The Washington Wizards Are The Hottest Team in Basketball

The Washington Wizards have won five straight. That’s pretty good. They’ve won nine out of the past ten and that’s even better. The thing that I love though is that over these past ten games they have gone 10-0 against the spread. If, for some reason, you had advanced knowledge of this and decided to bet $100 on that first game and let it ride on each game until now you would have a whopping $51,200. (!) That is ridiculous and this is the type of thing that simply doesn’t happen in basketball.

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Way back in December we wrote about the current standings and wrote off the Wizards play off chances, failing to even mention them in our close-up look. They were 10-14 at that time and since that point they have gone 18-6 and are currently sitting in the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They are breathing down the neck of the Raptors, the current third seed as they are just one game back in the standings. (And this is why you don’t judge teams on December 15th.)

A big part of this is probably just the team learning to gel together under a new coach in Scott Brooks. Changes don’t happen overnight to a team and the Wizards have had to sort of find themselves again under Brooks. That clearly is starting to happen and the steps forward have been evident.

This team is all about the starting five. We all know Bradley Beal and John Wall who have been great this year and are starting to really show some chemistry that everything thought they would never develop. Beal has also benefitted from better health this year, but as I write that I find myself crossing my fingers and putting them behind my back. An injury to either of these two kills the season, but as long as they are healthy I think they will be a top five seed in the East.

The big jump this season has been from Otto Porter. He’s shown signs over the past few seasons of developing into something, but he looked more like a bust at times and it wasn’t sure what he would be in this league. Well, now we know: he’s a killer three-and-D guy who opens up their offense. He’s going to get paid big when he hits free agency and the Wizards may have finally found the final piece of their core in him.

Marcin Gortat has been key to their success as well in a really weird way. He’s doing all the dirty work down low, rebounding and grinding in the paint, and he’s doing that by taking the least amount of shots that he’s ever taken (as a starter). He’s really taken an unselfish, complimentary role to help the team win and it has worked. It seems to be working as well as he’s shooting 60% right now which is .33% better than his best season. He’s also rebounding a career high 11.4 boards per game which would blow away his career best 10 per game. He is the key to this team and what keeps them somewhat respectable on defense.

Washington also had a big month from Markieff Morris who seems to be meeting some of his potential. His 17.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in January were his best of the season and he was a +10.5 +/- player for them. If he can continue playing like he played in January then I could really see this team making some noise in the East. The second seed is not out of the question.

Of course, the big issue with them is their bench. Kelly Oubre is decent, but other than him they don’t have a single positive value player on their bench and the on/off numbers for the starters are glaring.

John Wall Offensive Rating
On +5.4
Off -7.1
Marcin Gortat
On +4.9
Off -5.2
Otto Porter
On +4.8
Off -4.2
Bradley Beal
On +7.7
Off -8.6
Markieff Morris
On +5.4
Off -3.9

It’s going to look like this for nearly all teams as starters are usually starters for a reason, but every player being at least -9 is glaring. For comparison, the Celtics don’t have a single player in their top 8 that is -9 and the same can be said about the Raptors. The Wizards bench is a serious issue that they should be looking into. That said, any upgrade will be marginal as the Wizards aren’t in a position to trade assets. This seems more like a team that will be REALLY good… next year.

No team is ever as good as their highest high nor bad as their lowest low, but I do feel like the Wizards are a top four team in the East. The starting five is tough and can hang with any team in the East (well, almost any team) and they should be around to stay.

If you are believing in the against the spread streak, the Wizards host the Lakers tonight and are -11 at Bovada. They are well rested and are in the middle of a home stand. Also, the Lakers are terrible. -11 for 11 straight?

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