WASHINGTON — The Wizards are 22-19 and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Their .537 winning percentage is the best it’s been all season, and they’re playing some of their best basketball in a long time. What’s more, the Wizards have won 13 games in a row at the Verizon Center, the longest streak of the season for any team. Since they started the season 2-8, the Wizards have won 20 of 31 games and look like a much stronger team than they did in November; they’ve gone 16-8 in December and January.
This is still a very flawed team.
Bradley Beal has played in 65 or more games just once in his four full seasons in the league, and he only played 73 games that year. John Wall has had injury problems in his past, and he’s playing a whopping 36.3 minutes per game this season after having surgery on both knees over the offseason. The bench is still among the league’s worst reserve units, and Ian Mahinmi is expected to miss at least several more weeks.
But Wall and Beal are both having career years, as is Otto Porter. Kelly Oubre is developing into a respectable bench player, and he’s increased his overall production on the court considerably since his rookie season; he’s also already played 752 minutes this season compared to the 671 he played last year.
Jason Smith has even distinguished himself as a viable backup big man, averaging 6.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.0 block in just 15.2 minutes per game in January.
Dan Steinberg and Scott Allen of The Washington Post have a good read of 13 stats on the Wizards’ streak.
With all that in mind, Grant and Danny asked the ever-important question on Thursday morning, barely more than 12 hours after the Wizards dispatched the Memphis Grizzlies. The full segment is available below, but some highlights are excerpted here.
On What “Good” Means
Grant: “They look the part. They’re passing the eye test right now. I tweeted this out and this is what we wanted to get into: Are they actually kinda good?”
Danny: “Let’s define ‘good.’ Does it mean they’re any threat to win the title (Grant: ‘No’)? Is that was good is? Let’s get to that, because I want to answer your question.”
Grant: “Could they be the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference this year?”
Danny: “Yes. Absolutely.”
Grant: “Does that say more about them or the conference?”
Danny: “Both. To me, probably more the conference.”
Grant: “Are they worth watching every night, are they worth going to the Verizon Center and paying money to see?”
Danny: “I certainly think so. You know how I feel about it, even though I won’t do it as long as Ernie Grunfeld is the general manager. But I tune in every night.”
On The Bench
Danny: “Andrew Nicholson cannot play. Ian Mahinmi hasn’t played and probably won’t play very much this year. I know everybody’s counting on when he comes back. Let me know when the big man with bad knees all of a sudden recovers.”
Danny: “What Scott Brooks is doing — and Scott Brooks deserves a ton of credit by the way — he’s stealing minutes with other guys. You have to find a way to hide Tomas Satoransky, who is gameless, who can’t do anything on offense other than dribble for an extended period of time and hopefully kick to a shooter. He can’t get his own shot.”
Grant: “A couple of guys like [Daniel] Ochefu, [Sheldon] McClellan haven’t really been playing, but Andrew Nicholson played a lot early in the year, not a lot lately. To me, he’s not good.”
Danny: “No he’s gameless. And he’s slow, and he can’t guard. If he can get a standstill jump shot from somebody or be under the rim, he can finish and catch, but he can’t get anything for himself and again is a liability on both ends. But at least he’s here for three more seasons.”
On The Starters
Danny: “Their starting five is a top-five NBA starting five. And I know that sounds blasphemous. But I think they’re probably fifth or sixth in the league in terms of best units to start a game.”
Danny: “My fear is the minutes and heavy usage of the starters. As of a couple weeks ago … the Wizards had the second-most minutes for their starters of anybody in the league, behind Minnesota, and everybody on Minnesota is really young.”
Grant: “I hate that. That’s like looking at innings pitched for your bullpen early in the year and going, ‘You can’t sustain this. This is going to come crashing down.'”
On John Wall
Grant: “John Wall is just a damn superstar.”
Danny: “He was put on this planet to get guys open shots, and that’s what he does better than almost anybody in this sport. It’s him, and Chris Paul does it with intellect, with angles and pacing. John Wall does it by putting guys on skates. He is absolutely incredible at it.”
On The Wizards Actually Being Good
Grant: “So you agree that the Wizards are pretty good?”
Danny: “Relative to — yes, I would say they are pretty good.”
Grant: “It’s OK to say, they’re pretty good.”
Danny: “But it depends on how you define it. They’re in no danger of winning more than a playoff series, more than one round.”
Grant: “I believe they could beat all but three teams in the East in the first round.”