Game On: New Orleans Pelicans @ Washington Wizards

Published: February 22, 2014

The 23-31 Pelicans will be visiting the 26-28 Wizards on the second night of a back tonight. The Wizards, though below .500, are in the playoff hunt in the East and currently rank as the 5th seed.

Bourbon Street Shots is privileged to welcome John Converse Townsend of Truth About It to answer some questions about the Washington Wizards. Here are my questions and his responses.

1) I’m not a hashtagger, but #MaynorTime might have been the best I ever saw. Can you explain its origin to our readers? Also, is there any part of you that will miss #MaynorTime?

John Converse Townsend: It’s certainly up there in the hashtag hierarchy. #MaynorTime was the creation of TAI’s resident min-maxed half-elf ranger, Conor Dirks.

I asked Conor this morning for the origin story:

“It sprang from that period of time in every game when the Wizards gave Wall a rest and Maynor was still presumptively the backup. Just inevitable. Maynor’s time.”

It was the worst of times… It was the worst of times. I’m glad it’s in the past.

2) The Wizards have an identical home and road record. Are you underperforming at home, overachieving on the road, or is there something else in play?

John Converse Townsend: The Wizards just aren’t a very good team. Randy Wittman has said so himself:

“Exerting your will on the game for 82 games, this team does not do. When we do that, we’re pretty good, but we’re not a good team because we don’t do it all the time.”

They lose close games (3-8 in games decided by three points or less). They lose to Western Conference foes (8-14). But every now and then, they put a really good game together: the Wiz are the only team in the NBA this season to beat the Heat, Thunder and Trail Blazers by double-digits.

The Wizards’ starting five is pretty damn good. Those guys can play with anybody out there. But the team has no depth, which is why Wittman has been forced to play eight- or nine-man rotations. The Wiz are competitive, but flawed. This is the type of team that Leonsis dreamed of owning last season: average. In that sense, Ernie Grunfeld delivered.

3) John Wall got a huge contract this summer and rewarded Wizards fans with his first All-Star appearance. How good has he been this season and how good can he become?

John Converse Townsend: He’s been great, has started every game, and he absolutely deserved his All-Star nomination. Wall leads the team in points per game (19.9) and is third in the NBA in assists per game (8.6), behind Steph Curry and Ty Lawson.

He’s the engine that makes this team run. Without Wall, the Wizards are nothing. That became clear last year when Wall was hurt and the Wizards went 5-28. With the “Game Changer” back in the lineup, they finished the 2012-13 season 24-25.How good can he be? The sky is the limit. He’s already improved as a game manager, leading the Wizards to their first “winning record” since they were 2-1 in October 2009, and as an all-around threat.

Fun Fact: He’s made more 3s this year (62) as he did in his first three seasons combined (49).If you can knock him for anything, it’s his scoring down the stretch. He has the worst eFG% in “closing time” this year. But—and this is a big but—he’s in the top 10 in clutch free throw attempts (1.4) and assists per game (0.7).

4) Otto Porter, Jr. was high on many Pelicans fans’ wishlists this summer, but y’all snatched him at #3.. yet he’s not seeing the floor much. Give us your Porter analysis.

John Converse Townsend: Otto Porter… Man, I really did not want the Wizards to draft the kid. But they did.In July, I was watching Porter play (or rather get out-played by nobodies) during the Vegas Summer League and tweeted: “So, this Otto Porter guy is supposed to catapult the #Wizards into the playoffs? Did they get relegated or something?” That got some stink from Wizards fans: YOU’RE REALLY TAKING SUMMER LEAGUE SERIOUS, BRO? But it was clear to me then that he was not ready for the NBA. And not much has changed since. He’s shooting 28.6 percent from the field, he hasn’t hit a 3-pointer, he looks slow (he is slow), and he rarely gets any playing time, even in blowouts.

His rookie year has been a quiet, #SoWizards disaster. Porter should probably send Anthony Bennett a thank-you card.(To be fair to Bennett, when the Cavs visited D.C. he tied Otto Porter’s career-high seven points in the first half, and has posted two double-doubles in his past five games. He’s figuring it out.)

Otto Porter Shot Chart



5) What is the biggest strength of this Wizards team?

John Converse Townsend: I’ll give you two: size (Wall is the smallest player on the team at 6-foot-4) and speed (they are fifth in the NBA in fastbreak points per game (16.4)).

6) What is the biggest weakness of this Wizards team?

John Converse Townsend: Efficiency is a four-letter word in D.C.

Randy Wittman & Co. love the midrange jumper (second-most attempts) but can’t make ’em (just 36.6 percent, ranked 27th). They really should be taking more 3s (second in 3P%), but are in the bottom half (17th) in attempts from beyond the arc.

Wittman’s suspect offensive system and the players’ insistence on taking shots they can’t make is why they are below .500 (26-28), despite being the fifth seed in the East. The Western Conference’s fifth seed, Portland, has 37 wins.

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