Written by: Kyle Andrews – Staff Writing Intern (@)
The Washington Wizards have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Many people didn’t initially consider the Wizards to be a playoff contender. They started off the season with a 7-13 record during their first 20 games. However, they have turned things around since the beginning of December.
Washington currently sits at fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 26-20 record and it’s due to a litany of many things. Some players are having career years, mainly forward Otto Porter. Porter sits atop the NBA in 3-point percentage (.456) and has scored a career-high of 14.2 PPG. Other starters like forward Markieff Morris (6.6) and center Marcin Gortat (11.4) are grabbing a career-high in rebounds and playing solid defense.
Let’s not forget about the dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, who have been healthy for most of the season. Both players are playing at a breakneck pace, all while spacing the floor and creating shots for their teammates. Wall has developed into a leader on and off of the court and has built a rapport his fellow players. Beal has also become a person who can be looked in the direction of for leadership. They are also having career years, with Beal averaging 21.9 PPG, and Wall averaging 23.7 PPG.
To top everything off, they have a coach who has been there and done that before. He coached the Oklahoma City Thunder to an NBA Finals appearance and played in the NBA for 10 seasons. His name is Scott Brooks and he has worked his magic with the Wizards during this season.
Last season with Randy Wittman as the head coach, Washington made a huge regression. It wasn’t necessarily because they were a bad team, it was because they had seemed to lose their way. Brooks has brought intangibles to the Wizards’ game that can or may not show up in team stats. He has made Porter into a comfortable shooter, made Wall and Beal hungrier for greatness, and he brought out the best in Gortat and Morris.
It’s also very funny to look at the stats because both last year’s team and this year’s team had comparable numbers. The Wizards ranked 9th in scoring in the 15-16 season (104.1), but they average 106.5 PPG in the 16-17 season, which puts them at the 10th spot. Last year, the Wizards ranked 20th in opponents PPG (104.6). This year is more of the same: 20th in PPG (105.7).
The biggest difference is the health of the team. Without many injuries, the Wizards have been within striking distance of some of the top seeds in the East. Remember, center and offseason acquisition Ian Mahimi is still out with knee problems, their bench isn’t very good, and they’ve had troubles on the road with a 7-14 record.
Despite many of these issues, they still sit within a marginal distance of the second spot in the East behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. Yes, they can choose to prosper or fall in line with Wizards teams in the past. Don’t count on them to make the same mistakes that they made in the past. They have too much heart for that.