If you were to tell a Wizards fan that this late in the season, their beloved basketball team was dancing around the .500 mark last year, they simply would not believe you. Yet, that is the exact position the team is in with a record of 16 and 19 that could easily be 5 games better if the team had executed better in late game situations, and a hold of the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference.
Shortly before the season began the Wizards swapped centers with the Phoenix Suns, relinquishing University of Connecticut star, Emeka Okafor, and receiving “The Polish Hammer” Marcin Gortat. The Wizards also gave up a protected first round pick to get Gortat, who serves as a major offensive upgrade and possesses a similar defensive skillset as Okafor. Many people both within and outside of the basketball world deemed this the piece that moved the Wizards from bottom feeders to playoff contenders in the extremely top-heavy Eastern Conference.
While the Wizards play has been deemed pretty good overall, there are some small flaws on this team that if fixed could move them from the lower half of the playoff teams to the 3 or the 4 seed. For starters, even though the Wizards are a relatively young team, they must begin to pull out close games. For example, the Wizards made a twenty point comeback against the explosive Houston Rockets Saturday night and even took a three point lead with less than 2 minutes left but were unable to hold off James Harden and company falling 114-107. With a 2 and 4 record in overtime games, coupled with their putrid at times late game execution the Wizards have plenty of room for improvement in close games.
One rather concerning stat that could doom the Wizards in the long run is their abysmal 1 and 13 record against teams above .500. If this team hopes to make it to the playoffs and stick around for a while this has to change. Unless the Wizards secure the three seed they will more than likely play a team with a better than .500 record, so their level of play against better teams has to pick up.
One thing that has been going extremely right for this club has been their should be All-star (He Still Trails Derrick Rose even though Rose is out for the year) point guard John Wall. The Kentucky product has averaged a tick under 20 ppg combined with 8.6 assist, 4 rebounds and 2 steals per contest. In the off-season Wall signed a max contract set for 5 years, 80 million dollars. There was many a head scratch and doubt that went on as a result of this deal but Wall has done nothing but live up to the hype. Any possibility of making the playoffs runs directly through John Wall as he has proven that he can take over a game on both ends of the floor. With the lack of a solid backup point guard, the burden will be on wall to log large minutes and run the team.
The Wizards without a doubt have the talent to reach the third seed in the East, but even if they don’t reach their highest aspirations they should still be able to lock down at least a spot in the playoffs. The Wizards are not a team predicated on depth so they need to avoid the injury bug by any means necessary. The often injured Brazilian Nene has already missed a handful of games with an Achilles issue as has stud Shooting Guard Bradley Beal with shin problems. Veteran Power forward Al Harrington has already missed most of the season with a knee problem but his return could serve as a huge boost down the stretch. A possible bright spot from Harrington and Nene missing time is that Clemson’s own Trevor Booker has been given a chance to play on a regular basis and has put up monster numbers in the rebounding game. With this talented core group the Wizards look primed to end their playoff drought. This upcoming month is mammoth for the Wizards as they can either stay afloat or sink.