The Washington Wizards ranked near the bottom of the NBA last season in several defensive categories.
The team with a 32-50 record allowed a league-worst 19 points per game on field goals made while defended at the rim, despite defending 66.2 percent of shots at the rim, which was fourth-highest percentage in the league.
After a spirited third day of training camp Thursday at the team’s practice facility in southeast D.C. which incorporated some one-on-one and other defensive sets, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said the team’s defense must improve.
“There’s a lot of similarities in every defensive system — you got to get back on defense, you’ve got to contest the shot, you’ve got to rebound,” said Brooks, a former NBA point guard. “Whatever we did last year, we didn’t do good enough. This year, hopefully we can do much better.”
Washington plans to incorporate more switching on defense and pressuring of perimeter players to stop penetration into the paint.
Third-year center Thomas Bryant, the only projected starter besides All-Star Bradley Beal, could be the Wizards’ defensive anchor. Bryant, 22, who averaged 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds last season, energized the team during stretches last season and was a fan favorite.
“I take that upon myself to be the vocal point on defense,” Bryant said. “The big man is the anchor on defense and sees everything. I try to be as vocal as a I can on the defensive end and just help my teammates.”
Trust will be a key word because Washington could have up to 10 new players on the roster. One of those players, Justin Anderson, 25, signed a non-guaranteed contract last month and seeks to make the team after playing last season with the Atlanta Hawks.
“We all have the opportunity to be here and have the opportunity to compete, so you have to take advantages of these situations,” said Anderson, a 6-foot-6 forward who played college ball at the University of Virginia. “[The Wizards] are trying to change the culture here. I want to be a part of that.”
Washington plays its first preseason game Monday in D.C. against the New York Knicks. The team’s first regular season game will be Oct. 23 at the Dallas Mavericks.
Meanwhile, the Wizards announced center Ian Mahinmi will miss the start of the regular season due to a strained right Achilles tendon. The team said Mahinmi “will be treated conservatively” and re-evaluated in six weeks.
Other injured players include All-Star point guard John Wall, who could miss the entire regular season to rehabilitate an Achilles injury.
Veterans Isaiah Thomas and C.J. Miles, who Washington signed this summer, are recovering from procedures. The Wizards’ first-round draft pick from last year, Troy Brown Jr., strained his calf and could miss a month of action.