In the 2010 NBA Draft, the Washington Wizards selected University of Kentucky freshman point guard John Wall with the No. 1 overall selection in the draft. This pick served as the beginning of a new era and the end of the last, which was expeditiously halted by former franchise star Gilbert Arenas’ “gun in the locker room” imbroglio. While the team has been hindered by plenty of bonehead maneuvers and misfires by General Manager Ernie Grunfeld, this selection has not been the case. Wall has been everything we could have asked for from a leadership standpoint and has the personal accolades to back it up as he was recently selected for his fourth consecutive All-Star game.
With the third pick of the 2012 NBA Draft, the Wizards selected Bradley Beal – a sharp-shooting guard from the University of Florida – to become the tag-team partner for Wall. While there were indeed growing pains for the pair, there were moments of greatness that let you believe there would be a time when they would carry the franchise to championship contention status.
The main issue with Beal was not talent because we all could see how good he was when he played. The problem for him has been staying healthy. It’s very hard to create continuity when you are perpetually injured. Beal became a free agent at the end of last year and signed a max contract, much to the chagrin of most fans and pundits. Most fans didn’t understand paying top dollar for an injury-prone player.
This season, however, he’s been virtually injury-free, allowing him to flourish and have perhaps his best season yet. He’s averaging a career-high 21.9 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting from the field and 38.6 percent from the three-point line. Combine that with the tremendous numbers Wall continues to provide (23 points and 10 assists per game) and it’s easy to see how Washington is quickly becoming one of the top ranked teams in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Wizards have won 21 of its last 30 games. They are 11-4 in January, eclipsing their win total from December 2016. That gave them consecutive 10-win months for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
That coincides with the type of basketball Wall and Beal are currently displaying on a nightly basis. This is the type of basketball Wizards fans expected to see from them. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It might have come later than expected by most, but it’s still here now.
The team is nevertheless severely flawed; they’re virtually a 7-8 man rotation and one of those guys can’t even dribble without turning the ball over (the vastly improving Kelly Oubre). So, unfortunately, the team cannot win without Wall and Beal bringing it every single game. Yet, that is the key to becoming superstars. Superstars bring it every single night. It’s a huge deal to have both guys playing as well as they are while bringing the superstar effort on both ends of the floor every game.
The hiring of head coach Scott Brooks appears to have opened up the offense in ways this franchise has never seen before and that coincides with the best stretch of Wizards basketball I’ve seen in many a year. The key is now getting through the All-Star break with a sense of accomplishment and urgency and a little swagger to carry the team through the rough days before the playoffs. This team as currently constructed can compete against anybody in the East besides Cleveland. It all falls on the backs of the dynamic duo to keep them afloat.