The fans of the Washington Wizards may be anticipating this season more than any season since the days of Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes. The Wizards have not been to the NBA Finals since the 1979 season when they lost to the Seattle Supersonics. They last won the championship the season before they when they beat the Sonics.
Think about that for a moment. The last time the Wizards went to the Finals they were called the Bullets. The team they played is now the Oklahoma City Thunder. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were facing off for a championship that season, only it was between the Indiana State Sycamores and the Michigan State Spartans. Michael Jordan was in high school. The Finals were not even shown live on network television when the series went to Seattle.
There was no Miami Heat yet. There was no Orlando Magic. The Charlotte Hornets did not exist. The Memphis Grizzlies did not exist. The Los Angeles Clippers were in San Diego. The Sacramento Kings were in Kansas City. The Jazz was in New Orleans.
It has been a long time since the NBA fans in the Nation’s Capital have been thinking the Finals were a possibility going into a season. But this year they really do have a chance to get there.
Washington made a nice playoff run this past season and that was with their star player breaking his hand while it was going on. They have to wonder what might have been had John Wall stayed healthy. With Wall and shooting guard Brad Beal the Wizards have a backcourt that is championship caliber.
Graphic via bleacherreport
Wall averaged a double double last season with nearly 18 points and over 10 assists per game. Beal averaged over 15 points per game and Marcin Gortat was a very good center with over 12 points and nearly nine rebounds per game.
Washington won 48 games in the regular season last year. In the Eastern Conference, that is a pretty good record. If the Wizards continue to improve it would not be surprising to see them win as many as 55 games this year.
The Atlanta Hawks came all the way from the eighth seed two seasons ago to the top seed and an Eastern Conference finalist this past year. Looking at a team from their same division making that kind of a jump in one season, Washington has to believe they can make a significant leap this year.
The team to beat in the East will still be the Cleveland Cavaliers. But are they unbeatable? The Wizards probably do not think so. When they are at the top of their game they can play with anyone in this conference.
The Wizards will have to find a way to replace Paul Pierce, who took his 11 points per game to the Los Angeles Clippers. Perhaps that will allow Beal to take a few more shots this season. If Wall has an Achilles heel it is his jump-shooting, so if he tries to make up for the absence of Pierce, that might not be a good thing.
As with most NBA teams, the key will be to stay healthy. Beal and Wall have both been a bit injury-prone in the past. Those two need to be on the floor to give Washington a chance. Had Wall not gotten hurt in the playoffs last season there is a good possibility they would have met the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals. Perhaps we will get to see that matchup this season. If so, then Wall and Beal vs Lebron James and Kyrie Irving will be fun to watch.
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