Friday, March 3, 2017

What’s Up in Washington?

By Marc James

With the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics leading the way in the Eastern Conference and the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs doing the same in the Western Conference, it seems like business as usual in the NBA. Upon closer examination, however, there's a strange obstacle on the horizon. In Washington, this obstacle is affectionately known as the Washington Wizards.

With barely more than a quarter of the season remaining, the Wizards find themselves sitting atop the division standings in the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division. More importantly, the team maintains a hold on the third-seed in the conference. That could translate to home court advantage in the earlier rounds of the playoffs, something the Wizards haven't seen in quite a while.

Perhaps the biggest surprise has been the team's emergence as one of the most efficient offensive units in the league. On the season, the Wizards rank No. 3 in field goal percentage (47.5%), No. 5 in 3-point percentage (37.4%) and again No. 5 in points per game (108.0). With that kind of shooting and consistent play, this is a team that is more than capable of wreaking havoc when it comes playoff time.

No one is suggesting the Wizards have a talent level on par with any of the aforementioned teams. What they do have is a duo of very talented guards who have learned how to get the most from the rest of their teammates. Leading the way on offense is all-star point guard John Wall, a 7th-year dynamo out of the University of Kentucky. On the season, Wall is second on the team in scoring at 22.5 ppg while dishing out 10.9 apg, good enough to leave him ranked second in the league behind Houston's James Harden.

The team's success over the last three years can be attributed to the addition shooting guard Bradley Beal, who actually leads the team in scoring at 22.6 ppg. On any given night, either of these two individuals can take over and dominate a game. On those frequent nights when the both show up to play, the Wizards are a very difficult team to beat.

Of course, the cast of contributing characters have done plenty to make this team a legitimate threat in any five or seven game series. At center, veteran big man Marcin Gortat has given the Wizards a big boost in the middle with 12 points and 12 rebounds per game. Perhaps to bolster its front-line scoring, the team just added forward Bojan Bogdanovic from the New Jersey Nets in a trade at the deadline. While averaging 15 ppg in New Jersey, he has shown an ability to hit the outside jumper should defenses focus on Wall and Beal. With injuries in Cleveland, the Eastern Conference should be considering wide open and the Wizards look as good as any.

Contents copyright © Sports Central 1998-2017