Are the Wizards for real?

Published by Yoshi on 12th March - 16:15 (CET)
In case you are one of the many people not really paying attention to the LeBron Eastern Conference this year, let me bring you up to speed on the Washington Wizards who are on a roll lately and have claimed the number two spot while starting to look like a true threat to the King's Finals appearance streak.

Through the first few months of the season the Wizards were a mess with a 6-11 record by the end of November and a very public bashing of the team's second unit by starting center Marcin Gortat in the middle of the month. Though December brought some more success, the Wizards entered 2017 as only the sixth seed in the East with a pedestrian 16-16 record. It was in January, however, that things took a turn for the better.

Since the new year began the Wizards have been on a tear, winning 25 of their 33 games and taking some serious opposition down in the process with wins against the Celtics, Hornets and Warriors. And if it wasn't for the Shot of the Year we would have had the Champions on that list as well. In March Washington has only lost once in seven games, and if they can keep this pace up through the final stretch of the season they have a chance of overtaking the somewhat slumping Cavaliers' top spot, with the difference between the two teams currently being only 2.5 games.

What has been all the more impressive during this hot stretch for the Wizards is their balanced scoring. Through nine wins since February 13th five players have led the team in scoring. Whereas John Wall was The Man in past years, responsible for both facilitating and scoring on a nightly basis, now Bradley Beal, Markieff Morris, Otto Porter or latest addition Bojan Bogdanovic can all shoulder the scoring burden on any given night. In February Morris averaged 17.6 points per game, Porter 14.6, Wall 22.7 and Beal 25.5, while Bogdanovic in March has chipped in another 18.1 per game in seven contests. Add to that Gortat's stable 11.5 PPG on the season and you've got yourself some tough decisions to make when defending against the Wizards.

Ever since Wall was drafted in 2010 the fans in Washington have had that "almost there" feeling as it has every year seemed like another piece or two was missing to make this a truly dangerous team. With the core group from last year now being healthy and Scott Brooks having been brought in from Oklahoma City to orchestrate things, the Wizards are looking more "there" than ever with the Playoffs looming just a month away. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the Eastern Conference title is Cleveland's to lose, but if the Wizards manage to wrestle their way to the top seed in the coming weeks there is no telling what could happen. While the other teams in the East simply don't have the weapons to challenge the Cavaliers in a seven game series, the Wizards are proving they have just that in this second half of the season.

Yes, folks, the Wizards are for real, and just like we last week discussed how the outcome of the West is becoming less clear, so too is the outcome of the East. Bring on the Playoffs, already!

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