6 Reasons Why The Wizards Did Not Peak Too Early | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

6 Reasons Why The Wizards Did Not Peak Too Early

Updated: March 21, 2017

With only 12 games remaining in the regular season, fans have become increasingly concerned about the Wizards’ playoff prospects. The luster of Washington’s 28-11 mid-season run has been replaced by hand-wringing over their recent defensive struggles. While some uneasiness is warranted, the concern that Washington peaked too early is a bit overblown.

For starters, this franchise has not won more than 46 games since 1979.

The Wizards didn’t peak too early. If anything, they are really, really late.

Joking aside, even if you only look at this season, there are several reasons to believe that Washington did not peak too early and they will be just fine once the playoffs start.

First, the NBA is a long season. Every team goes through so-called peaks and valleys. Washington went on a prolonged 40-game streak of sustained excellence. That is almost unheard-of outside of San Antonio and Golden State. By comparison, in just the last two months, the Celtics have gone from losing The Funeral Game to winning 11 out of 12 to turmoil in the locker room to being just fine. The Cavs seem to live nine lives every season. In fact, if any team is guilty of peaking too early it’s Toronto. The Raptors seemed like the clear-cut second-best team in the East in December, before sliding down the standings.

In short, the Wizards were bound to regress at some point during the last two months of the season. Sure, it hasn’t been pretty and if Washington continues to play as they have the last three weeks, they won’t reach the conference finals and might not even survive the first round. John Wall is well aware of this fact. After the team’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Wall conceded that the Wizards will have an early playoff exit if they do not fix their defensive problems.

But the playoffs do not start for almost a month. There is still 15% of the season to be played. That’s a lifetime in the NBA. There is no need to be concerned about the Wizards slumping in mid-March. If the problems continue in April, then you can sound the alarm.

Second, Washington did not suddenly forget how to play defense. Admittedly, their rotations and communication have been atrocious lately, but that can be fixed. Washington has plenty of time to focus on defense as Scott Brooks continues to integrate new rotation players (Ian Mahinmi, Bojan Bogdanovic and Brandon Jennings) into the mix. It’s true that Washington’s 3-point defense has not been great all season, but they don’t need to suddenly morph into the South Carolina Gamecocks to excel in the playoffs, they just need to return to the energetic help defense that fueled their historic mid-season run.

Third, just as the starters all peaked at the same time during their historic run, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat are all slumping at the same time right now. It’s hard to overcome that reduction in production every single night. Those guys will snap out of it, just as Beal did during his mid-season shooting slump.

Fourth, post-season rotations are much tighter than the regular season. This is a particular advantage for Washington because their bench has been their biggest weakness throughout the season. Of course, a tightened rotation is only an advantage if the starters can regain their mid-season form—which makes the next point particularly important.

Fifth, the Wizards have a pretty strong track record of turning it on in the playoffs. When you look at the Wizards’ recent first-round success against the Chicago Bulls (2014, 4-1) and Toronto Raptors (2015, 4-0), it’s easy to forget that the Wizards entered both series as decided underdogs.

In reality, neither the 2013-14 nor 2014-15 teams were that great. They floundered through the regular season with a hell of a lot worse slumps and certainly more locker room turmoil than this season. Yet John Wall and Bradley Beal did what stars do—they raised their games when the lights were brightest. So did Otto and Gortat. Those guys now make up 4/5 of the Wizards’ starting lineup.

This regular season Washington has already reached heights that exceed the peaks of those first round performances. Unlike 2014 and 2015, Washington does not need to make a huge leap from their regular season play to succeed in the post-season. They simply need to return to the level of play they have already demonstrated for 40 games.

And the sixth and final reason why the Wizards did not peak too early: John Wall. In any playoff series (outside of the Cavs), Wall will be the best player on the court. This advantage cannot be overstated. Wall is the one guy who can win a game all by himself in the fourth quarter through sheer force of will.

There are plenty of guys in the East who can take over a game when their shot is falling, like Isaiah Thomas, DeMar Derozan and even Beal. But they do not have the ability or athleticism to dominate a game on both ends of the floor like Wall does. We have seen him do it countless times during the Wizards ascension this season. Wall can flip a switch like a big brother who has spotted his little brother a 9-0 lead in a game up to 11.

IT2 comes close and he can definitely close out regular season games on the offensive end in spectacular fashion. But it remains to be seen if he can do the same in the playoffs when half-court defenses get tougher, refs are more reluctant to call cheap fouls and opponents attack him on defense.

This concludes my attempt to walk Wizards fans off the ledge as we enter the home stretch of the 2016-17 season. Remember, the NBA Playoffs are called the “second season” for a reason. The post-season is all about match-ups and marque players. Once the first round starts, the Wizards’ March struggles should be a distant memory.

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.