There's no doubt that most Wizards fans believe the team has underachieved this year. A record below .500 in mid-January -- even if it's just one game below .500 -- is not what most would have predicted given the momentum they had going into the offseason. There is a strong reason to believe that the record is somewhat illusory, however, and two simple statistics show that things are likely to get better soon.
The first stat is this: the Wiz are, by a mile, the most injured team in the NBA this year. And it's not a close contest. They have been ravaged, and are giving rookies and backups big minutes. That's not how you win in this league. Yes, some people say that injuries are an excuse; but when they've piled up like a 15-car crash on the Beltway, it takes its toll. But Beal's back (if limited), Anderson is getting close, and heath may soon move to the background.
The second key stat is here. It shows that the Wiz have played the most difficult schedule in the league this year. This one shocked me. It seemed like they were playing tough teams night after night, but being in the Eastern Conference, I assumed they wouldn't have played a slate this difficult.
This "Perfect Storm" of unlikely negative events -- leading the league in both injuries and schedule strength -- has rocked the team. But the skies are clearing, and the Good Ship Wittman seems to be betting back on course. In a way, it's a mirror image of last season, when the first half was a glassy sea and the second half was a monsoon.
Of course, this is no guarantee that things are about to flip for the Wizards, but it does strongly suggest that the worst is behind them. John Wall's playing at an All-NBA level, Marcin Gortat is playing (IMO) his best, most consistent ball since coming here, Garrett Temple and Kelly Oubre have gained valuable experience, and Jared Dudley has become the glue guy. Add improved health and a softer schedule, and I'm excited going forward.
Full speed ahead!