Entering February, the Washington Wizards were 31-17 and looking like one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. But after a brutal month, in which they won just three games and went 3-9 overall, the Wizards are facing an uncertain future. They now sit at 34-26 and, if the playoffs began today, they’d be opening on the road against the current #4-seed Cleveland Cavaliers – a dreadful proposition.
Speaking of the word dreadful, Washington lost two nights ago against the 13-45 Philadelphia 76ers, a team that has absolutely no plans to win now. But hey, at least Washington closed out February with a 4-point win against the Detroit Pistons at home. This home victory, however, isn’t going to change the fact that the Wizards need to answer questions moving forward, and plenty of them at that.
Question #1: Will the Frontcourt remain Consistent?
This certainly isn’t a team that calls on the frontcourt to go out and win games. However, for the most part, Marcin Gortat and Nene Hilario have done an adequate job of providing interior defense and rebounding. But these two were nowhere to be found against the Sixers, combining for just 14 total shots and two free throws in 55 combined minutes. And when these two get tentative inside, Washington devolves into a predictable, jump-shooting team.
Question #2: Where is the Competitiveness?
Most coaches can handle losing streaks as long as their team is putting in a strong effort and fighting for every possession. But this was far from the case in February with the Wizards. In fact, some of their losses have just been downright humiliating such as a 38-point home loss to the Cavaliers on Feb. 20. There was also a Feb. 25 contest in Minnesota, where Washington started out leading 18-3, only to end up losing 97-77. We get that this was an emotional night for the Timberwolves with Kevin Garnett’s return, but still, this is the 13-45 T-Wolves that we’re talking about.
Question #3: Can They survive the Upcoming Schedule?
If the Wizards thought February was unfriendly to them, March could get even uglier based on the upcoming schedule. In their 14 March games, Washington will face eight teams with winning records, including @Chicago, @Milwaukee, Memphis, Portland, @Los Angeles, @Golden State and Houston. As they’ve proven in recent games against Minnesota and Philadelphia, Washington isn’t exactly handling bad teams. So how can they expect to beat some of the league’s giants this month?
Question #4: Does Washington even want to make the Playoffs?
Given that they are currently 9 games better than the East’s current eighth-seed, Brooklyn (24-33), the Wizards are virtually guaranteed a postseason spot. But the question is if they really even want to be in this position. Remember, Washington was the chic pick to win the East title this season, and they looked the part early on. But now, it’s looking like they would be completely outclassed by any higher seed they face in the first round.
Question #5: How much of a Difference can Bradley’s Beal’s Return make?
Bradley Beal, the team’s second-leading scorer (15.0 PPG) and best three-point shooter (43.6%) has missed the last nine games with leg and toe injuries. Aside from team-star John Wall (17.1 PPG, 10.1 APG), Washington doesn’t really have much else in the backcourt, so Beal’s absence has been huge. However, given all of Washington’s other problems, will Beal coming back be enough boost to right the ship?