Still Sleeping on the Wicked Wizards of the East?

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Updated: November 22, 2021
Montrezl

The Miami Heat have been one of the best second-half teams in all of basketball so far this season. The way the 3rd quarter opened up last night, with Butler and Bam extending their lead over the Wizards by 16, it looked like Washington was simply outmatched. But as Adebayo picked up his 4th foul and was forced to head to the sidelines, the Wizards wiped away the majority of the deficit and headed into the 4th on their home floor down only 4. While watching the two teams battle back and forth, the eye test, and everything we know about the personnel of both rosters, Miami simply looked like the overwhelming favorite. However, with both teams shooting poorly from distance for the majority of the ball game, it was the Wizards who took the lid off the rim in the final minutes of regulation to ice out the fire of the Heat.

With the game being finalized upon 4 straight made free throws from Kyle Kuzma, the question we are now being forced to ask is, “Is this top seed Washington Wizards team for real?” Up until last night, every podcast outside of the nation’s capital has been impressed by the Wizards’ start, and yet none of them have included them in their true title-contending tier. Currently slotted as second in the East with an 11-5 record only behind the Bash Brothers in Brooklyn, Washington is ranking up W’s in a very different way than the star-driven Nets. Without a single All-Star outside of Bradley Beal, the combination of internal development and the array of new additions in Dinwiddie, Kuz, KCP, and Montrezl Harrell, have been driven by a collective buy-in of intensity on both ends of the floor.

Dinwiddie has arguably been their Alpha on the floor late in games, something that the Wizards were desperately missing last season. Ironically, Washington acquired him for basically nothing (a pair of 2nd’s) from Brooklyn in a sign and trade this offseason simply for the Nets to save money to pay for their big 3 that has been more of a big 1.75. If Dinwiddie was still in Brooklyn he defiantly would be closing games next to Durant but instead has become the dynamic and lethal backcourt partner of Brad Beal. For the past two seasons, Washington’s presence in the media has been primarily built off of Westbrook trades and Beal trade speculations but never their actual on-court production. However, with their current success, the idea of Beal being traded has been eliminated and replaced with their now assumed playoff push.

But even with their success until last night, much of their early-season accomplishments have been attributed to their schedule. With this playoff intensity win over Miami though, it may have been the small milestone that begins to change the narrative around the Wizards. The Russell Westbrook trade was on paper supposed to be 3 insignificant contracts connected to a first-round pick in exchange for an inflated 44 million dollar salary point guard…and yet Kuz, Harrell, and KCP have all played like above-average role players. Kyle Kuzma is average over 9 rebounds a game along with Montrezl’s 8.5 boards and 17 points per. Although last year Harrell was a bust in the playoffs, at least so far in the regular season he has been a straight problem for bigs due to his innate quickness and agility combined with his brute strength.

Am I convinced that they are a true contender to come out of the East? Honestly, it is hard to not bet the bank on Milwaukee and Brooklyn with how well Giannis and KD have played thus far and are capable of dominating a 7 game series. However, as cliché as it is to say, no one wants to see this Washington Wizards squad in the first round of the postseason.

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