Tommy Keeler Jr.: Wizards for real as NBA power

Tommy Keeler Jr.

Could this be the year?

If you’re a Washington Wizards fan, that question has to be running through your mind. I know it’s still early in the season, but the Wizards have put themselves in great shape in the Eastern Conference. Could a run at an NBA title be in the cards?

They are currently in second place in the East, just a game behind the Toronto Raptors, with an 18-6 record.

I don’t think the Raptors will be able to hold onto that spot, nor do I think the Atlanta Hawks will remain in the top three (currently just a half-game behind Washington).

The two teams the Wizards have to watch out for are the Chicago Bulls (currently in fourth at 15-9) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (currently in fifth at 14-10).

The Wizards started off just OK, but around the time Bradley Beal returned from injury the team began to soar. After a 9-5 start, the Wizards have won nine of their last 10 games and five in a row.

I thought before the season started the Wizards had a chance to do something special this year, and at this point there’s no reason to think that they can’t.

Last year’s playoff run certainly helped. Now even some of the younger guys have some playoff experience, and the addition of Paul Pierce gives them another clutch player in the big games.

The Wizards are playing good team basketball and using defense to pick up wins. Washington is ranked second in assists per game (25.7) and sixth in points allowed (96.6). They are also 12th in rebounds per game (43.6).

Point guard John Wall leads the way for the Wizards offensively, averaging 17.7 points per game. Balance has been key for Washington this season, and the Wizards have five other players averaging in double figures.

Beal is averaging 15.4 points per game, followed by Marcin Gortat (13.5), Pierce (13.2), Rasual Butler (10.3) and Nene Hilario (10.1). They are also balanced in rebounding with Gortat leading the way with 8.4 rebounds per game, but there are four other players averaging at least four a game. Wall is averaging 10.3 assists per game.

The Wizards are a lot like they were last year, except a year older and wiser. They are very good in the half-court, which is what playoff basketball is all about.

Washington coach Randy Wittman does a good job of getting the most out of the players, but most importantly gets them to play basketball the right way. The Wizards remind me a little of the San Antonio Spurs, a franchise that has certainly had a lot of success over the last 10 years.

The Wizards have some tough games coming up to end the year. The Wizards play at Miami today, host Phoenix on Sunday and Chicago next Tuesday. All of America will get to watch the Wizards on Christmas day when they play at New York, and they close the year out on the road at Houston and Dallas.

They start the new year at a surging Oklahoma City and then at San Antonio. By the first week of January things should be a lot clearer as far as where the Wizards stand in the NBA and in the Eastern Conference.

I think the Wizards will continue to be one of the top teams in the East, and they definitely have a shot at being the top team in the East. Even if they don’t get the top seed in the playoffs, the Wizards, barring injury, should be one of the contenders to make the NBA Finals. That’s something they haven’t done since the 1970s.

For a city that’s starving for a team to make the postseason and bring home a title, the Wizards bring some hope to D.C. this holiday season.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com