For the last five years, the Washington Wizards have been associated with expected regression and continuous disappointment. While the Wizards had a brief moment of jubilation between 2004 and 2008 when they made it to the post season four years in a row, their concerted efforts only garnered them a single playoff victory during that time span. Although the Wizards have hardly been the team that they were four decades ago when they were perennial playoff contenders, they have finally persevered through their abysmal transgressions and have put themselves in position to make the playoffs. Despite the Wizards deplorable track record of being one in done when it comes to the post season, this could be the year when this under the radar franchise finally takes the next step to being competitive in the Eastern Conference once again.
While the Eastern Conference has unquestionably been rife with inconsistent performances from the majority of the current playoff contenders, it has allowed organizations that were once irrelevant to make something of themselves this year. For the Washington Wizards, the timing of their conferences lackluster ways is a godsend for a team that has the potential to shock any opponent they could potentially go up against in the playoffs.
Of course, even when the Wizards were at the bottom of the barrel of their conference in years past, they at least had a dominant showstopper in their young point guard John Wall. This year, Wall’s instinctual talents and unwavering determination have not been for nothing as he has stepped up continuously as the Wizards fearless leader and prolific scorer. Even in the Wizards devastating defeats, Wall never seems to lose that steely eyed focused and vivacity that makes him an intimidating annoyance for the opposition that makes the conceded mistake of underestimating him. As Wall’s career has progressed, his statistical contributions have only become more significant as he averages 20 PPG along with 8.8 APG (both career highs). On top of that, Wall has become an avid perimeter threat as he shoots at least four three pointers per game and makes about 35.7% of those shots (career high).
However, while Walls dominance on the court isn’t anything new for this lopsided Wizards team, the emergence of the opportunistic defender Marcin Gortat has helped this franchise become more than just a one man scoring show. Although Gortat’s talents flourished during his three-year stint in Phoenix, his versatile capabilities carried over nicely to a Wizards team that was in desperate needs of a veteran player. Not only is Gortat a reliable scorer underneath the basket, he has been sensational in the nations capital as a tenacious rebounder (he already has 663 rebounds on the season, a career high).
Aside from these two superstars, the Wizards are still trying to find a consistent groove with the remainder of their starting roster. Although the Wizards have gotten some mileage from small forward Trevor Ariza (14.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG), the rest of the Wizards roster leaves something to be desired at least on a game-to-game basis. At their best, the Wizards have the aggressive underdog mentality to defeat the likes of Indiana and Portland with their impressive ball movement skills (23.2 APG, 7th in NBA) and relatively stingy defense (100.1 point allowed per game, 12th in NBA). However, at their absolute worst, the Wizards are capable of emulating their embarrassing fiascos of the last five years by relinquishing astronomically high point totals to teams such as Cleveland and Milwaukee. Still, despite the Wizards missteps at times, they have proven to be a markedly better team than they were last year and haven’t allowed themselves to be blown out as frequently (they have only lost by six points or less in their last four out of five losses).
In the end, the Wizards have found a way to rediscover their potent offensive and defensive capabilities that as allowed them to garner one surprising victory after another. While this franchise may not yet be ready to go the distance in the playoffs, they have at least laid down a workable foundation that they can use to rebuild this cherished organization. Although they may not have what it takes to go far this year, this team has the inspirational potential to become the Portland Trailblazers of the Eastern Conference in the years to come.