The Washington Wizards are playoff contenders. It’s crazy to say out loud after how the start of the season unfolded. After starting off as the worst team in the NBA at 0-5, the Wizards have slowly but surely battled back. With just 15 games left in the season, they are currently tied for 10th with the Chicago Bulls. However, Chicago has the tiebreaker in its favor. Considering that most people had relegated Washington to being a lottery team early on, it is nothing short of incredible that they are even in this conversation. So let’s take a look as to how we got here.
The Washington Wizards are Playoff Contenders
At the start of the season, it did not take very long for “Free Bradley Beal” to start trending on social media. Through the first 10 games, the Wizards went 2-8. In one of those losses coming at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers, Bradley Beal put up a monster 60 points. Doing all that, just to lose by five points. That game epitomized the early-season woes of this team.
This team had a decent amount of hype surrounding them going into the year. When the season was suspended, they were the ninth seed, doing it all without a starter-caliber PG. Adding Westbrook to that team should have been an improvement. However, Washington went into February with a 4-12 record. Beal, playing out of his mind, proved that he deserved to be an All-Star; Russell Westbrook, a decent alternate scoring option, wasn’t standing out; Rui Hachimura wasn’t taking a step forward in his progression while battling injuries; and Deni Avdija, unable to make an impact in limited minutes, was an occupational hazard for being a rookie.
The Comeback Kids
February looked to be Washington’s comeback month. Surprisingly, the Wizards went 9-7, including a run of games where they won seven out of eight. Also, these games were not charity wins. Washington took hard-fought wins against the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and the Portland Trail Blazers. However, the good work that was done in February and the hopes that the team had found form were quickly erased. March was another catastrophic month, a record of 4-10. Once again, the Wizards seemed to be at the end of the road.
However, April has been a resurgence for Washington. The Wizards are on a five-game win streak and have won seven out of their last eight. Players have found their form. Furthermore, new acquisitions joined the team and made an immediate impact. On deadline day, the Wizards made a move that sent out Moritz Wagner and Troy Brown and brought in Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchinson. While Hutchinson has not had any major impact, Gafford has been a very good pick-up for Washington. The Wizards have gone 7-1 with Gafford in their lineup. He has proved to be a valuable bench player for them. Gafford fills a void that desperately needed attention after Thomas Bryant went out for the season.
The Road Ahead for the Washington Wizards
As mentioned before, the Wizards have the same record as the Bulls. Tied for 10th with Chicago having the tiebreaker. However, the Indiana Pacers are the ninth seed, and with all their injury trouble, their season may be done. If the Pacers fall off, Chicago moves up to ninth, and then Washington would claim the final play-in spot. Furthermore, with the Wizard’s final 15 games, just four of those games are against teams with a win percentage above .500, an easy schedule to wrap up the year. If Washington can continue this momentum and capitalize on both their weak schedule and the misfortunes of the teams in the league, we will see the Wizards in the playoffs for the first time since 2018. And maybe Beal thinks a little harder about staying.
Embed from Getty Images