John Wall looks to lead his Wizards past the doubters and into championship contention
Six months after the Washington Wizards were dismissed from the NBA Playoffs in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals for the second consecutive year, the John Wall led team heads into the 2015 season looking to emerge as true title contenders. After finishing last season with a record of 46-36, the Wizards are looking to improve upon that record with the core of the team still around.
The Wizards return one of the best young back courts in the NBA, with All-Star John Wall and youngster Bradley Beal coming into the season fully healthy. Fellow teammate Otto Porter looks to build upon his breakout performance in the playoffs last season and see sustained minutes on the court this year. Veteran big men Hilario Nene and Marcin Gortat look to provide production inside and form a strong front line.
Despite the loss of Pierce, the Wizards have added talent throughout the roster.
While the majority of the team (and starters) are back, the Wizards did lose veteran and future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce to the Clippers in free agency. Pierce had a huge impact for the Wizards, especially during the playoffs where he hit big shots night in and night out. Despite just having played in DC for one year, Pierce brought intangibles to the team, such as leadership, and has passed that torch onto John Wall to continue into the future.
Despite the loss of Pierce, the Wizards have added talent throughout the roster. They drafted rookie Kelly Oubre Jr. out of Kansas in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft this summer, hoping to add a defensive-minded swingman who can run the court with Wall. They have also added veterans Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson, who hope to provide some more outside shooting help for Beal this season.
Ultimately moving forward, this team will go as far as John Wall takes it. Coming off of his best season averaging over 17 points and 10 assists a game, and being named a starter to the All-Star team, Wall looks to continue to prove doubters wrong and push for MVP contention. Wall was quoted late this summer saying he shot as many three pointers as it took for him to make a thousand a day this off-season, in order to improve upon his shooting ability this year.
“I’m just going to keep rising.” — John Wall
Besides Wall, Beal and Porter really need to take their outstanding playoff performances last season, and build off them this year and continue that upward trajectory this season. If the Wizards utilize the trending “small ball” style of playing offensively and continue as one of the league’s stingiest defenses (ranked first in defensive efficiency the final three months of the year) they could be one of the toughest team in the league and even look to push the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot this year in the Eastern Conference.
Looking up and down this roster, it is a very well rounded team, with exciting guards and strong reliable big men. Some would say it is probably one of the most well rounded teams in the league. The only problem for the Wizards has been their bench, or lack thereof. It seems like each year the team gets decimated by injuries, and the depth behind the starters just isn’t good enough to sustain a hit if one of the key starters goes down for an extended period of time. So just like the years before, health could be the sole catalyst to how far this team will go.
If you asked any of the players, they would probably say that a successful season would be to win the NBA Championship. However, what realistically would fans consider a successful season? The Wizards’ goals for this season should be to make it to Eastern Conference Finals of the playoffs and have John Wall in MVP contention, with Beal and Porter emerging as fringe All-Star snubs.
Prediction: Wizards finish as the second seed in the East at 52-30 and lose to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals 4-2.