The Washington Wizards: A Fair Assessment
The Washington Wizards season has been all over the place. They went into this season as a low playoff seed prediction for many. A team short on depth, but with the dynamic guard play of Bradley Beal alongside the HOF talent, Russell Westrbook to keep them from drowning. Yet, it quickly went south; a December in which they went 1-8 followed by a 3 win January, saw them at 4-12, heading into February. The kind of record that is made even more insurmountable in the condensed season. Bradley Beal’s wife was voicing her disgust on Twitter, the team became the target of every meme, shot selection was questioned, Russ was called Washed, Beal was 100% being dealt to the Heat and then…they are now a wild 27-33. So how did we get here?
After the Wizards embarrassing start, no one outside of Bradley Beal was safe from the criticism. Scott Brooks and Russell Westbrook shared a lot of it, but there was also an underperforming Davis Bertans, a lack of a leap from Rui Hachimura, and an overall poor defensive mindset which contributed to the losing culture. The Wizards are in no way a spectacular unit, but their performance even seemed to fall short of their floor. The horrible start snowballed into a half season long slump and by the time the team woke up, they were firmly entrenched in the basement of the Eastern conference.
Now as we close towards the end of April, the team has won 9/11 games, and the Russell Westbrook renaissance has been instrumental. The Russell Westbrook experience is unlike any other. The shot selection can be questionable, the turnovers when pressing the issue can pile up, there are certainly the negatives, but the man is a HOFer for a reason. As of April 24th, Russell Westbrook had compiled 20 triple doubles in his last 30 games. A run of form that even the triple double maestro Oscar Robertston never reached in his career. Unsurprisingly the elevation in his performance has corresponded to winning as it has entire career. A career which has seen Russell Westbrook in the playoffs in 10 separate campaigns.
Yet, despite the Wizards fabulous March/April stretch in performance they are still the 10th seed in the East. Fortunately for them, this year the 10th position is good enough for a playoff birth. Given the lack of talent around Beal and Westbrook, a playoff appearance would be acceptable and could convince management to invest further in the current product. Davis Bertans has begun to find his three point shooting form, Rui is now showing promise as a future star, and rookie lottery pick Denii Avdija showed promise before his season ended with an ankle fracture. On a non shortened season they Wizards would be irrelevant, on the outside looking in and making their offseason plans at this stage. Yet, the basketball Gods seem to be on their side now and with competitors like Brad and Russ leading the team, it’s not hard to imagine them giving some top team a difficult series if they can get to that point.
Is the Russ and Beal duo the future in DC? Is Scott coach on the hot seat even if the team makes the playoffs? With the Wizards only clinging to the 10th seed by a singular game over the gritty Raptors and a 1.5 games over the Bulls, there’s a chance they don’t even make it to the dance. The next few weeks will decide a lot, with the Wizards either following victim to another lost season or possibly making some noise in the postseason and rewriting the early season narratives completely. Ultimately, when it matters you trust Russell Westbrook. Wizards to make the playoffs, Win a play in game and give someone a tough series. McGovern guarantee.