It’s funny how your perception of something or someone can change drastically in a short matter of time, especially during the current era of social media, which fuels instant hot takes.

Just a few weeks ago—when the Washington Wizards were in the midst of winning 10 of their first 13 games played without its best player, All-NBA point guard John Wall—internet trolls and basketball pundits alike were all arguing that this Wizards team was emphatically better without Wall. Never mind the fact that Wall had just led the team to the Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year-this 13-game stretch of Wall-less basketball is better, right?

Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) points during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets, Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Washington. The Wizards won 107-93. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Wrong.

After that 10-3 start, the Wizards went on to win just five of the next 16 games without Wall, placing the team in a precarious position seeding-wise in the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs.  Before the three-week lull, the Wizards fluctuated between the 4th and 5th seed, which would have been amazing considering the circumstances. Now, with the Philadelphia Sixers and Indiana Pacers playing so well while the Wizards struggled, right now, the team is destined to land in the playoffs as the 6th seed.

That 6th seed will most likely mean a first round matchup with the likely No.3 seed Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James.

Now, most people would say the Wizards do not stand a chance against a LeBron James-led team and they would be correct. But, for some strange reason, the Wizards tend to play the Cavaliers extremely well and the Cavs roster, for all of its greatness in King James, have not played up to expectations. If there was a year to knock them out of the playoffs earlier than anticipated, this would be the year.

The Eastern Conference is in a funny situation this season.  Toronto has been the most complete team all season but let’s be honest, who can trust them in the playoffs? I certainly cannot. The Celtics are playing great basketball in late ballgames but are totally decimated by injury. The Sixers are missing their start in Joel Embiid for the next couple of weeks with a broken orbital bone and without him being his normal self, they could easily be taken in their first round series as well.

The Wizards will be coming into the playoffs as healthy as any team and are playoff tested. Don’t let the bad taste of last year’s game seven versus Boston fool you. This team has always played up and above its talent level in the playoffs and fans should expect the same in a couple of weeks.

Can the Wizards make an extended run for a championship? Probably not, but if there was a team that could shake up the playoffs and make life difficult for these other teams, it is indeed the Washington Wizards.

 

Dion Johnson

Special to the AFRO