The 28-30 Washington Wizards currently sit at the 9th seed in the Eastern Conference. However, this team may be different from their usual mediocre season. The Wizards have made trade, after trade, after trade to set up a big three of Bradley Beal, Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis, and it has worked! The Wizards have won seven of their last ten with these three stars on the court, and they’re the only three players on the same team in the NBA to average 20 or more points per game! Combine that with young, aspiring wings like Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert, a three player point guard tandem and a strong, physical center, who fits in well into the starting lineup, is this Wizards team really different?
Let’s break down the big-three a little more for a second, because it has been dominant. When you think about it, even without watching, it makes perfect sense. You have a scoring guard who has proven to be a plus-playmaker over his past few seasons in Bradley Beal–who the Wizards have won 13 of their last 17 games with– a 7’3 monster who can stretch the floor, draw defenders in to set up open shooters in Porzingis, and then have a guy like Kuzma with incredible driving ability and shooting to balance it out, while easily being able to will his team to victory with his abnormal scoring ability. But what I think really makes this team is Daniel Gafford.
This is Gafford’s third season in Washington, after being flipped to DC from the Bulls for Mo Wagner and Troy Brown Jr. at the 2021 trade deadline. And Gafford has taken off since then, becoming a much better defender and a guy that fits in really well to the Wizards starting lineup. When Gafford hasn’t started, the Wizards are 11-20. When Gafford has started, the Wizards are 17-10, with a winning percentage of 62.9%. Do you know how many wins a 62.9% winning percentage across an entire season of 82 games gets a team? 52, which would award them a top seed in the conference. In other words, the Wizards play like one of the top seeds in the East when Gafford starts. And not only is he valuable because of what he can do, but his physical build allows him to play center and let Porzingis take more outside shots, to prevent the 7 ‘3 big from getting into foul trouble in late game situations. He’s so important to this team’s success.
And the Wizards front office made an incredible move this season before the trade deadline, sending Rui Hachimura to the Lakers in exchange for Kendrick Nunn and multiple future 2nd round picks, and it has been such a good move for the team. For starters, Deni Avdija has been developing at a much higher rate now that he is given the opportunity to take more shots, and he’s taken advantage of this, averaging 13 points, 7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 47% from the field and 35% from 3 since Hachimura was dealt. With Hachimura to start the season, Deni was averaging eight points, six rebounds and not even one steal per game on 42/27/76 shooting splits. And Nunn has been playing really well, finally being given the keys to opportunities, averaging 9 points per game on near 50/40/90 shooting splits, putting up double figures in the points column in six of his eleven games as a Wizard.
And they have quality role players as well. Monte Morris runs the offense, and even though he can’t win you a game, he usually won’t lose you a game. He fits in really well with this Wizards team. He’s averaged over ten points per game and five assists with 48/40/80 shooting splits, while having the best assist to turnover ratio in the entire NBA. His consistency is amazing for the Wizards, and since they already have Beal, Porzingis, and Kuzma, they don’t need that many more players who are capable of leading their team to wins. Delon Wright has been amazing on his bench role. He makes smart passes, and is a lockdown defender, averaging 2 steals per game, which ranks second in the NBA.
Corey Kispert is also very solid, averaging nearly 10 points per game on 48/41/86 shooting splits, and such an amazing shooter for a team that lacks outside shooting off the bench, shooting 41.5% from three, a top 20 mark in the NBA.
It is very rare I make this article, because the Wizards haven’t made the conference finals in nearly 44 years, and have never made it as the Wizards; they were called the Bullets until changing their name to the Wizards in 1995. Can this team compete for a championship? Absolutely not! But personally, I’m having fun watching them, and if they can stay healthy, which has been a VERY big if this season, the Wizards, because of their star-studded top three and very quality role players to go along with it, have a legitimate chance to make some upsets in this postseason, if they make it there!