymore and I think that’s the biggest problem.”

2:35-3:10: On Bradley Beal’s injury: “It’s gonna be really hard, since they don’t have a lot of really good replacements…have to run their offense more through John Wall…hopefully they can hit some 3s…teams are gonna help off Garrett Temple and Otto Porter…it’ll open space a little more…maybe they need to use more of Otto Porter’s playmaking…it’s a bad a injury, they really are going to miss (Beal) quite a bit”

3:35-5:00: On whether coach Wittman is to blame for the Wizards’ struggles: “It’s very easy to point the finger at Wittman, but this is a team that does not really have a lot of playmakers…whether it’s Randy Wittman coaching or Gregg Popovich…I think this is more of a personnel problem this year…fundamental problem…they don’t have enough guys that scare you on offense…I don’t think this is a situation where you can plug in a new coach and suddenly things are different.”

17:35-18:20: On the Wizards’ bastardization of small ball this season: “Lost the point of what small ball really is. It’s not that you shoot a lot more 3s only. It’s supposed to open space…to get to the basket, to penetrate, and make your playmakers playmake (make plays)…they just have a whole bunch of shooters that don’t really scare you…teams are closing hard on certain players and leaving others open…they just end up pinging the ball around the perimeter…have to be able to attack the basket off the dribble and use your speed to move the ball better…and none of that is happening.”

19:35-21:30: On Wizards’ team-building process in light of KD possibility (and/or how it hurt them in the here and now): “They have no contracts really past 2016…they have Wall…Gortat kinda had to (be given) a contract past 2016, they’re going to max out Beal at the end of their free-agency decisions…only gave out one-year deals this summer…to reserve cap space for Durant…it’s affected everything they’ve done…the way they’re playing is not exactly enticing Durant to come there… as disappointing as this season has been, this kind of like Stage 1 of what this team is around their three young players. And what they do this offseason kind of catapults them into what they’re gonna do.”

22:25-24:10: On the outlook for the remainder of Washington’s season: “I don’t think they’re OK. I’ll be honest…They’ve already been blown out by 15+ points six times this season. Who are they jumping over to get to 8?… Frankly, I think there’s under a 30 percent chance to make the playoffs now. Things really have to change. There’s too many teams for them to jump without a real jolt… I suppose it’s always possible that this all clicks. I think usually by about the 20-game mark you kind of know who you are. And we know this team is super-inconsistent, has a tendency to get just blown out, they’re not really good on both ends of the floor, and the wins they have gotten they’ve done it through deception and trickery more than quality. This is frankly not a very good team right now, and I don’t really see a path to it getting significantly better.”

Music: “Who Likes to Party?” by Kevin MacLeod