The Washington Wizards have been on the come up in 2013. Overall, they’re record is 39-43 in the year–a record that isn’t anything special but is far different from the norm that we’ve become accustom to. The Wizards actually have pieces to build around in John Wall and Bradley Beal. There’s a solid supporting cast around them and this team is poised to make it’s first playoff appearance since 2008.
2014 should be an even better year for the Wiz. They’ve got a lot to look forward to in this new year and young season. The Wizards have had high expectations since training camp and right now, being at .500 through 28 games for the first time since 2007-08, they’re in a great position to accomplish those goals. So, with that being said, let’s take a look at what we should expect from them going forward.
A John Wall All-Star Appearance
John Wall has been playing on an All-Star level this season. He’s third in the league in assists, averaging 9.0 per game, he’s scoring up above 20 points per game for the first time in his career, he’s averaging a career high 2.1 steals per game and is shooting a career high from three point range this season at 31%. Wall has emerged as the clear cut best point guard in the Eastern Conference and is considered by some to be the second best point guard in the league.
Wall has had a spectacular season, but still isn’t garnering enough national attention. Derrick Rose, who hasn’t played since the second week of the year, has more All-Star votes than him. He’s also behind Kyrie Irving and Dwyane Wade–you can make convincing arguments that he’s played better than both of them this season. Especially in Irving’s case, when he’s on a down year. Even though he’s played well as of late, he hasn’t been a consistent fixture this season like Wall has. He’ll still likely start at point guard for the Eastern Conference in front of Wall, who will need a bit of help from coaches to make the squad. But, with the way that he’s played this year and the praise that he’s gotten, he should be able to make it.
A Coaching Change
Even though the Wizards have played well thus far, I think Randy Wittman’s time in D.C has long run it’s course. There is a slim chance that Wittman is retained next season, but with the way that this team has gone through offensive ups and downs this season, it’s best that there’s a change at the helm. The Wizards are a team that commonly takes one of the most inefficient shots in the game in the midrange jump shot. Bradley Beal has become dependent on it, even though it doesn’t really work for him. Beal takes 47% of his shots from that area.
The Wizards, as a whole, take 33% of their shots from that area even though they have some of the best three point shooters and finishers in the league. Marcin Gortat has complained about his positioning on the court already this season. He was upset that he wasn’t getting enough looks at the rim and that’s apart of the coach’s system. The Wizards, with some fine offensive pieces in Beal, Wall, Nene and Gortat, only have the league’s 19th best offense as far as efficiency goes. That’s an unacceptable mark for a team with such stellar pieces. The only thing that they’re able to hinge on to is their play on the three point line which is top 10 in the league.
Randy Wittman is a great personality and he’s a great motivator, but he can’t coach NBA offense. The team’s defense hasn’t been what it was last season and that’s going to be the best thing that he has on his resume as far as statistics go. The Wizards have to find a balanced attack with the pieces that they have–I don’t think Wittman is the guy who will find that.
Ernie Grunfeld has had multiple circumstances where he’s made catastrophic mistakes to set the team back. Drafting the squad of dysfunction throughout 2007-2009, extending Gilbert Arenas’ bum knee with a max deal, giving Andray Blatche a heft extension, drafting terribly throughout his tenure as the Wizards team president. There’s a lot that you could go with here, so I won’t continue. There’s no reason to really keep Grunfeld around at this point.
His latest blunder of not garnering enough talent for the bench to be productive should provide the nail in the coffin. Randy Wittman has worked well enough with what he has to come out with a .500 record through 28 games, but that’s because he’s scrapped his wonky rotations, kind of, and kept Nene on the bench while keeping Trevor Booker in the starting lineup. But Grunfeld should get no credit, here. He signed Eric Maynor to a one year deal with a player option, Al Harrington hasn’t played since early in the season and the Wizards 2011 draft has become one of the worst in the league.
Grunfeld has cleaned up his Arenas mess, sort of, and should get credit for that. But that isn’t enough to keep him around as the Wiz’s head front office man. It’s time to move on.
A Playoff Appearance
The Washington Wizards are poised for their first playoff appearance since the 2008-09 season. In such a weak Eastern Conference, the Wizards are almost a guarantee to make the playoffs if they can be relatively close to .500 by season’s end. The challenge and real question is the seeding. The Wizards could play for a top four seed and homecourt advantage in the playoffs because of how weak the conference is.
Right now, the Wizards are in fifth place behind the Atlantic division leaders and the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are in the third slot at 17-14 and are a game an a half above the Wizards. The Atlantic leader, because of divisional play, can get no lower than a four seed in the conference. The Wizards must catch up to the Hawks if they’d like a home court slot. And that brings me to my next, and final, expectation from the Wizards.
A Playoff Series Win
I fully expect the Wizards to get a top four seed in the conference. The Hawks lost Al Horford for the season, tragically, with a torn pectoral muscle. The Wizards, if they can remain healthy for the remainder of the season, should be able to get over .500 and make their mark as the second best team in the Southeast division. If they can do that in this weak conference, the Wizards should be able to get a high seed.
Homecourt advantage, if they get it, will help the Wizards win their first playoff series since 2005 where they beat the Chicago Bulls in the first round. Other than the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Hawks and Wizards, no other team is at .500 or above in the Eastern Conference. The closest team to that would be the Toronto Raptors, who have come on as of late after trading Rudy Gay. They’re 13-15 and are 7-3 in their last 10 games. If the Hawks fall back with the loss of Horford, the Wizards should be able to move up and get homecourt against a sub .500 team. If the Wizards didn’t win that series, it’d be a major upset.
2014 is going to be a huge year for Washington Wizards basketball. They’re going to have a shot at winning a playoff series in a terrible conference and then making a run at some key free agents to bolster the talent on the team already. Their priority this offseason will probably be to re-sign Marcin Gortat, and maybe make a decision on keeping Trevor Ariza around depending on how Otto Porter plays for the rest of the season.
This could be a really good team going into next season with John Wall as the centerpiece to it. They’ll likely never be the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers, but if they can become a playoff team after such a long and painful drought, I’m sure that’s something that Wizards fans everywhere could appreciate.