The Wizards are sharing the ball and the offense is flowing

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Four games into the NBA season, the Washington Wizards have found success with unselfishness. They have shown a new level of offensive versatility, allowing their depth to shine — unlike in years past.

“It’s a solid balance where the ball is moving. That means they’re moving bodies, moving the ball. Everybody’s involved,” Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “I think that helps also on the defensive end — your overall offensive efficiency, but also guys feel like they’re part of it. They’re more invested in trying to defend at a high level.”

Following Tuesday’s 120-99 victory over Detroit, the Wizards have had at least five players reach double digits in three of their first four games. At least four have reached double figures in every game. That balance has helped maintain offensive rhythm while keeping the opponent guessing.

Buckner: These Wizards really seem to like each other. Last season, not so much.

“If everybody is in double figures, it’s contagious. It’s going to be a different person’s night every night,” guard Monte Morris said. “… I think that’s a really good dynamic on our roster.”

In years past, much of the offensive responsibility fell on the shoulders of Bradley Beal. He has consistently been tasked with generating shots for himself and for others, leading to the growth of his playmaking skills. He remains the engine for Washington, but the scoring burden he must carry is lighter than in previous seasons — and his willingness to leverage his offensive gravity to benefit his teammates has set the tone.

“It starts with Brad. Brad has been making plays for everybody, sharing the ball even though he’s the most talented guy, the best scorer we have on the team,” center Kristaps Porzingis said. “He’s setting that example for everybody else, and we have to play that way to be a team that plays the right way, makes the right pass.”

In a small sample size, Beal is averaging 14 shot attempts, down from 19.3 in 2021-22. This decreased workload should benefit his efficiency and effectiveness as the season rolls on. He is averaging 20.5 points and 6.3 assists and is shooting 58.9 percent.

“That does take pressure off [Beal]. We’re asking him to do a lot — make plays, score for us,” Unseld said of the Wizards’ offensive continuity. “When he has the confidence to make those right plays at the right time and guys step up, make shots, I think that just reinforces his level of confidence in his teammates.”

The Wizards also are clearly more versatile this season. Multiple players have the ability to initiate the offense and put pressure on the opposition to create shots for themselves or others. The Wizards had 26 assists on 44 baskets during Tuesday’s win.

Will Barton provided a major spark against the Pistons. When Beal needed to rest because of back tightness, Barton stepped in to help initiate the offense. His flashy dribbling and passing energized the team, leading to a Wizards surge in the second quarter. He finished with 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go with four assists.

“I just try to take what the game gives me. If I need to be a scorer, I’ll be a scorer. If the pass is there, I’ll pass,” Barton said. “My mentality is to be the ultimate professional. I have the utmost confidence in my game. I work hard every day. I get my reps up so I can thrive in any role.”

Throughout his NBA career, Barton has proved that to be true. As a pivotal part of several playoff teams in Denver, his well-rounded game was an important aspect of the Nuggets ‘success. In 32.1 minutes per game last season, Barton averaged 14.7 points and 3.9 assists and shot 36.5 percent from three-point range.

His production was only amplified by his versatility. Whether he was starting, coming off the bench or filling in at point guard, Barton consistently had his fingerprints all over Nuggets victories. After being traded to the Wizards in July, Barton will look to grow into a similar role for a team looking to return to the postseason.

“He’s been a part of a winning culture with a winning team, and he’s mature enough at this point to understand the role,” Unseld said. “In that second unit, he gets an opportunity to shine.”

When the Indiana Pacers come calling Friday, the Wizards will strive to maintain their offensive continuity. Their goal is to keep things simple, trust one another and play the right way. So far, that has been a winning recipe.

“Just share the ball — that’s it. Make the right play,” Morris said. “If we can do that, I think we’ll be good.”

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