By JT Shatzer
The Washington Wizards are the clear-cut front-runner to win the Southeast Division this season. The question is, can they come together as a team to really compete for something more than that?
Every single season, it seems as if the hype around the Wizards’ outstanding team on paper gives hope to their dedicated fans craving a deep playoff run. However, year after year the team under achieves and barely sneaks into the playoffs. On paper, the the team’s players and stats should qualify them as a championship contender.
The upgrade to eight time all star Dwight Howard at the center position opens up possibilities for Wall, who is entering his ninth NBA season. Wall has never before had such an established and athletic big man as Howard who can catch and thunderously finish his lob passes. The Wizards have an improved bench this year along with Beal, an all-star coming off his best season, and a healthy Otto Porter Jr., whose light will glow so green that Brooks is challenging him to take 10 three-pointers a game. With this improved lineup, Washington should have the depth to make a move in the LeBron-less East.
With all the constant high expectations and surrounding the Wizards, star point guard John Wall understands that it means nothing unless the team puts consistent effort in and their talent into action. With this in mind during an ESPN NEWS interview, he stated, “If you don’t go out and perform, then everything backfires. But if you say you want to be in the Eastern Conference finals or you should be a top-four team that’s not really backfiring because that’s your ultimate goal as a team. But when you start to point things out on an individual, about one game or one person, that’s when you put the pressure on yourself. So now you’re not playing basketball for the team, you’re playing for yourself when you’re out there.” The overall struggle for this team last year was their inability to play as a unit, and to play for each other. Wall hopes to change the energy and environment surrounding the team into a strong, positive one.
One main key for the Wizards this upcoming season is gaining team chemistry. As Wall stated, things start to fall apart and pressure increases once the team stops playing for each other and only focuses on themselves. Along with the players, fans have noticed the lack of chemistry within the team during the 2017 season and are hoping for an increase of team communication and player relationships.
“I honestly believe that the only thing that was causing us to not be able to string together wins consistently was our chemistry,” says Glenelg Sophmore basketball player, Niko Garbis. “The players just seemed like they were not in sync like some of the other great teams like the Warriors. We look great on paper, but that means nothing if we can’t work together as a unit and win games.” The Wizards match up nicely against anyone in the Eastern Conference, but the success of the team as a whole depends on the willingness of the players to build chemistry.
As they have been for years, the expectations for the Wizards are to make a deep playoff run. This may be that year. With a few new additions over the summer and having a more mature roster overall, there is no sign that the Wizards cannot achieve this goal.
By playing to their strengths and using their depth to compliment the contributions of their stars, the Wizards seem to be a deadly, and are a legitimate threat in the East. As John Wall leads a potentially good fast-break team, he remains one of the best guards in the league in the open court who can create opportunities for players coming off a steal or a rebound. Outside of Kyrie Irving, he could be the top pure PG in the Eastern Conference; and there is plenty of talent on the perimeter with sharpshooter Bradley Beal, who finally achieved All-Star status last year.
Only time can tell if the Wizards can live up to the buzz around them, but this year seems to look better than ever. With the key additions and star-caliber players added to the roster, the Wizards are a legitimate contender in the 2018-2019 Eastern Conference.