Editor's Note: Bumped to front. I'm moving to a new apartment, so I'm not around much in the next couple days. This was a really good FanPost that merits further discussion. -Mike
Like most of you, I'm excited about the way our Wizards are finishing out the season. We've won 5 of 7, many of which came against playoff teams on the road. We'll probably make it 6 of 8 tonight versus the putrid Bobcats. Optimism abounds for next season.
But what makes this year's "strong finish" any different than similar "strong finishes" the past two years?
In the wake of Guns-Gate™ the 2009-2010 Wizards finished on a strong note, winning 5 of their final 9 games. With an emerging star in Andray Blatche, an unleashed Javale McGee, and vets like Shaun Livingston, Mike Miller, and James Singleton, the team seemed poised for a future breakout, and finally discovered how to finish games. This included a convincing road win in Boston, toppling a Chris Paul-led Hornets team in the NO, and home blowouts of New Jersey and Golden State. Perhaps the most frustrating "win" of this late season surge happened in the season finale when Cedric Jackson lived out his Hoop Dreams by hitting a game winning shot versus Indiana. Despite this development, the Wiz won the NBA Draft lottery and went on the pick John Wall.
Last year, the team similarly finished in winning fashion, taking 6 of their last 10, with 4 straight W's at home. Once again, Blatche and McGee flashed the sort of potential that left scouts salivating. Rookies Wall, Booker, Crawford, and D-League find Othyus Jeffers lead the charge. And once again, the forecast was sunny.
I don't need to remind you guys how two the following seasons began. Stormy, my friends. Stormy.
So what makes this year any different from those two? Honestly, I'm not 100% sure. Unlike the NFL, where teams that finish strong (but miss the playoffs) often see a carryover to the next season, the same isn't necessarily true in the NBA for a number of reasons. Lots of teams in the NBA rest their stars (see Miami, Chicago) for the playoffs while teams on the other end of the spectrum (see Charlotte) have either checked out altogether or are simply outright tanking (see Portland, Golden State). While I'm glad that our guys are playing hard, figuring out how to finish games, and still showing signs of growth, I'm just not sure what (if anything) this portends for next year.
So lets examine both scenarios:
This Means Little-To-Nothing, Because:
- We're beating teams that have even less to play for than us.
- Some of our key players (Wall, Singleton, Mack, and Crawford) still aren't necessarily showing the consistent growth we expected.
- This follows a 5-game losing streak during which all the games were winnable.
- Two of the wins (will probably) come against Charlotte.
- Many of the guys contributing (Evans, Martin, Singleton) will probably be elsewhere next year.
This Means Something, Because:
- The frontline of Seraphin and Nene is quite different from low-IQ guys like Blatche & McGee.
- Wall's painfully aware of his jumpshot and it can't possibly get any worse.
- We clearly see how good Wall can be when surrounded with even moderately talented shooters and bigs who can finish.
- The defense is clearly better. The team's identity is becoming clearer.
- The guys clearly aren't concerned about lottery positioning. They're trying to win, and playing hard.
- There are no "character", "professionalism", "serious health" or "IQ" questions about the players expected to contribute next season.
- The guys who aren't playing right now (other than Booker) will not be expected to contribute next year. They probably won't even be here.
- Wins are wins. You have to learn to finish games at some point. We're seeing that now.
I'm honestly not sure what this means either, but I figured I'd ask you guys.
Is this season's "strong finish" fool's gold, or a clear indicator of a team on the rise? Why/why not?!?