Washington, The Most Feared Team in the East?

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Washington, The Most Feared Team in the East?

 

The Washington Wizards began the 2016-17 season on the wrong foot, winning just two of their first ten games. Since, the John Wall-led Wizards have earned a 28-13 record, good for 4th in the Eastern Conference as of February 6, 2017–quite the turnaround.

John Wall’s season has been nothing short of amazing; 30+ point performances from Bradley Beal have led a number of Washington wins; Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris, and Otto Porter Jr. have stepped up in whatever situation the team needs them; head coach Scott Brooks is in the Coach of the Year discussion.

Washington peaked at the perfect time. Before their heartbreaking, 140-135 overtime loss to Cleveland on Monday night, Washington could not be contained at home—their 17-game home win streak was a new franchise best. 12-4 in January allowed Scott Brooks to take home the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month award; well deserved, as his leadership and coaching style is getting tons of recognition.

Washington’s overtime clash with the reigning champions proved they are the real deal, and a team that can be reckoned with. Punch by punch, haymaker after haymaker, the two Eastern Conference juggernauts gave the NBA world a taste of what could potentially be a 2017 postseason matchup.

The Wizards are having the best first half of a season in recent years, and if they ride this momentum until the playoffs, they could potentially sneak behind the Cavaliers for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference. Washington currently sits 30-21 on the season; one game behind Toronto for 3rd place, and three games behind Boston for 2nd place. They are five-and-a-half games behind Cleveland for the No. 1 spot.

The main reason for their success in 2016-17 is the rise to superstardom from point guard John Wall. Wall–who was named to his fourth All-Star team–is averaging a career-high 23.0 points, 10.4 assists, and 2.2 steals along with 4.4 rebounds per game in 36.5 minutes per game. His 45.8% shooting from the field is also a career-high. Wall’s magnificent play has made him become one of the top three point guards in the Eastern Conference.

Also, the emergence of Otto Porter Jr. has allowed Washington to rely on an effective small forward on both ends of the floor each night. Porter Jr.’s ability may allow him to be named the league’s Most Improved Player. Don’t forget about Bradley Beal; his career-high 22.2 points per game is a 4.8 point jump from last season. Beal is shooting the ball at a 46.9% (career-high) clip, and 39.1% from downtown.

All five starters are averaging 10+ points per game for Washington: John Wall (23.0), Bradley Beal (22.2), Otto Porter Jr. (14.4), Markieff Morris (14.4), Marcin Gortat (11.9). The Wizards’ starting five has almost zero holes; it is one of the best all-around in the NBA today.

Washington’s starting lineup ranks second in points per game (83.4), second in rebounds per game (32.0), third in assists per game (18.6), and tied for first in steals per game (6.5).

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks has used his experience with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2008-2015 to teach John Wall to distribute the ball (career-high 10.4 assists per game) more often, attack the rim when the lane opens up, and run the pick-and-roll with center Marcin Gortat.

Credit: Getty Images

What is Washington missing, though? A bench.

The Washington Wizards’ bench is composed of Kelly Oubre Jr., Trey Burke, Jason Smith, Marcus Thornton, Ian Mahinmi, as well as others. This won’t cut it; there is no one player off the bench who has the ability to take a game at ease. The Wizards should think about using their assets to acquire a valuable sixth man such as Jamal Crawford, Wilson Chandler, or Lou Williams to provide an instant spark for the second unit.

The Washington Wizards’ recent hot streak has catapulted them into contention in the East. With John Wall dishing the rock and scoring the ball, Bradley Beal sniping every shot he takes, and the rest of the starting five doing their part, D.C. should have no problem making noise in the postseason.

John Wall and the Washington Wizards’ time is now.

 

 

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