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Written by AJ Neuharth-Keusch
The Washington Wizards started off the 2014-2015 season on a roll, winning 19 of their first 25 games (tying a franchise record).
Since then, they’ve managed to only win 12 games while losing 14, bringing their overall record to 31-20.
Not bad for a team that had a 29-53 record just two seasons ago, but not good enough for a team that wants to compete for an NBA Championship.
With the Atlanta Hawks having the best season in franchise history at 41-9 and the Cleveland Cavaliers on a 12-game win streak under the reign of LeBron James and co., the Wizards have found themselves tied for third place in the eastern conference with the Chicago Bulls right on their tail (and the Milwaukee Bucks only a couple of games behind them).
The Wizards have lost their last five games in a row and seven of their last 10.
They appear to be sinking… quickly.
But, don’t get me wrong – not all hope is lost, not by a long shot. All NBA teams experience slumps, some worse than others.
The Wizards are still a top-three team in the east and are exceeding expectations. However, they need some changes before they find themselves in a hole that they can’t dig themselves out of.
My top-five reasons why the Wizards are slumping:
1. John Wall isn’t superman (although he’s cutting it close)- Wall is having the best year of his career and finding his name tossed around in the MVP conversation. He’s averaging 17.5 points per game, and putting up career highs with 10.2 assists, 1.9 steals, and 46% shooting. The problem? He’s ninth in the NBA in minutes per game with 35.9. No matter how much of a freak athlete he is, head coach Randy Wittman is running him into the ground.
2. Andre Miller- Aside from Wall being the best point guard in the eastern conference, Wittman is running him into the ground because he has no other option. 38-year-old Andre Miller’s lack of scoring and nonexistent defensive ability makes him a liability on the court. Garrett Temple has shown some promise at point guard in the past few games, but nothing sufficient enough to prevent a severe production drop-off with Wall on the bench.
3. Marcin Gortat- “The Polish Hammer” isn’t playing like a guy on a five-year, $60 million contract right now. His inconsistent play combined with the inconsistent play of injury-prone power forward Nene, the starting big-men are looking lost in the paint. He needs to regain his confidence on offense and return to the phenom that Wizards fans once knew.
4. Rasual Butler- The 35-year-old small forward was playing the best basketball of his career earlier in the year, making the rim appear twice the normal size every time he threw up a three-point shot. However, since his hot streak turned cold, Butler has only been averaging 4.7 points and almost a 10% drop-off from the field. Maybe snapping out of his slump will provide a spark for the deflated Wizards.
5. Depth- Besides Butler during his hot streak and an occasional solid night from Kris Humphries, the Wizards bench has been mediocre at best. With Beal and Nene both being plagued by the injury bug and Wall playing too many minutes, it’s more important now than ever that a player (Otto Porter…please) from the bench steps up and makes an impact.
With all that being said, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Wiz Kids can snap out of their current slump and get back to the level they were playing at earlier in the year. They don’t need to fix all of the problems listed above, but they need to make some significant changes if they want to be able to compete with the Hawks, Raptors, and Cavs come playoff time.
With the All-Star break just days away, expect the Wizards to return as one of the elite teams in the NBA and finish the season in the top-three in the east. They’re simply too good to continue down the road that they’re currently on.