Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has already stated that he expects his team to finally break through and reach the playoffs this season. And for the first time since Leonsis purchased the team in 2010, NBA general managers are also looking forward to seeing an improved product on the floor.
In the 12th annual survey of the league’s 30 decision-makers conducted by NBA.com, the Wizards tied with Brooklyn, Cleveland, Houston, Minnesota and New Orleans for second in voting for the most-improved team with 13.3 percent of the votes. Detroit, the Wizards’ preseason opponent at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Tuesday and in the Oct. 30 season opener, received 16.7 percent of the votes.
General managers were not allowed to vote for their own teams or players.
But before the Wizards get too excited, the last time the team received votes for most-improved team was before the 2009-10 season, when 48.7 percent of general managers overwhelmingly selected Washington to make the greatest strides. The Wizards had hired Flip Saunders and added Mike Miller and Randy Foye, and Gilbert Arenas returned after missing all but two games during a 19-win campaign in 2008-09. But the Wizards went on to grossly underachieve on the floor – it won just 26 games – and embarrass off the court – remember that little gun incident?
Four years later, the Wizards have considerable optimism entering the season with a healthy John Wall and a rapidly improving Bradley Beal. Both players received votes for most likely to have a breakout season but did not rank among the top three. Wall also received votes for most dangerous with the ball and came in fourth behind Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Denver’s Ty Lawson and Chicago’s Derrick Rose for fastest with the ball. Wall finished tied for fourth with Lawson last season, but came in second in 2011.