After winning the last six of seven games and an incredibly difficult West Coast road trip, the Wizards are 12-18, good for the 12th seed in the Eastern Conference. It may sound insane to be calling a 12th seed contenders to win the Eastern Conference, but I think the Wizards can make a deep playoff run. Here’s why:
- The Wizards have proven they can beat big-name teams
To start their incredible winning streak, the Wizards beat the Boston Celtics at Capital One Arena. The Celtics have two All-Stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and a former All-Star in Kemba Walker. The final score of that game was 104-91. Next up, the Wizards played the Houston Rockets, who are a good team even if their record doesn’t show it. They beat John Wall in his return game by 12 points. What really caught people’s attention was their next game against the Nuggets. Facing Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr, and a great young Nuggets team fresh off a Western Conference Finals victory, the Wizards eked out a 130-128 win, with a Westbrook triple-double, 25 points from Beal, and nine made three pointers by Davis Bertans (who finished with 35). This marked the first time in three years the Wizards had won three games in a row!
The next game was against the Portland Trail Blazers, and there is no way that Russell Westbrook would let the streak end against Damian Lillard and company, of all people. After the streak was extended to four, the Wizards managed to upset the Lakers without Anthony Davis thanks to an ill-advised three by Lebron James at the end of overtime. Many of the Wizards’ wins have come at the mercy of a missed game winning opportunity by the other team (against the Lakers, Nuggets, and Nets), but the fact that the Wizards kept it a one-possession game against top ten power ranked teams shows just how good they are, or can be when they live up to expectations.
2. This is the weakest the Eastern Conference has been in years
As a passionate wizards fan, I have been ridiculed many times by Western Conference fans calling the Eastern Conference, “a glorified G-League.” This season, it doesn’t appear as though the haters are wrong, as only four teams in the Eastern Conference have records above .500. Yes, four teams: The Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Toronto Raptors. This means that if the season ended today, the five, six, seven, and eight seeds in the East would make the playoffs with losing records! Meanwhile, if you take a team in the Western Conference and throw them in the East, say the Phoenix Suns, then they are almost certainly a top-3 team and will probably make the Eastern Conference Finals. Take a sub-par team in the West (record wise), such as the Dallas Mavericks (who are the #10 seed) or the New Orleans Pelicans (11th seed), and they will rise up through the Eastern Conference because they are that much better then the teams at the same rankings as them in the East.
The Wizards can use this to their advantage. The Wizards are 7-3 in their last ten games, and six games away from .500. The seeding is so close (and terrible), that if the Wizards won their next five games, they would secure a playoff berth or be at the higher end of the play-in tournament (give or take how the rest of the teams do). If the Wizards can capitalize on their chance, then they will be a playoff team, and as the four or five seed, they could beat their opponent and advance to the second round (most likely).
3. This team is better then they look on paper
If you don’t follow the Wizards closely and just look at their roster, you probably see the following things: a smoking hot Bradley Beal, an aging and out of his prime Russell Westbrook, some young talent here and there that might amount to something one day but not right now, and some guys you probably never heard of. However, the Wizards are so much more than that. Their early losses can be chalked up to learning how to play with each other and Russell Westbrook (who sometimes doesn’t seem worth the trouble, but more than is). Now that they know what they can do when they work together, the Wizards can make some serious noise.
In reality, the Wizards have the smoking hot Bradley Beal and an aging Russell Westbrook; but no matter what the age, Russ will be Russ. He has never had any injuries that kept him out for more than a handful of games, and while he is starting to dunk less, he still has an incredible amount of explosiveness. At the center position, we had Thomas Bryant, who was developing into one of the brightest young big men in the game before injury. The Wizards have Moe Wagner, a 6’11” 23-year old center who can defend the best centers, shoot the three, and post up. Alex Len is a solid backup, and Robin Lopez can do some damage in the paint when he uses his height and incredible hook shot. Davis Bertans can be smoke or a forest fire; once he catches fire, he doesn’t stop. While he is somewhat inconsistent, he is a valuable asset. The #9 picks, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija have been preforming well. Avdija is an incredible Three and D player, while Rui finds easy dunks and mid-range shots, going off for 20 against the Nuggets. Raul Neto and Ish Smith are great backup point guards who can dribble and pass the ball, as well as give Westbrook a break when he needs it. Garrison Matthews is a much better three-point shooter than he gets credit for, and Isaac Bonga is an above average defender.
All in all, I think the Wizards can not only make the playoffs, but succeed in them as well. John Wall led the Wizards the furthest this decade to Game 7 of the 2017 Semi-Finals, and with this team, as well as they play together, I think they can do the same. Let me know what you think of the Wizards in the comments below, don’t forget to follow and share the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!
One thought on “The Wizards may be Dark Horse Contenders in the East. Here’s Why . . .”
Excellent analysis. The Wizards, if they can stay healthy, will definitely make the playoffs and beyond. Its amazing how older plays come to life when a championship is in sight. I think Westbrook will rise to the occasion. With talent such as a red hot Bradley Beal, and an upcoming star in Moe Wagner and a few other really good players they have a good shot. They are playing well as a team and that is so important. You mentioned a few wins came because of missed opportunities by their opponents, I think the Wizards created those missed opportunities. Go Wizards.
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