Dec 18, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) and Washington Wizards power forward Nene Hilario (42) celebrate against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half at Barclays Center. The Wizards won the game 113-107. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Wizards: Responding to Higher Expectations

It’s been a long time since the Washington Wizards have entered a season with higher expectations than they had in the season prior. Even though the East was relatively weak last season in comparison to the improved conference this upcoming season, the Washington Wizards weren’t necessarily expected to make much noise in the regular season, let alone make it out of the first round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

After finishing 5th in the East, defeating the Chicago Bulls in the first round before getting eliminated in the semi-finals by the Indiana Pacers, the Washington Wizards have put themselves back on the map, and have grown tremendously in terms of popularity over the past few months.

Now that the Washington Wizards have an All-Star point guard in John Wall and rising star in Bradley Beal, were able to retain all of their core pieces along with the additions of Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair, their expectations for this upcoming NBA season are much higher than they were last year.

Last year, Washington Wizards’ head coach Randy Wittman and President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld were essentially aiming to make the postseason, and by doing so, they achieved the main goal they had last season. Not only is Washington expected to make the playoffs next season in a improved conference, but they’re expected to become one of the top teams in the East. John Wall went as far as to call “The Finals” the goal for the Washington Wizards this upcoming season, so I think it’s fair to assume that the team has welcomed the pressure.

We’ve been to the second round. We know what it takes to win. We know what we need to do. We know everybody needs to get better individually, and I think [the front office] just did a great job of adding pieces, great veteran guys that know what it takes to win.

- Wall on upcoming season, via the Washington Post

Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated recently ranked the Washington Wizards third in the East, behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls, and other media outlets have also covered the team’s rise from the cellar. The Washington Wizards also have 10 (!!!) television games this upcoming season, which is more than they’ve had in the past four years combined.

Needless to say, the expectations have risen for the Washington Wizards and now they must respond to the added pressure.

Although I think the Wizards could meet those expectations, especially because John Wall and Bradley Beal will continue to grow, nothing is given in the NBA and the team still has some question marks heading into this season. Will Otto Porter finally give the Washington Wizards some production, making up for some of defense and shooting they lost with Trevor Ariza‘s departure? How will Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair mesh with the system?

I also think it’s important to note that teams such as the Atlanta Hawks, who will be getting Al Horford back this season, along with the Charlotte Hornets are a bit under the radar, but have just as good of a chance to improve next year. The spotlight will continue to shine on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Derrick Rose and the Bulls, but make no mistake, the East has a number of teams that could become very competitive.

There are some questions that have to be answered, but one thing is for certain: It should be an exciting season.

Are the Expectations for the Washington Wizards Fair?

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