With the NBA All-Star break upon us, here are five questions surrounding the Wizards as they press pause on their 2019-20 season...
Could they actually make the playoffs?
The Wizards enter the break with a realistic shot at the postseason, something very few people predicted at the beginning of the year. But thanks to a recent surge and the very forgiving Eastern Conference, at this point it would not be surprising if they pulled it off.
The Wizards are ninth in the East and only three games back from the eighth-ranked Magic. They have won five of their last seven games and are 10-9 going back to Jan. 4. It could actually happen, and if it does, it would push them out of the draft lottery, which would create an interesting debate among fans.
How much could the defense improve?
By trading Isaiah Thomas at the deadline, and replacing him with Shabazz Napier, the Wizards gave themselves a chance to clean things up defensively. They have a long way to go, ranked 30th out of 30 teams in defensive rating, but they are already showing positive signs.
In four games since the deadline, the Wizards have a 102.4 defensive rating. And going back to Jan. 4 when they started winning more games, they are 21st in the category at 113.3. That's not exactly elite, but it's a lot better than what we've seen for most of this season. If they were to play their final 29 games after the break at that level, it would represent significant progress.
What to make of Thomas Bryant's injury?
The injury to Thomas Bryant is worth keeping a close eye on. He was out for roughly six weeks from the beginning of December into January with a stress reaction in his right foot. He then came back for 11 games before going down again.
Any time a guy has a stress reaction, it is concerning and foot injuries and big men often aren't a good combination. He may end up being fine and, according to head coach Scott Brooks, he got a positive update on Monday when he was re-evaluated. But given the setback and the nature of the injury, it doesn't seem safe to assume anything.
How will they handle the John Wall situation?
Both general manager Tommy Sheppard and John Wall himself have strongly indicated Wall is not going to play this season. It's to the point where you can essentially state it as fact. But still, it could be made more definitive at some point, perhaps by Brooks.
Technically, the Wizards don't need to say anything. No one expects to see Wall until next year. But don't be surprised if it becomes more official later in the year. Maybe Wall will address the media, explain his next steps and forecast the offseason.
Will Rui Hachimura make All-Rookie?
It is shaping up to be a relatively quiet postseason awards season for the Wizards. Given Bradley Beal didn't make the All-Star team, it seems unlikely he will get serious consideration for All-NBA. Maybe that changes if the Wizards keep winning.
Rui Hachimura, though, has a really good chance to make the All-Rookie team and that would be nothing to sneeze at if you look at recent Wizards history. Since 2004, only Wall and Beal have made it for the Wizards. Both of them made first team. If Hachimura makes it, it will be a feather in the cap of the Wizards' new-look front office.
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