Blogtable: How High For Washington?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


The Suns with Pau | The Wizards? Really? | Blake, Kevin or L.A.?



VIDEO: John Wall leads Washington past Oklahoma City

Could the Wizards end up Top 4 in the East? How’d that happen?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIn the East, if you’re above .500, you’re a contender for a top-4 seed, and the Wizards’ whole season has been about breaking above .500. It dates to last season, when coach Randy Wittman‘s marching orders were basically to be .500 in games in which point guard John Wall was available. They nearly did it, going 24-25 with Wall and 5-28 without him. The urgency got dialed up coming into this season, with jobs on the line if there wasn’t more progress. Trevor Ariza has been a valuable piece this season, Marcin Gortat has been the upgrade Washington needed, rookie Otto Porter basically is a bonus player after missing so much of the season’s first half and Wittman has done a good job with the defense and in cobbling together a rotation from young, overlapping parts. But the Wizards’ greatest asset is its backcourt, Wall and Bradley Beal – skilled and as promising as any in the league.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: If they keep playing the kind of solid team defense that’s held down the Suns, Warriors, Thunder and Blazers over the past several weeks, it’s not out of the question, which is how the Wizards are over .500 for the first time since 2009. They’ve got the best point guard in the East in John Wall running the show and the rest of the roster seems to finally be coalescing around him. However, while they are within arm’s reach of Atlanta right now, let’s hold off any certain judgment until they can stay above .500 for a couple of weeks.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Let’s consult the standings: Hmm, yes, the Wiz are No. 5 and although just one game over .500 they’re closing in on No. 3 Atlanta. Yes, by golly, the Wiz can get a top-four playoff spot! How did it happen? This is the East we’re talking about here. At the same time it is nice to see the team heading up instead of drowning like Cleveland or Detroit. I’m happy for coach Randy Wittman, who could have already been fired, but wasn’t. They’ve got health now and, look, this is a nice starting five. John Wall has a case to be the East’s starting point guard over Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal is dangerous and the front line with Nene and Marcin Gortat can be pretty formidable. There’s not much depth, but this group, in this conference, is top-four material.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Because they play in the East. That’s how it happened. A two-game winning streak puts anyone in contention for home-court in the playoffs. Beyond that as the obvious, this always had the potential to be a postseason team. Getting John Wall and Bradley Beal together on the court is imperative. And while it doesn’t get a lot of attention, the Marcin Gortat acquisition has paid off.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: It happened because teams 3-15 in the East aren’t very good. Really, whether the Wiz get a top-four spot is as much about the rest of the conference as it is about them. Will the Raptors trade Kyle Lowry? Can the Bulls keep Joakim Noah healthy? Will the Hawks keep hanging on? Have the Nets really gotten their act together? Throw in the Wiz and you should have five teams fighting for the 3 and 4 spots, with one of them stuck playing the Heat in the first round. Washington has been a top-five defensive team since Jan. 1, which is a good sign for them going forward. And of that group, they’ve played the second toughest schedule so far (behind only Toronto). At worst, they should finish fifth.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThe Wizards could actually be good enough in the Eastern Conference this season. So could the Toronto Raptors … Brooklyn Nets … Atlanta Hawks … or Chicago Bulls. That’s just the nature of the East this year. The Wizards are in that mix immediately after the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, and they have the talent to challenge for that top-four spot in the playoff chase. They need to find a way to stay above .500, now that they’ve finally gotten there. And they need to stay healthy down the stretch of this season. How they got here starts with a defensive-minded group that has been a constant the past couple of years and ends with the arrival of John Wall the All-Star and a supporting cast that has finally grown comfortable with him as their leader. Sustainability is the name of the game in Washington now.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blogWatching the Wizards this season, I keep going back to the long conversation I had over the summer with John WallFor a guy who had mostly been up and down the first few years of his career, Wall sounded completely focused. On that day he convinced me that he was the guy to lead the Wizards into the postseason. Of course, I didn’t know the rest of the Eastern Conference was going to become the Leastern Conference, easing the path for the Wiz to get to the top of the Conference.

Davide Chinellato, NBA ItaliaI think the Wizards will make the playoffs, but they won’t get home-court advantage. Since they don’t play in the Atlantic Division, they’d have to pass the Hawks to get it and I don’t think that will happen. The Wizards depend too much on how John Wall plays, while — at least for now — the Hawks are a better overall team.

Adriano Albuquerque. NBA BrasilThey became the team that they were supposed to be in the beginning of the season. The players-only meeting and Nene’s message about “taking their heads out of their butts” worked, brought them back to Earth, and now they’re ready to soar again. John Wall is playing as the best point guard in the East (besides Kyle Lowry), Bradley Beal keeps on showing improvements in his sophomore year, Trevor Ariza came back in the same beat he was early in the season, Martell Webster is contributing, Nene is playing well on both sides of the court, and even Jan Vesely turned into a decent bench player. Yes, they will definitely compete with Atlanta for the non-division champion home-court advantage.

Akshay Manwani, NBA IndiaI think the more important point is that even if the Wizards don’t get home-court advantage, they could still win the first round in the 2014 postseason. Really, any of the teams between 3 to 6 in the East could end up beating the other. But the Wizards were always primed to do well this season with their mix of young talent and veteran presence on the team. A few reasons for their slow start could have been playing 15 of their first 26 on the road, where they earned a 12-14 record and their inability to close out clutch games. They are only 2-5 in games that have gone into overtime.

9 Comments

  1. Patrick Durall says:

    The key to their success is their defense. John Wall has been playing amazing lately, but if he goes into a slump, their defense is what will keep them in games. Also, if Ariza continues to shoot lights out from beyond the 3 point line, that will help them a lot as well.

  2. Nich ob says:

    Those 7 OT games came in their first 21 games this year, which is crazy. The opposite end of the spectrum, The Bulls (or maybe the Hawks, I’m forgetting now) only played 7 Overtimes total from the 09-10 to 11-12 seasons.

    From the game where Wall came back last year until they sat 4 of their top 7 guys, they had the 10th best point differential, 2nd best defense and a 24-18 record. If they hadn’t sat guys they might have had the biggest midseason turnaround in NBA history. What made that even more impressive is that Beal, Nene and Ariza played a lower percentage of minutes during the 24-18 stretch than the 4-28 one, and their strength of schedule ratcheted up a little bit.

    They’ve already won a bunch more road games than last year, and that was their Achilles heel last year, they beat a lot of good teams and lost to a lot of bad ones, even after Wall returned. This year was the opposite for awhile, with them generally taking care of business vs bad teams and getting shut out by good ones. But since the 15th they’ve beaten Chicago twice, Miami, Golden State, OKC, Phoenix and Portland, and they’re doing it with a defensive focus that wasn’t matching their elite level from last season until that Miami game. That’s when the switch flipped, they’ve lost some stinkers since then but in general they’ve been pretty excellent.

    I look at Atlanta and think there’s no way they’ll finish 3rd, Toronto and Brooklyn are big question marks depending on what moves they make and how healthy they stay, DCseems to be in the drivers seat in an eastern conference that truthfully isn’t that much worse than it was last year. The Heat are taking it slower, the Knicks and Bucks fell off dramatically, but the Pacers and a lot of the middling teams have stepped it up.

    The Wizards were the 10th best team after Wall came back last year, another year of maturity for he and beal, prayers for health. And they should be the clear cut 3rd seed by the time it’s all said and done, unfortunately, Randy Wittmans kinda awful. If this team had George Karl they’d conceivably push for 50 wins.

    • Are You Serious? says:

      Sorry, this current Wizards team is playing .500 basketball, while the current Raptors team is playing .667 basketball, yet Washington should be clear cut 3rd seed? Haha that’s a laugh.

  3. dustydreamnz says:

    My East picks would be Pacers, Miami, Raptors, Wizards, Nets, Hawks. I think Wall should be starting in the All Star game.

  4. jsmoove1257 says:

    Well they are wizards which brings magic spells to mind. They better take advantage though, Kevin love would kill to be in the east right now

  5. charles cohen says:

    Good foundation. Shooters everywhere and the big men are very good but would like to see Porter play. They might have the best potential in the East sceptic for Indiana. I think the Thunder match up well against Indiana, though.

    Sent from my iPad

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    • WAKE UP! says:

      The Raptors continue to get disrespected. First the All-Star snub of Kyle Lowry, who fantasy rankings have him as the 6th overall player in the East, compared to Joe Johnson, who is ranked 95th!! Why? Because 2 Raptors in the All-Star game is ‘impossible’. DeRozan leads all East backcourt players in PPG, and is the 53rd ranked player….still way better than Joe Johnson.

      Now, people still think Toronto is just a .500 level team. Really?

      Understand that since they traded Rudy Gay, they are 20-10, a .667 winning percentage, defeating Indiana and OKC, and sweeping the likes of Chicago, Dallas, Brooklyn, and New York (each of which played 2 games) during that stretch. Not to mention the way the Raptors dismantled Washington in their last encounter. Why? They got rid of a high-volume shooter and bolstered their bench. And this is with the Raptors having played one of…if not THE hardest schedule in the East.

      If the Raptors started the season with this current team, and played at their current pace of .667, the Raptors would have a record of 32-16, and a projected finish of 55-27. The Raptors are now projected to finish the season at 48-34…which is still good enough for 3rd seed.

      The Raptors are playing like a 55-27 team. I’m sorry, but Schuhmann, Chinellato and Manwani…how is that NOT good?

      And if you say “Well that’s because they are playing in the East”. Well, after the Rudy Gay trade, Raptors have a 7-5 record against the Western Conference, and 4 of those 5 losses were against, San Antonio (2), Portland and L.A. Clippers, all of which were very close games.

      Raptors need to be respected more. They are playing closer to Miami caliber ball than Washington caliber ball. Cohen, Washington and Toronto aren’t in the same league.

    • the only team that could be able to upset Miami in the first round! it’s doable with this squad!