Following a 29-53 season last year, the Washington Wizards have rebounded well this season, and look to be well on their way to their first postseason appearance since the 2007-2008 season. The Wizards have not won more than 30 games in a season since their last playoff berth, but this year they have already surpassed that mark.
The Wizards have won their last two games and are currently holding on to the sixth seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, with a record of 38-35. They hold a three game lead over the seventh place Charlotte Bobcats, who they will play tonight in Charlotte.
During a recent three game home stand, the Wizards defeated the Eastern Conference leading Indiana Pacers 91-78. This was just one of many wins that Washington has had against some of the elite teams in the NBA this year.
At 23-years-old, John Wall has emerged as a star in the league, as he was selected to his first career All-Star game this season. Wall is a top 20 scorer in the league, averaging 20.0 points per game on 43.6 percent shooting. To go along with his scoring punch, Wall is also third in the league in assists, dishing out 8.7 per game.
Wall has been complimented in the back court this season by sophomore Bradley Beal. Beal is the second leading scorer on the Wizards, and has increased his scoring from his rookie season from 13.9 points per game up to 16.8 per game this year. Beal is shooting 41.2 percent from beyond the arc, and as a result, the back court of Beal and Wall has proven to be one of the deadliest guard combos in the NBA this year.
Player to Watch in the Playoffs
While Wall and Beal are the leading scorers for the Wizards, it will be their front court that will be most important during their first playoff run in six years. Starting center Nene went down late in February with a sprained MCL. Prior to his injury, Nene was averaging 14.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He is expected to return to the lineup in early April.
In Nene’s absence, his front court partner Marcin Gortat has been huge for the Wizards and he will need to continue to be in the playoffs. In the month of March, Gortat has shot a stifling 53.1 percent from the field and averaged a double double with 14.1 points and 10.9 rebounds.
Gortat is also a defensive anchor in the paint for the Wizards, and has averaged 1.54 blocks on the season. Gortat and Nene are also two of the few players on the Wizards roster with playoff experience.
Both Wall and Beal have not reached the postseason in their young careers, and head coach Randy Wittman has been to the playoffs as an assistant coach with Indiana and Minnesota, but never as a head coach.
How Will Their Season End
As of today, the Wizards would face the Toronto Raptors in the first round. The Wizards would have the edge in playoff experience in this match up, but expect the Raptors to edge out the Wizards in a hard-fought six game series. Both teams rely heavily on their guards for scoring, as much like the Wizards, the Raptor’s starting back court of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are the team’s two leading scorers.
Along with that, both teams are making their first playoff appearances in over six years, so both home fans will be pumped up and ready for playoff basketball. If the standings stay the way they are, the Raptors Wizards series will certainly make for one of the most exciting opening round series in the NBA playoffs.
Commentary By Eric Kummel