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This season, on the whole, has been a successful one for the Washington Wizards. They haven't been perfect, but they've been better. And as fans, it's great to see our patience pay off with a (very likely) postseason berth.
But the success hasn't come easy, and it hasn't come in predictable ways. There are times when this team plays perfect basketball and smokes the reigning NBA Champions out of the arena, and there are times when it turns the ball over 24 times and comes home with three losses from a four-game road trip.
How do we know which team we're going to get on a nightly basis? How do we know what this team will become in the future? For that, the Wizards need to firmly establish an identity. Whatever that identity is needs to be reflected from the bottom up and the top down. Are they defensive juggernauts? Are they unstoppable on the break? Are they a team of streaky shooters that prey on a weak conference?
The answer is clear: we don't know the identity of this team. The team itself doesn't know its identity.
John Wall: "Last year, we couldn’t score the ball but we could play defense. This year, we can score but we’re not playing defense" #wizards— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) March 26, 2014
Per Basketball Reference, they're still a top-10 defense in the league, but they're ranked 19th overall in offense. Not exactly consistent with what Wall's saying, but with the defensive principles this team tries to emphasize, it seems clear that the message they're trying to convey is that they're not playing up to their own standards on defense while they seem to be doing adequately on the offensive end.
In this vein, it might be worth comparing the team to the Memphis Grizzlies. No, the personnel aren't the same, and they're barely a season removed from trading Rudy Gay, a new owner, and a new coach. That's a lot of upheaval, and coupled with injuries, it gave the team a lot of problems towards the beginning of the season. But eventually, as James Herbert alludes to in his great profile of the team and coach Dave Joerger, the Grizzlies' pre-established hard-nosed interior-defensive identity was a foundation on which they could build other improvements to their team, like offensive creativity.
The result: growing pains early on, and a perfect rhythm right before the playoffs.
I'm happy the Wizards have achieved so much this year, and I'm looking forward to a good showing in the playoffs. But I'm looking forward to them finding their foundation and building a contender on top of it even more.
- Since their likely postseason appearance means the Wizards won't have a first-round pick (thanks to the Marcin Gortat trade) this is the first year since 2008 where Washington fans haven't been able to speculate over fitting lottery picks into the core. If you're itching for some draft coverage, you should check out Matt Moore's work over at CBSSports. Particularly his profile of Andrew Wiggins. As glad as I am to see the Wizards back in the playoffs, there's a sliver of me that thinks "What if..." about this draft class.
- You know what, though. I'm pretty glad the Wizards aren't on the outside trying to claw into playoff positioning. Like the Knicks. Oh, boy, the Knicks. They are terrible and frustrating. Did you see them get destroyed by the Lakers on Tuesday? I mean, they let the Lakers score 51 points in the 3rd quarter on them. Yikes! Luckily, we have blogs like Posting and Toasting and Knickerblogger to help guide us through the chaos. It's almost as though the old saying about sadness being a muse for creativity is true.
- Speaking of the Knicks and Lakers, did you see Nick Young pull a premature Gilbert?
Good job, good effort. pic.twitter.com/t6mzxu709M— Bullets Forever (@BulletsForever) March 26, 2014
- Never change, Nick. Never change. Oh, and according to this awesome piece on pre-game routines by Jared Dubin at Grantland, you haven't.