What is continuity worth to the Washington Wizards?

Rob Carr

How many teams start 5-28 and get fans calculating playoff odds in March?

I may err on the wrong side of tautological line today. In such an instance, I beg your indulgence.

Fan outlook on the upcoming season has been downright rosy and the more sober of us want to know why. The Wizards blitzed free agency, but in terms of warfare, it was more on par with Italy rolling Corsica than a blitzkrieg. (Mare Nostrum fo lyfe, y'all.) Eric Maynor was the only true addition (replacing A.J. Price) as Martell Webster and Garrett Temple were brought back into the fold.

Injuries sunk the ship last season; when John Wall returned to the fold, the Wizards got hot. Fans remember Nene playing a heavy minutes load in the Olympics and watching his plantar issues carry in to the 2012/13 regular season. Hell, Bradley Beal missed fairly significant time, himself. If those guys avoid the bowling alley and come back at full strength, the Wizards can take aim at the lower playoff seeds with relative confidence, but there's more to it than having the star power in place.

I can't help but recall when the Wizards were still trying figure out if Andray Blatche, Nick Young and JaVale McGee were future franchise building blocks. Remembering those teams, right up until general manager Ernie Grunfeld acquired Nene, the Wizards seemed like a collection of basketball players wearing the same jersey. Now they feel like a team, and that, at least, isn't some tautological mirage.

Before the Wizards could start building a team, they needed to figure out the Three Burritos. Once it was apparent none of the three were centerpieces, it was the end of the bombs away personnel approach in D.C. I took the stance that the 2012/13 squad was not your same old Wizards. This was not a particularly popular view, but it wasn't a referendum on the upcoming season's win total, it was attempting to draw attention to the nascent Wizards identity that would surge over the final half of the season. And that's really the point.

The OkAriza trade was branded as a win-now move, but that wasn't something I saw as a dirty qualification. As Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza made their impact on the defense, Webster was proving a powerful presence on the offensive end and in the locker room. The Ten Point Plan demanded veteran players who knew their place when it came to the young core, and Ernie got them. With solid veterans complementing them, Wall and Beal thrived. Wall was smiling and having fun. The Wizards became a team, found their identity on defense. And the Wizards won.

How high they'll fly in 2013/14 is a topic of much debate. Webster says the Wizards are aiming at the fifth seed. Zach Lowe figures seventh seed, maybe sixth. Some envision a scrap for the eighth seed. If the Wizards stay relatively healthy, I believe .500 ball is the floor. I've seen 35-38 wins being bandied around the comments for a team missing its proverbial locomotive and it's hard to understand when Wall's return had such a palpable effect.

What's the basis for assuming the Wizards could conceivably snag the fifth seed this season? Continuity. Nothing more mind-bending than postulating that the Wizards who came together on defense despite a mind-numbing offensive start (character!), then comparatively blew the doors off when John Wall came back are the same Wizards who are starting this season.

What is continuity worth to the Wizards? This year, it's worth the playoffs and scrapping for the eighth seed be damned.

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