How the Wizards lived up to preseason expectations


(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

With the regular season complete and the playoffs looming, it’s a good time to look back at some of the preseason predictions about the Wizards and ask, who saw this coming?

Quite a few people saw Washington making the postseason, and the predictions from across the interwebs weren’t nearly as bad as the Eastern Conference.

Michael Lee predicted a 40-42 record and the eighth seed.

After bold trade for Marcin Gortat, John Wall finally has the supporting cast to help him fulfill his promise. But Bradley Beal’s steady rise could be the real difference in helping Wall make his playoff debut.

Mike Wise’s regular season prediction was even better, but we’ll have to see about the last part with Derrick Rose out of the picture.

The Wizards will finish 43-39, claim the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and lose in five or six spirited games to Chicago, a series in which Wall and Derrick Rose put on a show.

All three CBS Sports’ experts — Matt Moore, Royce Young and Zach Harper — predicted Washington would make the playoffs and play Chicago in the first round. Harper and Moore predicted the Wizards would be the seventh seed, while Young predicted they would be the sixth seed. None of them had Washington winning more than one game in the postseason.

Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen and Lee Jenkins labeled the Wizards their Surprise Team. Thomsen went so far as to pick Randy Wittman as his coach of the year.

Thomsen:

At last the Wizards will put the Gilbert Arenas years behind them. They showed their potential over the latter half of last season as John Wall recovered and coach Randy Wittman established their defense, and the finishing piece will be the emergence of Bradley Beal. Owner Ted Leonsis has demanded a playoff appearance and this team will deliver.

Wittman has earned the chance to lead a promising team after experiencing miserable situations as a coach in Cleveland, Minnesota and even in Washington last year. He’ll continue to establish the Wizards defensively as their young backcourt of Bradley Beal and John Wall emerges. Other candidates will include the Clippers’ Doc Rivers, the Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau and Charlotte’s Steve Clifford.

Jenkins:

They’re not going to start 4-28 this year, that’s for sure. After that woeful opening, the Wizards were actually a .500 team last season. John Wall and Bradley Beal, one of the NBA’s most exciting backcourts, should at least lead the Wizards to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

SB Nation predicted the Wizards would finish ninth in the Eastern Conference, behind the Knicks, Pistons and Cavaliers.

In his 32 bold predictions for the NBA season, Grantland’s Zach Lowe foretold the Wizards’ trade for Marcin Gortat.

4. Washington Will Trade for a Big Man in the Next Month — If Emeka Okafor’s Prognosis Is Bad

General manager Ernie Grunfeld is in the last year of his contract, and owner Ted Leonsis, not the shy sort, has made it clear he expects the Wiz to make the playoffs. Washington was over .500 last season when Bradley Beal and John Wall were both available, and lineups featuring combinations of its core six or seven guys generally did quite well. But Okafor was one of those core guys, and the gap between Okafor and his backups — Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely — is a freaking chasm. Al Harrington can soak up some minutes as a small-ball power forward, a role he played brilliantly for Denver two seasons ago, but he’s aging and coming off major knee issues.

The Wiz need a big man, unless they get good news soon on Okafor. Alternatively, if Okafor is healthy, Washington could continue its history of flipping mega-expiring contracts (and the cap space they promise) into players on longer-term deals; that’s how it got Okafor. Stay tuned either way on the Wiz.

Mike Prada of Bullets Forever and SB Nation almost nailed the Wizards’ regular season win total, and anticipated an opening-round matchup with Miami as the seventh seed.

36. The Wizards will win 43 games in the regular season and one in the playoffs: Gortat will stabilize the middle, and the Wizards will be decent enough to snag a low playoff seed. Forty-three wins would give Washington the seventh seed in my rankings, behind (in order) Brooklyn, Miami, Chicago, Indiana, Detroit and New York. The Wizards will surprise Miami in Game 3 in front of a rocking Verizon Center, but will lose the series in five. -MP

Wizards blogger Kevin Broom also predicted 43 wins.

My approach projects Wall making The Leap to All-Star level production, whether he makes the team or not. It also projects significant improvement from Beal, although it suggests he’s another year from making The Leap himself. I’m also expecting bounce-back years in per minute production from Nene and Gortat.

I’m expecting regression from Webster both in terms of overall production and in health.

I crunched the numbers on several different scenarios. In a best-case situation that assumes near perfect health, the Wizards could win 48 games. My worst case projection has them at 34 wins.

Final prediction: 43-39, and the Wizards get the 7th seed in the playoffs.

Kyle Weidie of Truth About It predicted a 41-41 record and the seventh seed before the Gortat trade.

These Wizards will pull together, perhaps by the skin of their teeth, but they will make it. Next stop: dissatisfaction with a string of first-round exits.

And before the Gortat trade, ESPN predicted the Wizards would finish 35-47 and finish 10th in the East.

Scott Allen writes about all things DC sports. Follow him on Twitter @ScottSAllen or e-mail him if you’ve got a tip to share.
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