I’m finally in on this Wizards team. I reserve the right to pretend I never said that, but after the Wizards-Magic game on Friday, I think I’m finally ready to get behind this group.
That might sound strange. Barely eking out a win over a team with the third worst record in the NBA is what finally convinced me? Pretty much.
Well, I’m not sold on the entire roster. I still feel like the Wizards’ starting bigs, Nene and Marcin Gortat, are the definition of “good,” and I don’t mean that in a positive way. The bench has a little too much Trevor Booker for my liking, though Andre Miller has been a nice addition. But what I am completely, 100%, all in on is the Wizards’ “Big Three.”
I’m pretty sure nobody is referring to John Wall, Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza as the “Big Three,” but it’s time to start. Since the All-Star break, Ariza leads the league in three-pointers made per game and is 4th in three-point percentage. That is insane. His three-point percentage is up a whopping 6 percentage points from last season, even while his attempts have increased from 3.7 per game to 6.0.
My theory: Ariza was offended by the Wizards’ offseason moves at his position, small forward. The Wizards drafted Otto Porter third overall to fill their “hole” at small forward. They signed Martell Webster, another small forward, to a four year, 22 million dollar contract, a sizable amount for a player with pedestrian numbers over his 8-year career. Meanwhile, Ariza was being referred to as just an expiring contract. I think all this gave Ariza a chip on his shoulder. The rest is history.
Beal and Wall have just continued to get better. This probably isn’t a surprise to most people, but I couldn’t quite shake the nasty feeling after years of watching the Wizards screw up their draft picks that neither of these guys would develop properly. But they’ve both put these fears to rest, especially Wall. He hasn’t relaxed even a little bit after getting paid this summer. He always looks like the most competitive guy on the court, which is a great thing for a team’s star player to be.
So this brings us back to the Magic game on Friday. The Wizards are down one with a minute left in overtime, and the Magic’s Jameer Nelson has the ball on a fast break with no one in front of him. If he makes the easy layup, the Wizards go down three, and their chance of winning isn’t great.
Somehow Beal is able to chase Nelson down and make a ferocious block from behind, the kind of block that makes you go, “Wow, this guy is athletic.” Wall trails the play and manages to secure the rebound. He chucks the ball up court to Trevor Ariza, who nails the three-pointer. Instead of being down three, the Wizards go up two and hold on for the win. Beal — Wall — Ariza. I’m all in.