The Washington Wizards have now proved that they are the third best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. The entire season has mainly felt like a battle between the Indiana Pacers and two-time defending champion Miami Heat in the conference, which still may be the case, but the Wizards have come a long way and have made a statement that they are indeed the biggest threat to either of those teams in the postseason.
Washington has won six games in a row and has started to click in many different facets of the game. The days of being an inexperienced and injury plagued team are hopefully in the rearview mirror for the Wizards. In a conference full of teams tanking and wallowing in mediocrity while muddying the waters for two title contenders, it took until just recently for a team to emerge from the mud. The Wizards are the only team talented enough to even have an outside shot at taking down mighty Miami or Indiana.
Point guard John Wall made his first All-Star team this season and put himself on the map by winning the now lackluster dunk contest. He and shooting guard Bradley Beal have teamed up to form one of the youngest and most dynamic backcourts in the NBA, a monumental reason why the Wizards are now the third best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. The two are not alone as small forward Trevor Ariza is having a career year, highlighted by his dismantling of the Philadelphia 76ers last night with his 40-point outburst. He and Wall were a two-man wrecking crew all night.
“What more can you ask than a guy who wants to see you succeed,” Ariza said after the victory according to USA Today. “I feel like that’s what we do here now; we all want to see each other succeed,” he added.
Ariza’s reemergence alongside center Marcin Gortat’s solid play have helped solidify the team and take pressure off the youngsters in the backcourt in Wall and Beal. The veteran influence has helped, but Washington is still a bit of a ways away. After years of mediocrity and overall awful play, it is enjoyable to see the Wizards creeping their way up the standings in the Eastern Conference with a roster that is only going to improve.
It is likely far too early to declare the Wizards a title contender, but they are undoubtedly on the right track with John Wall leading them on the court. They are still far away from Indiana and Miami and benefit greatly from playing in such a weak conference, but they are in good hands with Wall and Beal who have both stepped up without veteran leader Nene out.
“We’ll be tested,” said Beal in a column by Jason Reid of the Washington Post. “We have to be prepared for moments like this.”
The Wizards are now the third best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference behind an exuberant young backcourt and some veteran leadership sprinkled in. Cancerous locker rooms are a thing of the past in the nation’s capital, and now this young team is ascending up the standings in the Eastern Conference like fans have been waiting for.
Commentary By Justin Hussong