Road to the 2017 Playoffs: Washington Wizards

Anton Roxas
Washington Wizards' John Wall, left, and Bradley Beal, slap palms in the closing moments of the Wizards' 130-122 overtime win against the Sacramento Kings in an NBA basketball game, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

49-33, #4 in the East, first in the Southeast Division

Key transactions: 

In six seasons with Washington, John Wall has only been to the NBA Playoffs twice. On both occasions, the Wizards made it past the first round before getting eliminated in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, by the Indiana Pacers in 2014 and the Atlanta Hawks in 2015. Last year, Washington failed to advance to the postseason, finishing 10th in the East with a 41-41 record. 

Because the Wizards were unable to maintain their winning ways, General Manager Ernie Grunfeld hired former Oklahoma City Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks to change the culture of the team. Brooks led the Thunder to five postseason appearances in seven years including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2012, where they lost to the Miami Heat in five games. 

Another major offseason move was the re-signing of shooting guard Bradley Beal, who received a handsome $127 million contract for five seasons to stay with Washington. The 23-year-old, third overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft from Florida has so far proved to be worth the money, as he is averaging career-highs in points, assists and most importantly, games played (77 games, 77 starts). Beal only managed to participate in 55 games (35 starts) last season due to a stress reaction on his right fibula.

The Wizards silently improved their roster throughout the regular season, notably by acquiring Bojan Bogdanović from the Brooklyn Nets, prior to the trade deadline. Washington had to give up Marcus Thornton and a first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft to complete the deal.

On March 1, Brandon Jennings was picked-up to give Wall an able back-up at the point guard spot. 

Top performers: 

John Wall – 23.1 ppg (45.1% FG), 4.2 rpg, 10.7 apg, 2.0 spg
Bradley Beal – 23.1 ppg (40.4% 3FG), 3.1 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.1 spg
Markieff Morris – 14.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.1 spg
Otto Porter Jr. – 13.4 ppg (43.4% 3FG), 6.4 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.5 spg
Marcin Gortat – 10.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg

Bojan Bogdanović – 23.7 ppg (39.1% 3FG), 3.1 rpg 
Brandon Jennings – 3.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 4.9 apg
Kelly Oubre Jr. - 6.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Ian Mahinmi – 5.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.1 spg

Key injuries: 

- John Wall missed the last two games of the Regular Season due to a left thigh contusion. He is expected to be ready to go come Playoffs time though. 

- Back-up big man Ian Mahinmi is expected to miss at the first two or three games of the first round of the Playoffs due to a calf strain

Key stats:

- The Wizards average 109.3 points per game (fifth in the NBA, 108.5 offensive rating, ninth in the NBA). They own a 30-8 record whenever they score 110+ points this season. Washington is also 17-2 this season when holding its opponent to 100 points or less. That said, the Wiz love to run-and-gun. Their 15.9 fast break points is #5 in the NBA, and their 17.7 points off turnovers is good for third.

Storylines:

The Washington Wizards won the Southeast Division, their first division title since 1978-79. It’s amazing how they went 47-24 after starting the season with a dismal 2-8 record. This is Washington’s best season since drafting John Wall as the number one overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. 

During the team’s rocky start, Wall was under a lot of scrutiny for being unable to lead the Wizards deep into the Playoffs. It did not help that Beal was rewarded with a max-deal when Wall is clearly the best player of the franchise. But, Wall admirably carried on, earning his fourth straight All-Star Game invite and even topped his career-high totals last season in points, assists and steals. There is no doubt in my mind that John Wall is a max-contract caliber athlete. And these upcoming Playoffs is the perfect chance for Wall to prove the doubters wrong.

As the number four seed, the Wizards will play the number five ranked Atlanta Hawks. In four meetings this season, Washington defeated Atlanta thrice.

Fun fact: All five players in the Wizards’ starting lineup average double-digits in scoring. This season, that quintet had 27 games where they all scored at least 10 points, the most in the NBA. Washington has a 19-8 record when that happens.

(Stats current as of end of regular season)

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