3. The surging Washington Wizards
It was just a couple short months ago that Washington was struggling to do anything of substance. It started the season by losing 13 of the team’s first 20 games. Rumors about general manager Ernie Grunfeld’s job security and the health of recently-extended Bradley Beal swept over D.C.
Now, just over two months later, the Wizards head into NBA’s unofficial second half with a 34-21 mark and as a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference.
The turnaround can be directly attributed to John Wall playing at an MVP level. The former No. 1 overall pick is averaging 22.8 points, 10.6 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He’s also shooting at a career-best 45 percent from the field. It’s really been an amazing thing to watch.
Though, Washington wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of the Eastern Conference without its role players stepping up. That is where the likes of Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat come into play. An argument could be made that all three are playing the best basketball of their careers.
Porter is shooting at an absurd 47 percent from three-point range. He’s been more automatic from distance than the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Think about that for a second. Meanwhile, Morris is at nearly 15 points per game and Gortat is averaging a double-double. This doesn’t even take into account the fact that Beal is averaging 22-plus points and has just missed four games on the season. He’s proven to be relatively healthy after receiving a max contract during the summer.
We’re not sold on the Wizards as a top competitor to dethrone Cleveland back east. At least, not yet. They need to continue this high level of play for a long period of time. But with 27-8 mark since the first week in December, it’s readily apparent that the boys in D.C. are turning heads.