The Washington Wizards before going on the court before an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

After a 4-0 week and some impressive wins, the Washington Wizards are starting to look like a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference. At 13-5, Washington currently stands second in the Eastern playoff picture. The team has gotten some of its players back from injury and the healthy bodies, along with some stronger depth, are making the Wizards a savvy and deep team. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been deeply insync over the last few games and the upbeat play has had a trickle down effect. But how good is this year’s Washington team, and is it safe to say the Wizards are a true contender in the LeBron-favored East? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.

Riley: Washington fans have been hoping for some excitement since the Gilbert Arenas days, and this year’s team is already a better outfit than the surrounding cast in the Agent Zero era. Wall and Beal set the fast pace for which the Wizards is known, and the inside contributions – starting with center Marcin Gortat – has this team looking flat out scary. Both Wall and Beal are playing at All-Star levels, and there isn’t a team in the East – and perhaps the entire NBA – that has a backcourt as talented as the group running around D.C. The Cleveland Cavaliers are rounding into shape, and the Toronto Raptors may be the deepest team in the Association, but Washington deserves some credit. They play aggressive defense, they run in the open court and they can score with the great teams. The Wizards don’t have to be a favorite, but they’re definitely a contender.

Green: A true contender has either one player or some aspect that other teams simply can’t match. The Cavs have James, the Chicago Bulls have Derrick Rose and the Raptors play terrific team ball. If the playoffs started today and I had to pick Washington against the likes of Cleveland, Chicago or Toronto, I actually would do it. I need to see more out of Wall’s jump shot, and I would like to see both Beal and the oft-injured Nene string a couple of healthy games together consistently, but I really like what I see from this Wizards team. In my opinion, they’re the best team in the East. They have the most physical and most skilled frontcourt in their conference, and Wall is the real deal at point guard. You throw in Paul Pierce, a true champion veteran, and then add a great shooter in Beal into the mix and the formula may lead to a NBA Finals appearance.

Riley: The addition of Paul Pierce was designed to take the scoring pressure off of Wall, and as long as Pierce can stay healthy then the Wizards will have a proven clutch scorer come playoff time. Wall does need to become more of a dominant scorer but he’s doing fine being the defensive pest and fast-break leader that he is. He’s clearly the engine revving this team, and the abundance of scorers on this team are going to allow Wall a chance to play the point guard role without worrying about being the offensive savior that most No. 1 picks have to be. And while Wall may not be evolving as a scorer, Beal is quietly becoming one of the more productive scorers in the league. Beal’s the true offensive juggernaut on this team and he’s only getting better. Pierce and the insertion of Kris Humphries are helping take this team to the next level. They’re deep, talented and well-coached. A perfect recipe for a deep playoff run.

Green: There’s talent everywhere on the Wizards’ roster but it’s still void of a closer. Pierce can still play, but at age 37, relying on him to shift pressure off of Wall is a scary plan. Cleveland, Chicago and Toronto may still have the better rosters, and the Raptors and Cavaliers won their last games against Washington by a combined 45 points, but I blame that on Nene’s absence. That’s truly the key to Washington success – can they all remain healthy throughout an 82-game season and into the postseason? Nene probably won’t, and Paul Pierce is old and may go missing, too. Beal is a young gunner but he’s been injury-riddled as well. So, I say again, it all depends on health. If this team stays together, go ahead and jot them into a Finals appearance. They’re that good when they’re all playing. But if one of the pieces go missing, everything changes for this Wizards team.