The Washington Wizards started the season 0-3. On December 23, 2016 the Wizards loss to the Bucks by 27 points in Milwaukee dropping their record to 13-16. Before that loss the Wiz were playing some good basketball despite their record.
Since that loss the Wizards are 10-3. As I write this the Wizards are on a four game winning streak, have a record of 23-19, are 5th in the Eastern Conference and only three games from the 3rd seed. If you look at the numbers they are not great. Their defensive rating is 18th and their point differential is just +0.3. So why are the Wizards playing so well?
First off they are really good at home. Their last home loss was on December 6th. They have won 13 straight home games. They are 18-6 at home which puts them behind the Warriors and Cavs for most wins at home.
Secondly Washington is getting career high production from their three best players. John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are carrying the Wizards. Their bench still struggles but the starters are really good and these three are having career years.
Otto Porter is just a better player than last season. He’s posting career highs across the board; 54% from the field, 45% from 3-point, 6.4 rebounds per game and 14.5 points per game. Those are solid numbers for the 3rd option on a team. His 45% from 3-point range ranks 2nd in the league. Before this season he had 0 career 30 point games, he has two this season. Last season he made 98 3-pointers in 75 games, this season in just 42 games he has made 82 3-pointers. He became the first Wizards player ever to make six 3-pointers in back-to-back games. He’s already surpassed his double-doubles from last season and his TS% is at 64%. In his last five games he’ averaging 18 ppg while shooting 63% from 3-point range.
Production from Otto Porter is great for the Wizards but everyone had their eye on Bradley Beal coming into this season. He got a max contract and now he just needed to perform. He’s always dealt with injuries and has missed some games this year. However, he has started more games this season (38) than last season (35). This is his first season averaging over 20+ points per game (21.8). His shooting percentages are about the same but he’s taking and making more 3-pointers, he’s doing a better job of getting to the line as well. He played 55 games last season and made 105 3-pointers, this season in just 38 games he has made 106 3-pointers. In the previous four seasons Beal had four 30+ point games, he already has four such games this season including two games over 40 points. This is the Beal Wizard fans have been waiting to see. If he can stay healthy they can really make a push in the 2nd half of the season.
John Wall was inactive for the last five games of last season. He then had surgeries on both knees in the off-season. He was a question mark for the start of Wizards training camp. Well Wall was there for training camp and he was there to start the season. Despite the three losses to start the year Wall had a double-double in each game. Like his backcourt mate this is Wall’s first season averaging 20+ points (23.1). He’s shooting a career high from the field (46%) and from the line (82%). His defense is not as good as it was in previous years which means his defensive win shares are down and his defensive rating is down. He still leads the league in total steals and steals per game (2.3), which is a career high. It is his 3rd straight year averaging double-digit assists (10.3). Last season he had four games with 30+ points including one 40-point game. He’s already matched that output this season and had a career high 52 points in ironically their last home loss to the Magic.
The Wizards still need to improve their defense and could use some support from their bench if they want to make a strong playoff push. However, their starters are a +178 on the season which puts them 2nd just behind the Warriors. Wall, Beal and Porter are doing their part and trying to rally the Wizards back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season.