Can the Washington Wizards actually contend in the East?

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The past offseason, the Wizards managed to resign Marcin Gortat, replace Trevor Ariza with Paul Pierce, and sign a couple of quality role players in Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair. The question, combined with John Wall and Bradley Beal, is that team ready to contend, or they will be stuck in mediocrity, something like the Hawks during the Joe Johnson/Smith/Horford era. Can Pierce be the piece that pushes the young Wizards over the top? Is Gortat worth that much money?

Is Randy Wittman a championship coach? John Wall proclaimed that he and Bradley Beal are the best backcourt duo in the NBA, but now he has to prove that on the floor.

The 2014-2015 ceiling

Last year, the Wizards made the playoffs, beat the Bulls in the first round, and lost to Indiana in the second round. Sniffing the playoffs was nice for the young squad, but they hope to build on that success this year. Realistically, they have the opportunity to win the South East division. Their only rival there is the Miami, and the Heat will be playing without LeBron James this year. If they manage to win the division, the Wizards will have home court advantage in the first round at least. Till now, they are 5-2, managing to beat the weaker teams (Indiana twice, New York, Milwaukee and Orlando), but losing from playoff contenders (Toronto and Miami). If they continue the pace, and beat some quality team in the process, they might win more games than last year. In 2013-2014, the Wizards won 44 games. They will need at least 50 to win the division.

John Wall and his improvement

Last year, Wall made huge improvements in two critical areas. He increased his assist rate, and improved his 3-pt shooting. While he might never be a good 3-pt shooter, if he manages to hit 3s at 35-39% rate, that would be great. He also has to keep his FG above 45%. Last year Wall hit 43% of his FG attempts and 35% of his 3-pt attempts. He became more efficient, and more dangerous. His offense will always be reliant on transition points, and drives to the basket, but he has to continue increasing his arsenal. This year, his FG is up to 45%, but his 3-pt FG is down to dreadful 23%.

The future and the summer of 2016

Even if the Wizards stay mediocre in the next two years, they will be armed with cap space in the summer of 2016. That is the summer in which Kevin Durant is a free agent, and rumors are already spreading that he might follow Lebron’s path and come back home. The Wizards will have Gortat, Wall and Beal signed, and they will have space to fit a max deal for Durant and possibly one more star, depending on how the cap rises. Overall, the Wizards are positioned to be successful for the next years, something they haven’t been since the days of Gilbert Arenas (pre gun shooting incident). And until the summer of 2016, they have Pierce to teach the young kids a trick or two.

Ron Leyba is the content manager of Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues – premier source of fantasy basketball updates, rankings and rumors. For more of his fantasy basketball updates, follow Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ account.

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