• Jac Manuell

Hot Take Marathon: The Wizards Will Finish With the 3rd Seed


*The NBA offseason is cooling down, but the takes at OTG aren't. This month, we are hitting you with the Hot Take Marathon. Check back every day for a spicy NBA take!*

The Celtics are the best team in the East. At full health three of their starting five (Hayward, Irving, Horford) are walk up All-Stars. With the rapid growth of Tatum and Brown you could make an argument their best starting five could all represent the Eastern Conference this February in Charlotte.

If the Celtics have a stranglehold at the one spot, it’s fair to say that Toronto with a healthy Kawhi Leonard isn’t far behind. Defensively they’re going to be something special with the amount of switchability they’ll possess with the likes of Siakam, Anunoby, Green and Leonard. If they can get Kyle Lowry to buy in after losing his backcourt best bud, then the sky’s the limit for the team in The Six.

The obvious pick for the third best team out East is the Philadelphia 76ers. They have two young superstars and a solid supporting cast that’s experienced playoff success. The natural growth of Simmons and Embiid should allow them to be a force for years to come. If they get even a somewhat improved Markelle Fultz, which seems like an inevitability, then there’s no telling what the ceiling of their team is.

There are lingering questions surrounding them, however. Can Joel Embiid continue to stay healthy for prolonged periods? What if Markelle doesn’t improve? Those two questions are enough to pose whether there may be a more legitimate third-best team.

Enter the Washington Wizards. Just two seasons ago this was a 49-win team who were one game away from making the Conference Finals. Had it not been for the masterful coaching of Brad Stevens and the heroics of Isaiah Thomas, they could easily have seen themselves in their first franchise Finals in nearly 40 years.

Not a whole heap has changed since that time. Yes, John Wall’s hair has taken on a life of its own.

If he can be healthy for more than 41 games and recapture the form that had him in the conversation for one of the league’s best guards, then who’s to say they can’t be an Eastern Conference contender.

Bradley Beal is a stud, Otto Porter Jr. is a perfect complimentary piece on the wing and Kelly Oubre Jr. should continue to improve his game as versatile defender and scorer. Jeff Green is a nice replacement for Mike Scott, and another Jr. in rookie Troy Brown, showed some promising signs in Summer League.

Austin Rivers has the potential to give them something as a scorer off the bench and I’m as high as anyone on backup PG, Tomas Satoransky. Taking all that into account, the Wizards finally have some decent depth.

Their biggest X factor will be one of the game’s most combustible big men, Dwight Howard. To his credit he looks to be all in with Washington, whether that’s the case when the regular season is in full swing is another question.

The Wizards locker room has high blow-up potential as is, adding in Dwight only increases that tenfold. Basketball-wise, Dwight is a definite improvement on Marcin Gortat, who himself had issues with teammates.

If Scott Brooks can engage Howard in a way that utilises him as a rebounding machine who focuses on rim protection then the Wizards will have a real asset on their hands. Brooks should also look to work him into certain schemes within the pick and roll, where Dwight may not be elite but still capable. He still provides verticality at the rim and can open up valuable space for Wall, Beal and Porter. Brooks reaffirmed these views on Howard on the Yahoo Sports NBA podcast:

Washington have had their fair share of ups and downs over the past half decade on and off the court. Maybe the 2018-19 season is the time they can finally put it all together.

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#washingtonwizards #WIzards #EastvsWest #EasternConference #TorontoRaptors #Raptors #BostonCeltics #philadelphia76ers #Sixers #JoelEmbiid #JohnWall #KawhiLeonard #KyrieIrving #DwightHoward #HotTakeMarathon2018 #JacManuell

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