It has been well documented that the Washington Wizards started the season for lack of a better word, poorly. The Wizards lost their first 12 games and through December were 4-24.
But 2013 rolled in, and the Wizards appear to be a new team, one that may be able to score points and compete with the rest of the NBA night in and night out. Washington has won 5 of their last 8 games and it’s no coincidence that this team is playing at a much higher level since John Wall made his return to the court on January 12th. Other teams and media are even starting to use the terms scary and red-hot when discussing the Wizards.
After tonight’s home game vs. the Timberwolves, the Wizards will have played 41 games, also known as the halfway point of the season for NBA teams.
We have gathered some of the best blogs and fans covering the Wizards out there to get some predictions for the Wizards’ 2nd half of the season and whether or not the playoffs could be a real possibility — believe it or not, it is not mathematically out of the question. It may be a far cry as Kevin Broom points out, but like KG said “ANYTHING IS POSSSIBBBLLLLLEEEE!!”
If you are a Wizards fan, make sure you are following these guys on twitter. I want to thank everybody for their participation. Here is a list of the guys taking part in today’s article:
- Jammal Matthews (@AllDayMattyJay): WizardsXTRA
- Abdullah Sharif (@Abdu11ah): Wizards Extreme
- Ben Mehic (@BenAgent0): Wiz of Awes
- Chris C-Ford (@DCSportsNexus): DC Sports Nexus
- Derek Barrows (@Bullet_Nation): Bullets Forever
- Cory Grubbs (@CoryGrubbs10): Blog So Hard Sports
Can the Wizards roll this momentum into a strong 2nd half of the season?
Jammal: If the Washington Wizards decide to play great defense late in games and reduce the number of turnovers, there is no reason to believe that they can’t have a strong 2nd half of the season. The return of John Wall has energized the entire roster.
Chris: The way I define the word “strong”, no way. Strong would be reeling off a huge win streak, and winning maybe 7 out of every 10 games, or fighting back to .500. I don’t see the Wizards doing this. But will they have a “stronger” 2nd half. For sure. I just hope the owner doesn’t see the “improved” 2nd half of the season, and take that as a reason to do nothing and keep the team/manager/coach the way it is. Remember, they will/are giving us hope, but in the end, they will probably crush us.
Ben: I think so. The Washington Wizards are known for winning games at the end of the season, and with the way they’ve been playing lately, I can certainly see them continuing their recent success into the second half of the season. With John Wall returning to the lineup, and hopefully returning to regular minutes sometime in the near future, the Wizards have played like a completely different team. They look more aggressive on both ends of the floor, and Wall’s skill set really suits this roster. With guys like Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, and even Nene, the Wizards are able to get easy buckets in transition. Prior to Wall’s return, the Wizards were the worst offensive team in the NBA. Wall has reduced the amount of pressure put on Nene and the others, and that has really helped their play. The opposing teams now have to watch out for Wall, leaving Nene and Bradley Beal wide open near the perimeter. His return has meant everything to this lowly Wizards team. I think they’ll play .500 ball for the rest of the season.
Derek: Absolutely, but let’s qualify what ‘strong’ means. The trade for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza was panned due to the perception that the Wizards would end up around .500 while sacrificing their cap powder into 2013/14 should those players renew. With Bradley Beal producing and gelling with John Wall, ‘strong’ should be qualified as several games above .500 from here on out.
Abdullah: I know the momentum of their recent success was blown a bit in Utah, but besides that, the Wizards of late have clearly displayed how good they can be and they did it over an adequate portion of games (seven). They’ve shown what they can be made of offensively when John Wall has ammo, giving us warm, fuzzy thoughts of how amazing a backcourt he and Bradley Beal could shape into should the coaching staff play their cards right. Beal has shaped into the two-guard that Wall had been yearning for: one that is not only deadly on spot up J’s (especially from the corner, which John LOVES), but one who can also shift through space and create off the dribble. And I think we tend to underestimate the fact that the kid is only 19. But that’s partly Beal’s fault, considering his surging growth, not just in his skill set as a basketball player, but in his maturity as well – he’s just a grown ass man. Wall also finally has his big man at moderate strength – and believe me – Nene at moderate strength is a blessing considering how nagging his injury issues have been since the beginning the season. All the above mentioned along with the hustle and energy Martell Webster, the instant (and sometimes inconsistent) offense of Jordan Crawford, and as long as Emeka Okafor shoots as less jump shots as he possibly can, the Wizards should be in position to make a strong push through the remaining 41 games.
Cory: I think we will for sure. If this team stays healthy there is no reason why this momentum can’t keep rolling. This Wiz team really seems like they enjoying playing with each other and that they have each other’s backs. The most recent Portland victory, Wall and Beal both had off nights but the rest of the team picked up their games, most notably Nene, Webster, and Steezy. If healthy, this team will keep rolling, because we certainly know they fight until the final whistle.
What is your prediction for the next 41 games? How many games will the Wizards win?
Jammal: Currently the Wizards are 9-31. Being absolutely bullish here, I believe that they can win at least 24 out of the next 41. That would end the season 33-49 (assuming a loss to Minnesota tonight). Not enough for a playoff run but I can see the Wizards being the NBA’s party poopers in late March/early April.
Chris: It looks like John Wall’s point-guard-ness is helping the team. That being said, Wall still has tons of flaws, especially his jumper and his crunch time foul shooting. Beal is helping a lot, something missing from Wall’s first 2 years. Wall drastically improves the team, but he doesn’t provide the same effect as other “stars” in the league would. So they will win at a higher clip but they are not set yet. If I had to predict more specifically, I’d think they could maybe go a shade under .500. You want a number? 17 more wins, that’s not even 30 on the season. That’s what I envision.
Ben: That’s a tough question, especially with unforeseen injuries, trades, and things of that nature occurring. I predicted that the Wizards would play .500 ball for the rest of the season, and I’ll stick to that prediction. There’s a stretch in which Washington plays Philadelphia, Minnesota, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Cleveland and Milwaukee. Those are all winnable games in my opinion. Washington has nothing to lose. Coming into the season, they weren’t supposed to do anything of relevance. With little to no pressure surrounding the team, the Wizards have played fun, carefree basketball, which has ultimately lead them to some wins. It’s a shame that Washington started off the season on such a bad note, otherwise they’d be right in the playoff hunt. Washington has a very fun roster on their hands. John Wall and Bradley Beal obviously control the back court, while Nene and Emeka Okafor complement each other well in the front court. Washington has a pretty deep team, with Jordan Crawford, Trevor Ariza, and Kevin Seraphin all coming off the bench. With that said, I think I’ll continue being optimistic and predict them winning about 20 more games. I’m glad to see the team playing with a new found confidence and swagger. Let’s hope that continues.
Derek: I’m predicting a ‘strong’ finish of 24-17, but that depends quite a bit on head coach Randy Wittman. He has tightened his rotations, which makes it easier for players to know what to expect and prepare for, but how he handles the better defenses in the league attempting to shut them down in the paint and take away the corner three once teams start gameplanning the Wall-led attack will determine how far above .500 this team can get. If the rotations expand to 10-11 players on a regular basis, if he’s unable to make effective adjustments to defensive coordinators’ gambits as the Wizards success continues, then the team may very well not reach 21-20. And hopefully that Bradley Beal guy keeps burning it up. That would be good.
Abdullah: The path to the month of April certainly won’t be easy. All season long the Wizards have played well enough to compete for four quarters and haven’t often found themselves fighting huge deficits. The problem is, they usually end up on the tail end anyway. But this newfound momentum could change that. Let’s face it, these guys have been having some fun with these wins. Even though their loss total is already at 30+, the last two or three of them haven’t made us feel miserable, because they’ve proven to us five of the last eight times that they are capable of winning. And that’s a big deal for them. Hell, it’s a big deal for US! My prediction: I say they win just over half of their remaining 42 games and finish with a record 32-50.
Cory: This is a tough one. I’m going to assume we are going to be 10-31 after tonight’s game against the T-Wolves. At the beginning of the season I predicted us to have a 41-41 record at the seasons end. I don’t think we can get to that point, but we will have a strong second half to the season. I am predicting us to win 25 of our next 41 games. That puts us at 35-47 for the year. Of course those numbers take into account that Wittman wises up and finally inserts Wall into the starting line-up.
The real question: Can and will they sneak into the playoffs?
Jammal: Personally, I doubt it — I love the positive attitude coming from the locker room though. Especially when the team Captain John Wall is on record saying things like “we go into every game still thinking we got a shot to make it.” So, it isn’t impossible, but it will be extremely difficult. Before Wall came back, the Wizards dug themselves a pretty deep hole at a record of 5-28. That doesn’t leave much room for error down the stretch, but it will definitely be exciting to see what happens.
Chris: No. I have no additional analysis on this topic. Just…no. I’d love to eat my words for all these questions.
Ben: Unfortunately, Washington started off the season on such a bad note, that it would be a miracle if they sneaked into the playoffs. On the other hand, there’s always a bright side. Washington will probably get another high lottery pick, in which they could draft a player who would become a part of their core. With John Wall and Bradley Beal both on the cusp of stardom, it would be nice to draft another college star to complement their talents. There’s also the possibility of trading the lottery pick, to acquire a more established player such as Rudy Gay. At this point, I’m glad that the Wizards are not giving up on the possibility of making the playoffs. The teams a few years ago (*coughAndrayBlatche*cough), would’ve gave up on the season and hung their heads low. This team has high character athletes and personnel, who won’t give up, even if their chances of making the post season are slim to none. Wizards basketball has been exciting as of late, and I hope that continues. The playoffs may be far fetched, but Washington still has things to fight for.
Derek: Based on watching too many Disney movies with my toddler, of course they can. If we draw the line for the playoffs at 41-41, the Wizards would require a winning percentage on par with the league’s elite. It would require a synergy like to the Detroit Pistons of the early-2000′s where a team without superstars contended heavily. That requires a lot of growth managed with an even hand and a strong locker room. The Wizards locker room is in order, but it remains to be seen if Randy Wittman (as much as I like him) can manage a ball-club to results greater than the sum of their parts. Bradley Beal has flashed some early growth, but John Wall’s will rule the day, or not. Should he maintain that sparkling PER and improve his shooting as he reclaims his starting role, the playoffs are the limit. Assuming everyone stays healthy…but who’s worried about the curse of les boulez?
Abdullah: Let’s face the facts. Realistically speaking, the worst record a team could have and still possibly backdoor into the playoffs is 35-47. MAYBE. And no matter how well the Wizards play from here on out, their horrendous 4-28 start to the season is simply going to be too hard to overcome. The Wizards have acquired some great momentum from these few recent wins, but at 10.5 games out of the final spot in the East (currently occupied by the 20-22 Celtics), I just don’t see the Wizards winning 40-41 games while one of the current lower seeded teams tank. Although I wouldn’t mind a little bit of history being made. Matter of fact, screw everyting I said. LET’S DO THIS WIZARDS!!
Cory: Yes they can. And if they will depends on what teams like the Bucks, Celtics, and possibly even the Hawks do the rest of the way. I don’t see the Celtics finishing with a sub-.500 record. I do however think the Bucks will start to drop off, especially if they trade Jennings and/or Ellis. Also the Hawks have been playing some terrible basketball lately and there are Josh Smith trade talks, so you never know what could happen in Atlanta. With that being said I don’t know if a 35-47 gets us into the playoffs. As much as it pains me to say this, I don’t think we will be playing post season basketball this year.
Go ahead and give us your thoughts to the questions in the comment section if you wish, and vote on the polls as well.