WASHINGTON — Remember that time, long, long ago, when the Wizards were 2-8?
And remember that time, long ago, when the Wizards were 6-12?
And do you remember that time, not long ago, when the Wizards were declared by four out of five major national outlets as a top-12 NBA team? How not long ago? Why, just a day ago, on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017.
The Wizards, at 24-20 having won eight of their past 10 games, are comfortably seated in the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference, and they’re just 2.5 games back of the third-place Boston Celtics. Oh, and those Celtics are in town Tuesday night to take on Washington at the Verizon Center, where the Wizards have won 13 consecutive games.
ESPN thinks the highest of the Wizards, ranking them ninth (!) in their newest power rankings, up from last week’s 12th place ranking.
CBS Sports thinks the least of Washington’s turnaround, slotting them at 14th, the same place they were a week ago, with a note that “if they can find just one guy to anchor their bench in a trade, it would fix a lot of problems.” With GM Ernie Grunfeld’s penchant for trading away draft picks, and the team forbidden from trading its 2017 first-rounder, it’s certainly possible the Wizards could ship out their 2018 first-round pick in exchange for immediate bench help.
NBA.com puts the Wizards in the No. 11 slot, two spots up from the week before.
SI moves Washington up just one spot, from No. 13 to No. 12, giving credit to Otto Porter for providing the team a reliable third option.
Finally, USA TODAY is simpatico with SI, putting the Wizards at No. 12 a week after putting them at No. 13.
Average those five out, and the Wizards have an average ranking of 11.6.
The pot is beginning to bubble in Washington, and that’s all before the Wizards beat the sixth-place Charlotte Hornets, who now own a 23-22 record, on the road. After Tuesday’s clash with the Celtics, the Wizards face a tough test in taking on the 26-19 Hawks in Atlanta before four consecutive games against the New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, each of which has a winning percentage below .440.
If Washington can handle the Celtics and the Hawks — no easy ask, to be sure — it could certainly sweep that four-game stretch and enter a game against the first-place Cleveland Cavaliers riding a seven-game win streak.
How the times have changed around the District.