We’re just a month away from the start of NBA training camp and rankings have already begun to take place.
The Washington Wizards have gotten a lot of buzz and national attention since advancing to the semi-finals in the Eastern Conference Playoffs before getting kicked out by the number one seeded Indiana Pacers, which has earned them 10 nationally televised games. The Wizards weren’t expected to make much noise in the postseason and surprised a few NBA pundits as a result.
Now that the Washington Wizards have finally emerged as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, they’ve gotten the recognition they deserve. ESPN ranked the Washington Wizards fourth in the conference earlier this month, but Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated believes they’ll finish third behind the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. Here’s a snippet from his piece:
Another year of progress for John Wall and Bradley Beal should help, as will the keynote acquisition of Pierce. With the latter, Washington adds a needed creator to get its offense out of all-too-familiar jams, all while maintaining defensive competence.
Even though I think the Washington Wizards are capable of finishing third in the East, it’s also important to note the improvement of the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and especially the Charlotte Hornets, who added Lance Stephenson this off-season.
The Hawks pushed the Indiana Pacers to seven games in the first round of the playoffs without Al Horford, who’ll be returning this upcoming season, while the Raptors have got continuity much like the Washington Wizards by retaining all of their core players this off-season.
Charlotte, however, made tremendous progress this past season and added depth this summer via free agency. Stephenson should give them another creator, while Marvin Williams will give them versatility at both forward positions.
Washington’s success will largely depend on the development of both John Wall and Bradley Beal, but their front court depth and acquisition of Paul Pierce has also given them boost in terms of depth. DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries should give the Washington Wizards more reliability off the bench, while Pierce will make up for the loss of Trevor Ariza.
With all that said, I think the Washington Wizards will have a lot more competition in the Eastern Conference than they did this past year. It should be a fun season. Buckle up.