They’ve been counted out more than once this season, but the Washington Wizards currently sit at 11th in the East, so things aren’t over just yet! They turned things around a bit with their latest win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, and they also recently beat the playoff-contending Brooklyn Nets. At 26-37, they’re four games behind the Orlando Magic who have that final eighth seed that could get them into the playoffs. But is it too late?
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Well, it’s going to be tough, to say the least. The Wizards only won three games in February – against the Bulls, Cavs, and Nets – which really set them back in their postseason hopes. They desperately needed to defeat the Pistons and the Hornets, with whom they were neck and neck in the playoff race, but failed to do so. All despite having one of the easiest schedules left in the league back in February. It’s just too bad that their direct competitors for those final few playoff spots, the Pistons and the Magic, also have pretty easy remaining schedules too. The Pistons hold the tiebreaker over the Wizards, if it comes to that, while the Magic are 2-1 against Washington this season.
And there’s not a lot of time left to overcome the competition. Just 19 games to be exact.
Another thing the Wizards, um, don’t really have going for them right now?
Their defense isn’t great. Some might venture to call it bad. They’re particularly horrible at defending the three-point shot, a big problem with the huge focus that teams are putting on beyond-the-arc shots these days. The Wizards brought back Trevor Ariza from the Suns to improve that defense, but it hasn’t helped much. Some say that Head Coach Scott Brooks deserves a lot of the blame for this season’s poor performance and lack of defense, so he’s under a lot of pressure to right the ship. They say Brooks tends to keep star players in the game despite their lack of get-up on defense, sticking to his regular rotations no matter what.
Some are also saying that the Wizards should just go ahead and scrap this season to get a better draft pick and rest their veterans. But it feels a little too late for that. They’ve won 26 games this season so even if they lose the rest of their games, they won’t be at very bottom of the league or much closer to a stellar draft pick. So it’s like they’re too close not to try. But then again, if they do magically make the playoffs, they’ll get something like a 15th overall pick. Decisions, decisions…
It hasn’t helped matters that two of the best players on this team (and well, in the entire NBA really) are out of the Wizards lineup for the season following injuries and surgeries. After a heel injury which required surgery, point guard John Wall fell at home and ruptured his Achilles tendon in February, which puts him out for another 12 months. Center Dwight Howard underwent lower back surgery in November, a procedure that would keep him out for about three months. He’s only recently been cleared for “light workouts.”
Both All-Stars have had to be replaced on the court. Tomas Satoransky took over for Wall while Thomas Bryant has been standing in for Howard.
But there’s one bright spot. Bradley Beal is a shining star on a (possibly) sinking ship this season. The team’s leading scorer – with an average of 25.7 points per game – showed some emotion during their road victory over the Nets, the team’s eighth away win this season (whoa). He got called for a technical after getting angry about the number of fouls called by the refs.
With the most playing time of any player in the NBA, this shooting guard is stepping it up as of late, racking up an average of 30.9 points, 7.3 assists, and 5.4 rebounds in the past 10 games. He clearly doesn’t like to lose and he feels a lot of loyalty to his team. Beal was just inducted into the 3,000 minute club, proving he’s a truly durable and dependable player who can handle a big workload.
New guy, power forward Bobby Portis is averaging 15.3 points over the Wizards’ last 10 games and proving to be a good addition to the team after making his debut off the bench less than a month ago. Portis has had three games with over 20 points so far and, oh yeah, and he’s shooting 43.2% from the three-point line. Acquired just before the February trade deadline, the team is evaluating his fit as they head toward the postseason (or, ya know, not).
Veterans Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green have also been putting up points for the Wizards, averaging around 14 and 12 per game, respectively. But it’s just like the team has nothing to replace the 40 points that players like Wall were dropping earlier this season. Those are big shoes to fill.
Either way, we’ll see if the Wizards can turn it around… or if they choose to give up on the season. With more critical games against the Hornets and Magic coming up, anything could happen. Especially if those other teams begin to struggle toward the end of the season. It’s gonna be tight!