Last year the Washington Wizards were the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference, finishing with a 46-36 record. They finished 2-4 against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. However, this year they look to be a bigger contender for a higher seed and maybe even a trip to the NBA Finals.
John Wall and Bradley Beal are obviously the catalysts of the team. If both of them are going strong at the same time, the Wizards are a wrecking ball. However, despite a valiant effort by Beal in the playoffs, the Wizards didn’t have Wall’s blazing speed for a portion of that time. This eventually cost them the series.
However, this year they have an arguably stronger supporting cast behind Wall and Beal. With Otto Porter, who has stepped up and performed well in the playoffs (now a starter), as well as Kelly Oubre, three-point specialist Gary Neal, Jared Dudley and Ramon Sessions, Washington has boosted their second-line options.
Porter was a much-improved player during the playoffs. He averaged ten points per game, an increase from his six points per game in the regular season. Porter looks to add to his solid postseason performance with a good regular season this year.
May 13, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) shoots at the basket between and Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) and forward DeMarre Carroll (5) during the first half in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Oubre has hustled and worked hard in his first couple of preseason games. Wizards head coach Randy Wittman has been impressed with Oubre’s attitude and hard work:
"“He’s a young kid, a rookie, first time out, and he’s learning and I love his attitude. He hasn’t put his head down. He hasn’t, I’m sure, got off to the start that he would want to get off, in terms of numbers and how he’s playing. But he’s out there fighting. He hasn’t put his head down or anything like that so that’s a good thing. And he’s in here every day. He’ll be in here tomorrow ready to get better.”"
Although Oubre is just a rookie, expect him to contribute heavily on the defensive side of the ball. The rookie has a 7’2 wingspan and measures at 6’7. He averaged a steal per game while playing with the Kansas Jayhawks last season. Although the Wizards have a considerable amount of guards who look to spread the floor, their big men look to return with a flare as well.
Marcin Gortat, Nene, Drew Gooden and Kris Humphries also return in the 15-16 season. They will usually give the Wizards a fighting chance when they are healthy. In addition, Humphries has also worked on his three-point shot during the offseason to play the much-needed stretch four position for the Wizards.
Jun 16, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) brings the ball up the court against the Golden State Warriors during the third quarter of game six of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
As for the Wizards’ competition, everyone knows about LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who boasted a 53-29 record last season and made the NBA Finals. They have arguably gotten better since last year, with many players now knowing their roles on the team. With the starting lineup of James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith, the Cavs will be a tough out for the Wizards.
The Wizards also have to be weary of the Chicago Bulls, who were 50-32 last season and third in the Eastern Conference in the regular season. The Bulls have a new coach in Fred Hoiberg, who looks to have them playing a much more uptempo style. With their starting lineup of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, the Bulls return with a healthy mix of strength and speed.
This goes without mentioning the Hawks and Raptors, who are formidable opponents in their own respect.
So Can The Wizards Actually Win the East?
The easy answer is, only time will tell. The honest answer is, they definitely have a chance if they play hard and fast. By the composition of the team, it looks like they will accomplish a lot. An Eastern Conference Finals appearance is waiting in the wings for the Wizards. They must go out and grab it.
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