Photo via Washington Times
By Tyler Wiese
On January 11, 2017, the Washington Wizards were 19-19 and posed no threat in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs. A core of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat is not exactly a starting lineup that keeps LeBron James awake at night.
After the game last Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Wizards have the NBA talking about a potential matchup in the playoffs with Cleveland. The Wizards are hot! They’re winning games and have played themselves in the middle of the Eastern Conference standings with a 31-21 record.
#2 John Wall (Courtesy of SB Nation)
How have the Wizards gotten so hot?
Let’s start out with the eccentric all-star leader, John Wall. The former number one pick in the 2010 draft has averaged 23 points and 10.5 assists which would both be a career high if this trend continues.
Wall has turned a young and talented team into a dangerous unit that can dominate every aspect of the game. He has given the Wizards the leader the team needed and he has the experience to take Washington on a playoff run that could ultimately lead them in for a series against LeBron James and the Cavs.
Home Court Advantage
Going into the Cleveland matchup on Monday night, Washington had a 17-game home win streak. While the Cavs won the game, there is no doubt in any fan’s mind that the Wizards put up a fight and fell a little short due to what will be considered, shot of the year.
Before the shot heard around the league, Washington was rolling at home; taking down opponents like Chicago, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Boston. When the playoffs roll around, the Wizards will be hard to beat at home. In a big market city like Washington D.C., winning in the playoffs is hard to come by. Don’t be surprised if there are big fan turnouts come April and May.
(Courtesy of NBA.com)
Bradley Beal signed a massive contract this summer which included $128 million over five years. Otto Porter Jr. is a Restricted Free Agent this summer coming off his rookie contract and John Wall is proving that he is worth more than the five-year, $80 million contract extension he signed in 2013.
It makes sense that players will perform better than he usually does when a payday is on the way, and that is the case with the Wizards. Beal’s contract appeared to be a very questionable move by Washington going into the season, but a campaign without injuries is exactly what Beal needed as he is having a career year. Beal has been proving all of his critics wrong as many were appalled by the huge contract Beal received in the offseason. Otto Porter was the third overall pick in a very weak draft. While Porter hasn’t been as disappointing as Anthony Bennett or Alex Len, he hasn’t lived up to his expectations he had at Georgetown.
“Don’t be surprised if you see a seven game series between [Cleveland and Washington] in the Eastern Conference Finals.”
What to Expect for the Rest of the Season
The Wizards have struggled against the top teams in the NBA (Cleveland, San Antonio, Houston, Toronto) with a 0-7 record against these teams and still have four pivotal matchups against Boston, Toronto and Atlanta left to determine the playoff seeding.
Other than that, the Wizards have been tested by the western conference and have a fairly easy schedule to close out the season besides the two matchups with Golden State.
If Washington can stay healthy, they will be a lock to host in the first round of the playoffs. Washington has proven they can beat most teams (especially teams in the Eastern Conference) and that is what will send them far in the playoffs.
This year won’t be an early exit for the Wizards, they are playing good basketball and are only 2.5 games behind the Celtics for the two seed. If you liked what you saw in the Monday night matchup against Cleveland, don’t be surprised if you see a seven game series between the two teams in the Eastern Conference Finals.