The Washington Wizards Are Not An Eastern Conference Contender


For many people, the New Year bring new beginnings mixed with new opportunities. It is a time to change bad habits and make yourself better. The New Year has done the exact opposite for the Washington Wizards. If the team were one person, they would have picked up smoking and put on 30 pounds.

The Washington Wizards were flying high the first two months of the season. On January 1st, their record stood at 22-9 and they appeared to be contenders for the Eastern Conference crown.

Fast forward two months later, and the Wizards season has taken a sudden turn for the worse. The team has lost eight of their past ten games and they are currently 11-14 in 2015. They are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference after sitting as high as second in the standings earlier in the season.

Is this an aberration or is this the new normal? Can the Washington Wizards compete with the East’s elite?

The Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks seem to be the six teams in the race for the Eastern Conference at this point. There are 11 and a half games separating the six teams and every other Eastern team has a losing record.

For the first part of the season the Wizards appeared to be on the level of the top four teams in the conference but that’s why it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Since the Wizards have taken their sudden downturn, they appear to be closer to the Milwaukee Bucks in terms of Playoff potential. When you consider that the Wizards are a combined 3-9 against the top four teams in the East, the easy answer is to say that they aren’t elite.

Over the past ten games, the Wizards have been sloppy and disorganized. The team has averaged 15.4 turnovers per-game, which ranks 28th in league over that time span. When you consider that they have given up 176 points off of those turnovers, you can understand why they have been messier than a blacked-out drunk.

For the majority of the season, they have played some of the best defense in the league but they have fallen off on that side of the ball as well. They haven’t been terrible, but their 98.8 points per-game allowed is ranked 15th in the NBA. 

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They are allowing opponents to shoot a mediocre 44.3-percent from the field, including 33.9-percent from three.

The Wizards have been one of the best shooting teams in the league all year long and they still rank third in shooting percentage (47.0%) and fifth in three-point shooting (36.8%).

Early on, they were able to off-set the turnovers by shooting lights-out but now that the shots aren’t falling, the turnovers are becoming an issue. Their three-point percentage has fallen to down 32.6-percent over the past ten games. You could point to the fact that Bradley Beal has been out but he has only missed four games to his recent leg injury.

When I consider how the Washington Wizards have played lately, coupled with that 3-9 record against the top four teams in the East, it makes me wonder if this team is capable of a legitimate Playoff run. They have played six games against elite East competition since the New Year and they have been outscored by 100 points in those contests.

The Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks seem to be the two teams on the same level as the Wizards. The Wizards and Bucks are both great defensive teams with below-average offenses, while the Raptors will probably crash and burn in the Playoffs due to the fact that they are weak defensively (100.3 points per-game allowed).

The Raptors are 2-1 against the Wizards this season but those two wins could have went either way. On January 31st, Washington lost 120-116 in overtime to Toronto. When they met for a rematch on February 11th, the game went down to the final possession and if it weren’t for a questionable play-call by Randy Wittman (he had John Wall dribble out the final seconds before taking a long three behind a screen), Washington could have won the game.

Right now, the Wizards are not an Eastern Conference contender. Not until they prove that they can cut down on turnovers and knock down open jump-shots. In my eyes, it seems to be a three-team race between Atlanta, Chicago and Cleveland due to their balance offensively and defensively.

The one thing the Wizards have going for them is the ability to play defense. The game slows down in the Playoffs and defense is a requirement when every possession counts. On the other hand, they will need to be able to create in half-court sets without turning the ball over.

John Wall can’t fastbreak his way to the Finals, it’s not going to happen. He will have to pick and choose his spots but it’s not always going to be there for him. Coach Wittman is going to have to get a little more creative in how he uses his players. If he doesn’t, he could be out of a job this offseason.

There’s plenty of time for the Washington Wizards to get this right. They have 26 games remaining, and it won’t get any easier going forward. The Milwaukee Bucks have won nine of their past 10 games, so every game is going to be important if they want to hold the young Bucks back.

It’s time for the Wizards to prove me wrong and show us that they are elite.

Stats used are via Hoops Stats, Team Rankings and Odds Shark

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