The team is 11-7 after a 4-28 start and victories over the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks last week serve as a notice to the rest of the league that they will not be a cakewalk anymore.
The biggest reason for the Wizards’ turnaround is the return of point guard John Wall, a former No. 1 overall pick who fans are counting on to lead the team to playoff glory. While Wall is not the most efficient shooter in the league, he’s an energetic player and an excellent passer, which is why he’s been able to revive the Wizards’ previously moribund offense.
The only problem, however, was that he came back too late. The Wizards were so dreadful without Wall that they lost enough games to ruin any chance they ever had of sneaking into the playoffs. Even with their recent hot streak, the Wizards are still 20 games below .500, and 10 games behind the eighth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.
On the surface, this would seem like bad thing; a potential playoff team shot down by an early start, but considering how the NBA functions, the Wizards’ early-season woes will actually help them in the long run. Keep in mind, a healthy-from-the-beginning Wizards team might have made the playoffs, but they wouldn’t have been able to go any further. They would have been a seven or eight seed, trapped between legitimate title contention and the lottery.
This is not a spot most teams want to be in. It means the team is good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to do any damage once there. Unfortunately, since the team is now out of the lottery, they have little chance on getting a draft pick that will take them to the next level.
The Wizards will almost certainly be in the lottery next season, meaning they’ll have the chance to add one more key player. Could a guy like Shabazz Muhammad be the last piece they need? How about Anthony Bennett? Could he be the star big man to take the Wizards to the next level? The ability to add one more highly touted lottery pick means the Wizards team of the future isn’t set just yet and whoever they end up getting just might the one last player they need.
Consider the 2008-09 Oklahoma City Thunder. They were one year away from being a playoff team, but they already had their core of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. They hadn’t fully developed yet, however, so they went 23-59 and acquired the No. 3 pick in the draft, which they used to select James Harden. Harden blossomed into a star and was a key part of last year’s team which made the NBA Finals. Sure, he’s not around anymore, but they wouldn’t have Kevin Martin now without him and they probably wouldn’t have made the Finals without him either.
The point is, had the Wizards started out playing the way they are now, they would’ve been stuck in the middle class, trying to add pieces to a roster without the help of lottery picks. Thanks to their poor start, however, they’ll have at least one more chance to dip into the lottery pool and grab a potential blue-chipper who could turn them into title contenders.
Wizards fans may blame their atrocious autumn for taking them out of playoff contention, but for the time being, this is a team better off in the lottery pool than in the uneasy waters of the NBA middle class. As hard it was to go through, their poor start may help them immensely in the future, since it gave them one more chance to get better.
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