A lot of credit will be spread around about the Wizards regarding how this transformation happened as they went from a 46-win team struggling to find an identity to a juggernaut that advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals after sweeping the Toronto Raptors.
Paul Pierce's leadership, John Wall's floor game, Marcin Gortat shooting 74%, Bradley Beal's ruthless aggression as a scorer or Otto Porter's emergence all are viable answers.
But for Gortat, there's a more obvious one that had a trickle-down effect with the roster: "I'll particularly mention one guy. Drew Gooden. ... He was the guy that was swinging the ball a lot from side-to-side, going set screens. Because of his skills, his opportunity to stretch the floor for us, he creates a lot of space for me on the roll, or for Bradley and John attacking the basket. At that point, we just started playing together, having fun, it doesn't matter who is going to score as long as we're winning."
Gooden started the first game of the regular season at the Miami Heat, scoring 18 points in a loss. Gooden was filling in for Nene, who was suspended by the league for the opener. Quickly, Gooden fell out of coach Randy Wittman's rotation but anticipated he'd find a way to work him back in.
He went through strenuous individual workouts and was prepared even before Kris Humphries, who was garnering most of the playing time as the backup power forward to Nene, was sidelined with a groin injury for 17 games.
Gooden, a relative newcomer to long-range shooting, had never made a three-pointer in the postseason until the Toronto series. In a 95-93 loss to the Raptors on Feb. 11, Gooden was thrust in to the rotation with 10 points and 12 rebounds to combat Patrick Patterson. Patterson, who'd torched the Wizards previously, only had two points and missed 7 of 8 shots.
Patterson had his moments in the playoff series, but his impact was mostly neutralized in the last two games when he shot 5-for-13.
"The situation for this series was for me to go out there and play, especially this series with a guy like Patrick Patterson out there being a stretch four," Gooden said. "That's my game. I evolved into that player right now. I've solidified I can play that role and coach Wittman went with me."