Winning season leads Wizards to clinch playoffs

By Nathan Gertler, Contest Manager

Having already clinched a playoff spot, the NBA’s Washington Wizards are finding themselves in a very unusual position this late in the year.

From 2008-2012, the Wizards underwent major roster overhauls including trading stars Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison in 2010.  Ever since, the Wizards have had a reputation of being one of the worst teams in the entire NBA.   This season, however, seems to be different.

“I feel that their season has gone very well compared to previous seasons,” sophomore Wizards fan Jacob Bochner said.  “They have really shown a winning attitude on the court and off the court.”

The Wizards currently find themselves situated in 6th place in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 39-36, one and a half games behind the Brooklyn Nets, and two games ahead of the Charlotte Bobcats.

One of the main reasons the Wizards are so successful this season is the play of All-Star point guard John Wall.

According to NBA.com, Wall is 20th in the league in scoring, averaging 19.8 points per game, and sixth among all point guards in the league.  He has also been a menace on the defensive side sitting at fifth in the league in steals with almost two per game.

Not only has Wall been instrumental in scoring, but he has also been the main facilitator for the team, averaging 8.7 assists per game, placing third in the NBA.  Wall also leads the league in total assists at 653.

“The big reason they are contending this year is because Wall has raised his game to another level, really supplementing himself as one of the elite point guards in the game,” Bochner said.  “He really understands that getting his teammates involved gives them a better chance to win.”

The offseason acquisition of center Marcin Gortat has also contributed greatly to the Wizards’ success this season. The acquisition of Gortat marked the return of a true center and big man for the Wizards, a position they have been trying to fill since their last playoff appearance in 2008.

According to ESPN.com, Gortat is currently in the top 20 for blocks and rebounds per game in the league. With Wall and Gortat as the main centers of attention of the opposing teams’ defense, focusing on guarding the rim and closing up the driving lines, it has opened up spots for other players on the team to shine.

One of those players is forward Trevor Ariza.

According to a March 17 Washington Post article, the Wizards can attribute much of their success this season to Ariza.  He has been a veteran leader to the team on and off the court and has really been someone rookie players can look up to.

As part of the 2009 Los Angeles Lakers championship team, Ariza has definitely brought needed championship pedigree and experience to the Wizards. Ariza is having a career year on the team, averaging about 15 points per game.  He is also seventh in the NBA for his three-point percentage at 42.1 percent  Not only is he largely contributing to the offensive side of the ball, but he is also a factor on defense, at tenth in the league in steals per game.

“Trevor Ariza has been really good this year as a defender and an elite three-point shooter and Marcin Gortat has been a great rebounder alongside Nene,” sophomore fan Danny Silver said.

As a team, the Wizards have been impressive shooting from the three-point line. They’re second in the league in three-point shooting percentage, only behind the league-leading, San Antonio Spurs.

With only eight games left in the regular season and playing a very shaky Eastern Conference, the Wizards are in a prime position to not only make the playoffs, but also make a run in them as well.