The Great Chase: The Wiz Eyeing #2 Seed

Remember when the Wizards were a miserable product to watch? Remember when they blew big leads at home? Remember when John Wall couldn’t shoot in the clutch? Remember when Wall turned the ball over in key moments? Remember when the Wiz failed on the court? Remember when more Laker fans showed up than Wizard fans? Remember when Wall and Bradley Beal were awkward teammates with body language screaming to save one of them from the other? Remember when Scotty Brooks took all that losing in stride? Remember the all black fashion statement against Boston? Remember the dog days of the early season when after Thanksgiving the Wizards were humiliated by the Spurs B team at the Verizon Center?

There is  a reason the NBA season is 82 games and not 22 games. There is time for improvement.

A coach who has been to the NBA Finals and mentored two top-5 players, an All-Star former #1 pick having the best season of his career, a fourth year wing leading the NBA in three point percentage, a shooting guard notorious for his injuries suddenly being healthy, this is how the Wizards have come back from their disastrous start.

Once upon a time the Wiz were 7-13. That they didn’t play on Xmas day was a non-story. No one, the league included, thought the Wizards were worthy enough, flashy enough, cool enough, competitive enough, good enough, to mix it up with the NBA popular teams But since December 26th the Wizards have won 76% of the games on their schedule. They have lost 7 games. Their 23 wins have come against teams with gifted players. They have beaten Milwaukee (Giannis Antetokounmpo), Indiana (Paul George), Chicago (Jimmy Butler), Memphis (Marc Gasol), Charlotte (Kemba Walker), Boston (Isaiah Thomas), Atlanta (Dwight Howard), OKC (Russell Westbrook), Warriors (Steph Curry), Toronto (DeMar DeRozan).

In the span of 30 games, the Wizards have more wins against non-playoff teams but they have competed hard against playoff teams, losing only 5 games and posting a 66% winning percentage.

Since Dec. 26th (W-L):

  • Playoff teams: 10-5
  • Non-playoff teams: 13-2

The Wizards are two games behind the Celtics for the two seed and the luxury of not facing the Cavs until the Eastern Conference Finals. No one is questioning their ability to get there. Their confidence is sky high. Wall is having a career year. Beal signed the max deal and is delivering on almost 40% three point shooting. Markieff Morris had a monster January and February, 17 points per game. Otto Porter is Most Improved Player who will get paid in the off season. Scott Brooks is in the convo for Coach of the Year. The Wizards added more shooting in Bojan Bogdanovic. Brandon Jennings is coming to help John Wall. Jennings is a better pick up than Lou Williams because Williams is a ball mover and is quick to the rim.

The Wizards play Toronto again on Friday night. Then they have six games against lottery bound teams, five of them on the road. They have one more matchup with the Celtics in Boston on March 20th. Five days later they start a road trip in Cleveland and end it in Golden State. Fan Appreciation night, the last home game of the season, is against Miami on April 8th.

What have the Wizards done right this season?

They are 5th in fast break points and three point percentage. 8th in scoring and assists. 3rd in field goal percentage. 2nd in steals. 10th in three point defense.

The 52 points the Wizards get from their backcourt is 9th best. The 17 assists their backcourt dishes out is 2nd only to the Rockets. Credit the maturation of John Wall for the Wizards ascendancy. The Wizards point guard production is 7th best. Their point guards lead the league in assists (12.5) just edging out Scottie Brooks old team OKC (12.4).

But unlike a team like the Blazers, the Wizards have enough front court help to balance out their dominant guards which makes them a viable threat and very likely to grab that #2 seed.

Their weakness is rebounding and rim protection and opponents points per game. That may trip them up but not much. They will be a top 4 seed. How high can they go? Playing like this, blowing out the Raptors wire-to-wire, the sky is the limit.

 

photo via llananba