COMMENTARY | Washington D.C. sports have taken quite the upswing in recent years. For the Nationals, their 2013 season was playoffs or bust and the same can be said for the Redskins for their current season. For the Wizards, the 2013-2014 season has “Playoffs or Bust” written all over it and here are five reasons why.
1: John Wall is Back and Healthy
While John Wall may not be the team’s leading scorer, he brings an entirely new level to the offense with his ability. Wall is a true point guard that leads the offense better than anyone else on the team and has the poise and vision to find the open man on the floor. When he’s calling the shots, there seems to be a sense of calm and confidence in him with the ball in his hands.
Last season, there was certainly something missing when Wall was out due to injury. Upon his return, the quality of play both offensively and defensively improved dramatically. By season’s end, some experts were saying that Washington would have made the playoffs had Wall not been injured to start the year.
2: Bradley Beal Is Ready For a Bigger Role
Last season, Bradley Beal had to grow up fast as a rookie. With Wall out, he needed to become a bigger playmaker than maybe he should have been considering his inexperience. Beal didn’t blink and became just that for the Wizards. This season, he is more than ready for the role that he’ll be playing and has shown that in preseason.
3: Nene Is Healthy
Injuries plagued the Wizards all of last season and the injury to big-man Nene certainly hurt them just as much as the injury to Wall did. The lack of a big man in the paint greatly hindered the offense and put more pressure on shooters that the Wizards didn’t necessarily have. With Nene back, they have a big man in the paint that they can rely on. In their season opener, Nene hurt his calf and isn’t yet known when he’ll return, but a healthy Nene will do wonders for the Wizards.
4: IF Otto Porter Jr. Plays
The Wizards first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Otto Porter Jr. has the potential to play just as big a role on this team as Bradley Beal. The Wizards certainly need his presence at the small forward position and, should he get healthy soon, would all but complete this lineup. Right now, Porter is out with a hip injury and is listed as day-to-day, but told the Washington Post that the pain is keeping him from participating.
5: The Marcin Gortat Trade
The Wizards made quite a move when they sent center Emeka Okafor and a 2014 first round pick to Phoenix in exchange for Marcin Gortat, Shannon Brown, Malcolm Lee and Kendall Marshall. It’s a risky move, but one that could payoff in spades for Washington.
Gortat is a starting-center caliber player and that would certainly be an upgrade over Okafor for the Wizards. While in the long run, there may not be much of a future in Gortat, he is certainly good enough to make an impact now. The fact that Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld was willing to take the risk speaks volumes to how badly he wants to make the playoffs this season.
The Wizards have been building up to this season ever since the John Wall drafting. Ernie Grunfeld has done a solid job putting together a good team worthy of a trip to the playoffs. This season, Washington is in good position to do just that.
This team is full of playmakers on offense and solid defenders. They have a big man presence in the paint and a true leader at point guard. If there was ever a team to pick as a dark horse to watch this season, it’s the Washington Wizards.
Brian Skinnell is a contributor for RantSports.com and Yahoo Sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Brian_Skinnell.