Okay, so the Wizards are currently 9-11 and going into New Orleans to face a (semi) hot New Orleans Pelicans team with one of the best players in the league in Anthony Davis. Why be optimistic about where their season currently sits?
They've got a negative point differential, have only beaten a few teams that have proven to actually be good and have been blown out by most of the others they've played. The Wizards have six losses of 14 or more points to teams that are all above .500. What's more, four out of the five of those the teams in those six losses are in the Eastern Conference -- that sample includes the Boston Celtics twice.
And as bad as that reads, it really isn't that bad. Why? Because after all of that pain and suffering, the Wizards are just two games under .500 and could be there if not for some pretty close losses. Here's why.
The starting lineup
Think about it. Let's take a look at the circumstances the Wizards have been playing under. The starting frontcourt has not found any consistency this season and with Kris Humphries as the starting power forward they are an uneven 6-8.
The Wizards were starting a lineup that, after even a small sample, just was not going to work. That previous starting lineup with John Wall, Otto Porter, Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Kris Humphries posted a net rating of -9.3 with a defensive rating of 104.4. That's not ideal by any means.
Over the last seven games with Jared Dudley replacing Humphries in the starting lineup results have been much more positive. Despite only having a four game sample, Wall, Porter, Beal, Gortat and Dudley as a starting lineup the Wizards have a net rating of 10.8 with a defensive rating of 90 according to NBA.com's stats tool.
Humphries as a starter and anything more than a small rotational cog was probably never going to last. He was playing a position he was not used to and never had any real time to adjust. The Wizards players were not entirely prepared for the offensive switch into a new system coming into the camp and it showed.
Dudley is here to stay as a starter and that's how it should be. Despite him not finishing the game against the Rockets, we should expect to see him as a consistent fixture in the lineup still.
John Wall has been up and down
And that may be putting it lightly. Wall has been fairly underwhelming for a majority of this season despite coming on and playing like a superstar over the last month.
In November, Wall shot just 36.9 percent from the field and averaged just 14.5 points per game on 14.5 shots. He averaged 7.8 assists on top of 4.5 turnovers per game. With Wall struggling, the Wizards finished the month 4-7 and found themselves in their first whole of the season being two games under .500.
In December, though, Wall has regressed to the mean and he's done it hard. He's shooting 55 percent from the floor, scoring 27.7 points per game with 9.8 assists and is shooting 39 percent from three on 3.8 3-point attempts per game.
That's phenomenal stuff and if Wall keeps playing this way, or even slightly under it, things will pick back up. It seemed like the final straw for Wall's subpar performances was his showing against Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors. Wall shot the ball 25 times but made just six shots. Meanwhile, Lowry torched the Wizards for 27 points on 19 shots and the Wizards lost by just two points.
Should Wall even give a C- effort in that game, the Wizards probably win handily. But, alas, here we are deciding whether we should panic or not.
The front court has been unavailable
With the older players in the Wizards front court, availability is always going to be a concern. However, having Gortat, Nene, Humphries and Drew Gooden out all at once is an impediment no team would really be able to survive.
The Wizards have managed to barely keep even at 3-3 with plenty of minutes going to Dudley at center, but that is never ideal unless Draymond Green is on your team. But the Wizards have had to turn to DeJaun Blair and Ryan Hollins for big minutes, which is also a pretty tough situation to be in. And few lineups with those two in have posted solid offensive or defensive ratings.
But this could prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Wizards with Gortat returning and finding a new, productive lineup with Dudley at center.
The Eastern Conference, and even the Southeast division, has improved drastically. But the Wizards have the seventh toughest schedule so far after last night's game according to ESPN's strength of schedule statistics.
Even after last night's game, running into the Rockets was always going to be a tough matchup. James Harden had an amazing game, the Wizards managed to take a lead and with better decision making down the stretch they may have been able to hold it.
Obviously, the Wizards are not sitting exactly where they want to be right now, but they aren't in the worst space they could be in. When the schedule was released in the offseason, we noted that the Wizards would be tested early on -- especially in December. But here we are and we still don't know a lot about this team.
It's not an entirely positive situation, but it isn't negative. I tend to agree with Lyndie on a lot of things, but I think she was spot on here where she says that by the end of December, we'll have a better idea of what this team is. But for now, all we can do is wait.