With the NBA playoffs almost among us, each of the 16 teams who will eventually make up the postseason will have dreams of going all the way and be crowned the NBA champions. Of course for some this is still merely a pipe dream, while for others it is the absolute end goal, with any other result deemed a failure. With that in mind we take a quick and lighthearted look at how each team can potentially do once the playoffs start.
Why They Can Win It All
Quietly the Washington Wizards have gone about their business this season, beginning the campaign struggling once more before righting the ship in time for the postseason. Breaking the .500 barrier for the first time in five years was a huge mental gap to overcome, and since then this team has kicked on. Most thought the Cleveland Cavaliers and their mercurial point guard Kyle Irving would be heading to the playoffs, but it is the equally talented John Wall who has taken his squad to the promised land first. The fourth-year player, and first-time All-Star, is averaging 19.6 points and a pretty impressive 8.7 assists a game, doing everything he can for this team. Trevor Ariza has had a renaissance of sorts with Washington, too. Having bounced around the league a bit, he is putting up his best personal numbers since the 2009-10 season with the Houston Rockets. Still only 28, he has emerged as a leader for the team too, having started all seventy-five games he has been fit to play in.
Second-year player Bradley Beal is developing as promised as well, adding to what has become a promising young core with a touch of veteran experience. He is scoring 3.1 more points a game on last year, bumping the number up to 17 points a game. While his player efficiency rating is 13.9 (League average is 15) he still has a lot of time to learn how best to bring his personal game to the team dynamic as he is only 20 years old. At 6’4″ Wall is able to physically impose himself on opposition guards, and get to the rim easier than others who play he position. His long arms make him a threat on the defensive end too. Wall is seventh in the entire league with steals per night with 1.83.
Why They Might Exit Early
The Wizards are a team that appear to do a lot of things well, but few things great. As a team, the Wizards rank 17th in points per game, 19th in rebounding and 16th in turnovers a game, a middle of the road team in those respects. The team also rank 29th in points from the bench (25.8) and are statistically the 27th most efficient bench in the NBA. Where this team does have joy however, is their 3-pointshooting (fifth in the league, 37.8 percent) and the fact that they distribute their minutes among players more than any other team in the league.
This team would love to get more out of center Nene Hilario as well. On his good days he is capable of having big games, it is just that those days seem to be few and far between. Injury has limited him to 51 games, 37 of which he has started. If he could give this team more they could play around his considerable abilities, don’t forget he has a pretty nice touch for a big man. Even though he has missed time he still averages 2.9 assists, tying his previous career high. If he qualified to be included for how many assists he gives the team, he would tie for fifth in the league among centers with DeMarcus Cousins. Other than that, you have to pay your dues in the playoffs before ever making a serious impact. Teams like the Indiana Pacers and Oklahoma City Thunder, two heavyweight contenders, have been at this playoff business for years now. What once began as exiting in round 1, morphed into making the conference finals and hopefully for them, becoming an eventual champion. The Wizards can’t expect to do any major damage in the same year they broke .500 for the first time since 2009 now can they?
Andre Miller. There is a reason a whole host of teams were after this guy’s signature. The definition of a crafty veteran, Miller takes some of the load off of Wall, while also teaching him a whole host of tricks of the trade in the process. Some players go beyond stats, so his 3.9 points and 3.2 assists in 14.2 minutes of play are barely worth mentioning. But in the quest teams set out on to win a championship, signing up a veteran who can still actually makes plays as well is an important step. Other than that, Marcin Gortat is important for this team. We’ve spoken about Nene, and when he’s fully healthy is a better player than “The Polish Hammer.” But this guy goes about his business and averages 13.2 points and 9.4 rebounds a game. This team doesn’t rebound particularly well as a group, and so his contributions are important.
How They’ll Do
Matched up with almost any other team in the Eastern Conference in round 1, this team would be going home early. However, it looks like the Wizards will meet the Toronto Raptors, in what is the hardest series to call of any in both conferences in round one. It could really be a classic encounter of two teams back in the postseason absolutely going for it. If this series happens, and it’s looking likely, the Wizards will actually progress, before bowing out in the semifinals. Still though that represents real progress for the team, and a positive step to build on going into next year when they will be back here again a year wiser and better.