Will the Wizards make a deal?
When Jordan Crawford was asked how he felt about not appearing in a series of games, the Wizards’ reserve shooting guard replied, “I’m good.” But he let his frustrations known on Twitter by subtly mentioning his stats from December, when the Wizards were placed in his hands and he produced quality numbers but few wins. The Wizards’ leading scorer before John Wall made his debut and Bradley Beal began to gain some confidence, Crawford has had his role steadily diminished in the past month — first, by a bone bruise in his left ankle and second, by some poor play — and now appears to be the odd man out. The Wizards are 6-2 in the past eight games that Crawford hasn’t played, but he has attracted the attention of several teams around the league seeking some offensive punch off the bench. Problem for Crawford is that the Wizards would like him to play the same role in Washington if he is willing to accept it.
The Wizards have been linked to trade discussions with Atlanta for forward Josh Smith, a borderline all-star talent who is seeking a maximum contract this summer in free agency. Beal and Wall are off limits, but the Wizards may look to move one of their recent selections from the past three drafts by Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline, with Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely also receiving limited playing time and Chris Singleton only recently escaping Coach Randy Wittman’s doghouse.
How high can they go?
The playoffs are an unrealistic proposition after a despicable 0-12 start, but the Wizards still have a chance to rise up the Eastern Conference standings and finish with most wins in five seasons. Washington is 11 games behind Milwaukee for the eighth seed, but since John Wall returned, the team has moved ahead of Charlotte and Orlando, is only percentage points behind Cleveland for the 12th spot and five games behind Toronto for 10th.
The Wizards have gone 11-8 in their past 19 games, a .578 winning percentage that would put them at a fifth seed in the postseason. If they are able to maintain that pace for the final 31 games, the Wizards would finish with 33 wins, which would be the most since the team won 43 in 2007-08, the last time the franchise made the postseason. The Wizards will have 15 road games and 15 games against teams that currently have winning records the rest of the way.
Is John Wall worthy of the max?
Wall’s worth as a franchise player has been questioned by former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy, agent David Falk and a series of anonymous general managers and scouts in a recent ESPN Insider article. Some of the criticism seemed a bit premature and unfair, as Wall missed the first 33 games of the season with a stress injury in his left knee and had never played with anything close to resembling a competitive team in his first two seasons in Washington. The Wizards remained near the bottom of the Eastern Conference as he was paired with the likes of JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and Nick Young, but the team is starting to show that it can hang with the best now that Wall is surrounded by more veterans with professional reputations (Emeka Okafor, Nene, Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza) and another young lottery talent in Beal. Wall has led the Wizards to a 10-8 record since returning from injury, but has he had enough of a sample size to show that he can be the foundation of a contender?
The former No. 1 overall pick is still playing limited minutes as he recovers from his knee ailment, but his production per-36 (18.3 points, 9.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds) is among the elite players at his position. Wall is eligible for an extension this summer but the Wizards will have to determine if they have to pay him before he becomes a restricted free agenct in 2014. Greg Oden is the last top choice who didn’t get a maximum extension after his third season. If the Wizards or Wall decide to wait, next season could be filled with questions about his future.