The Wizards are 15-6 and 10-2 at home; currently off to their best start to the season since 1975. Here’s what we know about the team a quarter of the way through:
- John Wall is an all star and is the best point guard in the eastern conference. If he continues to show up night in and night out and the Wizards continue to win, he will start getting MVP consideration as the season grows older. John is one of three players currently averaging 10+ assists per game. The other two being Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. John is leading the team with 14 double-doubles through 21 games. So what’s the difference between this season and seasons past? Let’s start on defense. John leads the league averaging 2.1 steals per game. Defensive intensity. He always brings it, every night. He looks confident shooting jump shots. Although his field goal shooting has only increased by 1% from last year to this year (43% to 44%), he looks waaaaaaaay more confident when he rises up. If his mid range jump shots are falling, he isn’t guard-able. However, teams are still going to continue to go under screens and make him prove that he can consistently knock that jumper down.
- Kris Humphries should be starting over Nene, even when Nene is 100% healthy. Kris was picked up in the offseason hoping to be a rotation guy who would provide tough defense and rebounding off of the bench. He’s provided way more. Kris is averaging 8.2 points and 6.6 rebounds on the year. He got promoted to the starting lineup once Nene went down. He’s benefitting from playing with John Wall which is getting him several open shots per game. He’s consistently knocked down 15-17 foot jump shots on pick and pops with John. Kris is always active on the offensive glass and crashes the boards. His best game thus far came against the Lakers where he recorded 20 rebounds.
- Acquiring Paul Pierce is turning out to be the move of the offseason for the Wizards. More importantly, they didn’t overpay Trevor Ariza and only paid the veterans mid level deal to acquire pierce. Ariza was more lethal from 3 and is a better defender, but the leadership and experience that Paul Pierce brings is untouchable. Yes, he’s had a couple clunkers of games with poor shooting and even poorer defense, but he always seems to pick the team up out of a lull. Most memorably the Milwaukee game. The Wizards traveled to Milwaukee to take on an improved Bucks team the night after blowing out the Cavs at home. The team looked like they didn’t want to play that night. The Wiz found themselves in a early 12 point deficit but the Truth was able to will the team to victory that night. I know I know it was against the Bucks but the truth is (no pun intended), last year’s team would have lost that game. Experience and leadership took over and that’s what this team will need come playoff time. His stats are down across the board which is to be expected, but the veteran savvy and leadership that he brings makes up for that.
- The bench is playing great. Rasual Butler… The last player to make the Wizards squad is having a huge impact on the team. I cannot remember the Wizards having a guy who came off the bench and was straight buckets, every night. Rasual is currently the 2nd best three point shooter in the league at 52.5%. It’ll be interesting to see if Martell Webster sees the floor once he’s back and healthy as no one expected Butler to have this much of an impact on the team. Kevin Seraphin is finally coming into his own and is having his best season as a pro thus far. Kevin is averaging 6.4 points and 3.5 rebounds off the bench and has solidified his spot in the rotation. Additionally, he has all but perfected his post up hook shot and is starting to hit jump shots consistently from 8-12 feet out. He’s a strong rebounder and is very active which leads to a lot of second chance points for him. Otto Porter has improved too. Once again, stats don’t tell the entire story with Otto. He’s very active on defense getting several deflections per night. He never gives up on a play which is shown with his chase down blocks. Most importantly, he hustles, really hard. He could see an increase in minutes as the season goes on an the team tries to conserve Paul Pierce down the stretch but right now, Otto remains an improved, active, hustling, energy guy which is a great plus for this team. Oh and Andre Miller? Yeah the cat is 38 but can still ball.
- The Wizards have mostly been feasting on a soft schedule en route to this 15-6 start. Most of their games have come against teams who have records below .500. That’s what happens when you play in the east. The Wizards won a big game at home against Cleveland but also laid two eggs on the road against Cleveland and in Toronto. We’ll know much more about this team when they start playing western conference teams. Additionally, the inability to put away teams is a little bit of a cause for concern. The Wizards lack that killer instinct to bury an inferior team when they have the opportunity. They let teams hang around which has led to too many too close for comfort wins; look at the Celtics game. If the Wiz want to take that next step, they’ll need to bury inferior teams when they are down and have to work on consistently showing up night in and night out.