The Washington Wizards have now legitimately been a good team for a week and a half. They're 4-2 over their last six games, with the only losses coming at the very end. They have wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder at home and the Denver Nuggets on the road. As Ian Levy of Hickory High notes, they have a scoring margin of +8.3 since John Wall return, a mark only bested by five teams. Finally, as Michael Lee notes, Wall himself has hit the ground running since coming back.
Of course, it's just six games. Things probably won't be this good for the rest of the season. Other teams will adjust to the Wizards' style. Nagging injuries will again crop up. Hot shooting, particularly from Bradley Beal, will probably taper off a bit. But it's certainly reasonable to think that the Wizards could play close to .500 ball down the stretch if everyone remains healthy.
So, if that happens, now what?
A .500 record in the Wizards' final 44 games will put them at 30-52 on the season, a decent improvement on the last few years, but still several games away from a playoff spot. The Wizards would probably pick somewhere in the mid-lottery, which could mean anything depending on how deep this draft ends up being. Those are the facts.
The implications of those facts, though, are interesting. If the Wizards finish with around 30 wins, how is management going to react? The fear here is that they'll once again excuse early-season losing and think they're much closer to contention than they actually are. "Oh, we were .500 when healthy! We just got unlucky!" Another losing season that began with playoff aspirations will be excused.
If that's the case, that'll be too bad. There is something to be said for what the Wizards went through this year, having lost both of their top players to injury for significant periods of time. Barring some very bad luck, the Wizards won't ever be that unhealthy again. But no NBA team can count on a complete bill of health through 82 games, and the fact that the Wizards' season collapsed when the injury bug hit is an indictment on the dearth of the right kind of depth on the roster. If the Wizards' upper management, whoever that ends up being, takes the approach that luck alone will turn this team around, they will have made a mistake.
There's still a lot of season left, and there is something to be said for positive momentum. But that has to be coupled with aggressive actions that display management's understanding that this team isn't there because of more than just bad luck. They aren't there because the team was poorly constructed on some level, and the collapse without the team's best stars has a lot to do with that.
If upper management isn't inclined to adopt that attitude, maybe it's time to bring in someone who is.