An optimistic look at the Wizard’s chances
I want to begin by saying that I am a very optimistic Wizards fan. After last year’s ride to a nail-biting Eastern Conference Semifinals with the Indiana Pacers, I’m still on cloud nine regarding the potential of this team. I watched my favorite sports franchise be practically irrelevant for the first 22 years of my life, except for when pistol-packin’ “Agent Zero” Gilbert Arenas and co. made brief playoff appearances for a couple years in the mid 2000’s. Unfortunately, LeBron James, his then-full head of hair and the Cleveland Cavaliers eventually trumped these Wizards teams year in and year out.
Alas, my current glowing optimism. While my optimism is bright, it is not blinding; I do not believe the Wizards will win it all this year. However, with the LeBron extracting his talents from South Beach and the unfortunate long-term injury to Paul George, Miami and Indiana are no longer the powerful contenders they were the past few years.
Not only will George be out for a majority of the season, but Lance Stephenson has left Indiana for the Charlotte Hornets reboot, which, unlike most movie franchise reboots, looks pretty awesome. I don’t see David West, George Hill and the hot-and-cold Roy Hibbert taking the Pacers to back-to-back 1st seed playoff appearances.
While the Heat got the best of the Wizkids in the season opener in Miami, I don’t expect their success to be abundant. Dwyane Wade, while still a very talented shooting guard, has knees that are decaying by the minute, guaranteeing him at least 15-20 games of absenteeism. Whether Miami fans like it or not (I assume they do not), this is now Chris Bosh’s team. I think it’s safe to say the Heat in Miami has burned out.
Which brings us to the two biggest threats to the Wizards this season: the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Personally, I am glad to have to Derrick Rose back in action, sprinting past defenders and laying in circus-style layups. However, John Wall has emerged as the new Calipari prodigy point guard in the East Coast during Rose’s absence. With sharp shooter Bradley Beal, the paint presence and versatility of Nene and Marcin Gortat, and the added veteran leadership/playoff experience of Paul Pierce, I have to take Wall’s supporting cast over the rest of the Bulls starting lineup. Assuming these two meet for a grudge match (or grudge series) this year in the playoffs, if Nene could refrain from headbutting Jimmy Butler and getting suspended, that’d be majestic.
Last but certainly not least, the Cleveland Cavaliers. There’s no denying that King James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will be the most dynamic and threatening trio in the NBA for years to come. However, it will take time for these three players to learn how to share the same basketball. I expect production from Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to slightly decrease, seeing as they are no longer the only star on a team full of duds (sorry Minnesota and pre-2014 Cleveland). While there’s no doubt that Cleveland will be the team to beat for the rest of the decade, the Wizards can use their team chemistry, energetic backcourt and veteran frontcourt to jump the Cavs during their introductory season. This year may be our only chance.
That is, until we sign Kevin Durant in two years. Told you I was hopelessly optimistic…