Playoff Preview: Washington Wizards

(Getty Images)

by Quentin Haynes

1. Statistical Breakdown

Leaders

PPG: 19.6 — John Wall
APG: 8.7 — John Wall
RPG: 9.4 — Marcin Gortat
SPG: 1.8 — John Wall
BPG: 1.5 — Marcin Gortat

Team Averages

PPG: 100.3
OPPG: 99.4
ORating: 102.9 (19th)
DRating: 102.4 (10th)
Net Rating: +0.5 (15th)
Pace: 93.2

2. Regular season overview

Somewhere between the Indiana combustion and the Western Conference battle for the final two seeds, the Washington Wizards became an interesting basketball team. It almost seemed that wasn’t going to happen either. The injury to Emeka Okafor left them without a starting big, until they flipped his contract and a first round pick to Phoenix for Marcin Gortat. That made sure Washington was a legitimate playoff contender, and months later, here they are with the sixth seed in the East.

In the end, the ultimate addition for Washington was a healthy John Wall. His orchestration of the offense was great throughout the season, and you couldn’t tell looking at Washington’s offensive numbers. Why? Because Washington shot a ton of mid-range jumpers, 2200 to be exact. That 2200 led the league, and their 38.1% from mid-range ranked 21st. Not good. Still, Wall found the Wizards for a ton of corner threes, leading all point guards with 109 assists on corner threes, via Grantland.com. As a result, Washington ranked ninth in field goal percentage on corner threes with 40.3%. Guys like Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, and Bradley Beal thrived off Wall’s passing and court vision.

For the Wizards, it’s finally fallen into place. John Wall was healthy, a trade worked out, a winning season, and the playoffs. For Washington’s sake, this is hopefully the start of a string of playoff appearances.

3. Which player(s) are most important for the Wizards in the playoffs? Why?

John Wall. As I wrote above, he leads the league in creating corner threes, and along with his ability to create them, he shoots them as well. After three seasons of subpar three-point shooting, Wall set career highs in three pointers attempted (305), three pointers made (107), and three-point percentage (35.1%). The Wizards upgraded their backup point guard position in Andre Miller, but he can’t recreate the offense in Wall’s absence. The Wizards have one ideal ring leader, and if he’s struggling, the Wizards will have a hard time advancing past round one.

4. What is the Wizards’ biggest question mark heading into the playoffs?

How will the young guys play? An important question because this team is secretly loaded with playoff experience. Andre Miller and Nene made numerous runs with the Denver Nuggets, Marcin Gortat got to the finals with Orlando, and Trevor Ariza has a NBA title to his name. Those are four of the team’s top seven players. The others guys–John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, and Trevor Booker–are new to this experience. If any of them falter, especially Wall, the Wizards have no shot of winning their first round series.

5. How far can the Wizards realistically go?

Maybe the second round? The Wizards are an interesting team: Wall running the group, the wings (Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, and Martell Webster) can both shoot and defend, and a trio of big men (Nene, Marcin Gortat, and Trevor Booker) that are just good enough to battle with opposing teams. If Wall could dominate the point guard matchup, the Wizards could push an opponent to a game seven, and from there, the second round is possible. Realistically, I see them having a competitive first round series, but bowing out with grace.

6. What is one matchup the Wizards doesn’t want to see? Why?

The Chicago Bulls. The Wizards won the regular season matchup, two games to one, and John Wall dominated whenever he pleased (20.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists on a 58.0 TS%). But the playoffs are just a different animal. The Bulls have the perfect big man to bother Washington. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are both irritating because of their ability to hustle — almost over hustle — forcing Nene and Gortat to exert themselves more than usual on the defensive end. Then, Carlos Boozer can pull them out with the threat of his mid-range shooting. On the perimeter, the Bulls would find success throwing Jimmy Butler on John Wall at certain stretches, and disrupting him could, and probably will, disrupt Washington’s offense.

Then, we get to the coaching advantage. Tom Thibodeau will coach circles around Randy Wittman, who just doesn’t seem like a great coach, based on results and fan reaction.

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