For a team that suffered from a 29-53 record last year, the Washington Wizards have made major improvements this season in order to prove they have what it takes to be competitive on a nightly basis.
Head coach Randy Wittman has a different view from the sidelines than he has had in the past. Last year, Wittman witnessed a team full of talent that could not seem to get wins consistently. This season has had its ups and downs. Nevertheless, Wittman and his resilient crew are slowly but surely changing the culture of the Wizards’ franchise.
At a standing record of 34-31, the Wizards have already surpassed the 29 wins they had a season ago. On top of that, they are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Despite the East being a weaker conference than the West, the Wizards still deserve some serious credit.
A big reason for the success of the Wizards this season is undoubtedly the health of star point guard John Wall. Last year, Wall was diagnosed with a stress injury in his left kneecap that sidelined him until January. By that time, the Wizards had already tanked so badly, that there was not much Wall could do to help his team turn the season around.
Losing can get very old very fast, so Wall came back this season looking like a man on a mission! A five-year, $80 million contract extension for Wall this past off-season was pretty convincing that this was his team. The entire squad goes as he goes and Wall has been on turbo-mode all season. When talking about the best point guards in the game, Wall’s name has to be in the conversation. Wall is fifth among point guards in scoring with 19.6 points a game. This 6-foot-4, 195-pound guard also averages 8.8 assists(4th in the NBA) and 1.91 steals(6th in the NBA). Wall is a human pogo stick and can impact the game on both sides of the floor.
Additionally, the Wizards have had a strong supporting cast this season. Second year man Bradley Beal helps out with the scoring load by averaging 17.1 points. Trevor Ariza has been in a groove recently and gives the team a nice mix of contributions with averages of 15.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.78 steals. The squad is currently without Nene Hilario, who is suffering from a sprained left MCL but Marcin Gortat, Trevor Booker and Drew Gooden have picked up the slack down low for the team. The trade deadline pickup of veteran guard Andre Miller is another good sign for the Wizards because they need experience if they want to secure a spot in the playoffs.
The Wizards are coming off a 105-101 overtime victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night. This game was a strong example of how the Wizards have been able to overcome adversity time and time again during the duration of the season. Washington lost two games in a row prior to visiting Orlando and needed a win to get back on track. Wall scored 21 points and dropped 11 dimes. Ariza chimed in with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists. Beal added 20 points and Gortat and Trevor Booker each had a double-double.
This team exudes hunger and they can make some noise as the regular season comes to a close. Washington has a lot of good pieces. Who knows? The Wizards might upset a team or two in the playoffs if they get the chance but for now, they must focus on the present as they attempt to improve on what has already been a solid year.