Spencer Dinwiddie Blows The Lid Off Washington Wizards’ Recent Struggles

The glow from a sterling 10–3 start long since faded for the Washington Wizards. With a blowout loss at Memphis on Jan. 29, the Wizards are just 13–23 since the blazing beginning and fell to 11th place in the Eastern Conference. So it’s not a complete surprise there might be some palace intrigue in the locker room. Point guard Spencer Dinwiddie shared some insights after the beating at the hands of the Grizzlies that paint an ugly picture of team dynamics in DC.

Washington has lost five games in a row, including an epic meltdown on Jan. 25 when the Wizards gagged up a 35-point lead at home in a 116-115 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. First-year coach Wes Unseld Jr. might require more than a magic wand to fix the team.

The Washington Wizards didn’t sustain the defense

During their 10–3 start, the Washington Wizards ranked fifth in the NBA in defensive rating. They since fell to 21st, allowing 111.4 points per 100 possessions.

Since the hot start, the Wizards are 27th in the NBA, surrendering a defensive rating of 114.6. Part of the slide was a progression to the mean by opposing shooters. Open shooters missed more shots against Washington early in the season than against any other opponent. That sort of luck was bound to flatten eventually.

When it did, it flattened the Wizards as well.

The team expected a drop-off when it traded Russell Westbrook and brought in Spencer Dinwiddie as his replacement at point guard. The Wizards didn’t expect to fall into an impact crater.

Spencer Dinwiddle claims to have been rejected as a team leader

Last summer, the Washington Wizards acquired Spencer Dinwiddie from the Brooklyn Nets in a sign-and-trade deal. It ended up as part of the deal that sent Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers, a five-team transaction fest featuring seven players, seven draft picks, and a draft position swap option.

Dinwiddle rose to NBA prominence in Brooklyn after being cut by both the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls. Sidelined most of last season by a partial ACL tear, he was limited to three games. Knocking the rust off has proven a long process for the 28-year-old LA native.

This season, he’s averaged 13.2 points, 5.7 assists, and 4.5 rebounds in 30.5 minutes per game. But he’s shooting only 44.9% from 2-point range and 31.5% on 5.3 3-point attempts per game. Once an effective finisher at the rim, particularly by exploiting big men on switches in the pick-and-roll, Dinwiddie is converting only 58.0% percent in the restricted area this season. That figure was 63.7% in 2019–20.

He’s a career 31.8% 3-point shooter, so one could question a system that has Dinwiddie launching nearly half (46.7%) of his attempts from the deep country.

After the loss in Memphis, Dinwiddie told Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington of some trouble behind the scenes.

“It’s an interesting situation,” Dinwiddie said. “I spoke up a little bit early on [this season]. It wasn’t necessarily welcomed. And so, like I said, I try to do whatever’s asked of me. At the end of the day, everybody has a role to play. It’s about being accountable in your role and doing that to the best of your ability. That’s really all I’ve got.”

If that sounds like potential trouble in paradise, you are probably on to something.

Spencer Dinwiddie runs the offense, but Bradley Beal is the frontman

When he tried to step up as a leader, Washington Wizards point guard Spencer Dinwiddie said the gesture wasn't well received.
When he tried to step up as a leader, Washington Wizards point guard Spencer Dinwiddie said the gesture wasn’t well received. | G Fiume/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards opened 2021–22 with a glut of new faces. Besides Spencer Dinwiddie, Washington also added Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, Aaron Holiday, and Isaiah Todd.

The team also recently welcomed Thomas Bryant (knee) and Rui Hachimura (personal) from extended absences. Working Bryant into the rotation with centers Harrell and Daniel Gafford proved particularly challenging.

But the Wizards are Bradley Beal’s team. The longest-tenured player on the club, Beal came to DC in the 2012 NBA Draft. He evolved from an oft-injured young player to one of the NBA’s elite scorers, averaging 31.3 points per game last season.

But Washington hasn’t advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2017. They were still called the Bullets during their last deep playoff run, an NBA Finals loss in 1979.

Over the last several seasons, much of the narrative surrounding Beal has involved trade speculation. That despite the 28-year-old from St. Louis repeatedly claiming that he doesn’t want to leave the nation’s capital.

The trade buzz heated up anew when Beal rejected a contract extension. However, it makes more financial sense to sign a new contract. But NBA trade rumors seldom let inconvenient realities interfere with a fun storyline.

Spencer Dinwiddie might not be the most popular guy in the locker room for the Washington Wizards. But with the team in freefall, someone needs to take the reins before a promising start disintegrates into a lost season.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com.

Like Sportscasting on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @sportscasting19.

RELATED: NBA Trade Rumors: Domantas Sabonis May Be Heading to Washington to Provide Much Needed Help for Bradley Beal