It was the first round of the playoffs last year when we really saw how good this team could be. They faced a Toronto team that was talented and dangerous - even if they weren't playing their best ball at the time. Washington didn't just beat them - they crushed the life out of them. It was a complete and total massacre. It was almost unfair. They could very easily have beaten Atlanta in the next round, too, if John Wall hadn't broken his wrist in the opener. As good as they were in that first series, you can't help but believe that they are capable of being quite a bit better.
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2015 Washington Wizards Betting Story Lines
Aside from youth, it has been a fight for identity that has seemed to hold this team back from their full potential. More specifically, head coach Randy Wittman can't seem to decide what kind of team he wants to have. During the regular season he often seems like he can't get out of his own way. The team often plays a slow style lacking in creativity - one that relies too heavily on the backcourt to make things happen. It works well enough but is far from ideal. In the postseason the last two years, though, the team has picked up the pace, created space, and generally played a more modern and clearly more effective style. The change in styles doesn't really make any sense, and it seems clear which one is a better fit. It is dangerous taking the preseason too seriously, but so far this fall the Wizards are looking a lot more like the playoff Wizards than the regular-season ones. That seems consistent with the moves made in the offseason, as we will soon see. If they truly stick to that style then there is real upside here.
There are two players that will determine above all others just how far this team can go. John Wall is a star, and he needs other stars to emerge. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. are the two clear candidates. Beal has had troubles staying healthy through his career so far, but with some more strategic shooting - which the new style of play should force - he has a chance to be one of the more improved players in the league. Porter was much improved last year after a terrible rookie season. Where he really did well, though, was in the playoffs. He was like a whole new player - and the style of play was a big reason for that. One of the biggest reasons Wittman should feel comfortable maintaining this new path is the prospect of what Porter could become - a 3-and-D dream. If Beal and Porter can both make big steps forward this year this team will be very tough to beat.
2015 Washington Wizards Additions and Departures
The first question you have to ask concerning this roster is just how much Paul Pierce will be missed. When he was on this team last year he brought his endless swagger, and that really came to the fore at the end of games - especially in the playoffs. Pierce moved on to the Clippers. His offensive production will be missed, but not as much as his veteran leadership. It's a concern. Jared Dudley was the guy most directly brought in to replace Pierce. He obviously doesn't have the offensive upside of Pierce, but he is a savvy veteran who is well-liked, and he will be a key leadership piece on this team. He has had a back injury that he needs to bounce back from, and that's an issue as a guy gets older. However, if he can overcome it he could have a big year. He's also a strong defensive presence, and that will help.
Aside from Dudley, the team brought in Alan Anderson and Gary Neal, and they drafted Kelly Oubre from Kansas. Oubre is raw and will take a while to find his real form, but what he and the other three all have in common is their shooting potential, their solid defensive skill, and their versatility. It signals a more wide-open future for the team - and that's a very good thing.
2015 Washington Wizards Futures Odds and Trends
The Wizards were one of the biggest betting underachievers in the league last year. They won 46 games yet were a dismal 33-46-3 ATS on the season. That matched two truly pathetic teams - the Kings and Knicks - for the worst in the league. They went under the total in 42 of 82 games, so they were of no use to totals bettors, either.
Washington Wizards Futures Odds (from BetOnline)
NBA title odds : +3300
Eastern Conference title odds : +1400
Odds to win the Southeast Division: +190
2015 Washington Wizards Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
if they stay on track and Wittman doesn't outthink himself again then I am very bullish on this team. They have the potential to win north of 50 games and could not only win their division but could be the second-best team in the East behind the Cavaliers. A trip to the Eastern final is a realistic goal.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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