May 13, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (3) lays the ball in against Indiana Pacers guard George Hill (3) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors Eastern Conference Preview: A Look at the Washington Wizards

Sizing Up the 2014-15 Eastern Conference’s Potential

Who is the favourite to win the Eastern Conference next season? Many experts can’t answer this question. Where do the Toronto Raptors fit into everything? It’s hard to answer this question, too.

Everybody has a chance. Well, mostly everyone does… perhaps omitting Milwaukee from the conversation, but even they must be more excited than last year (but everything is relative, right?). But “mostly everybody” has a strong case for their team. Maybe we should review every team starting with how they finished last year?

This column will be a regular feature, looking at the NBA’s Eastern Conference and projecting where each contending team will finish. It begins at the top of the standings from 2013-14 and looks at the conference from the perspective of the Raptors.

wiz logoWashington: Here’s an interesting team. As said before, the door is wide open for any Eastern Conference team to step up, and why can’t it be the Wizards? And Washington is good… real good. With everything in flux, and the Eastern Conference very uncertain, Washington may very well emerge victorious out of the Eastern Conference.

The potential good: To the window (Nene Hilario), to the Wall (John Wall)… or maybe in the reverse order, with Nene as the wall, making John Wall the window (or maybe Marcin Gortat as the wall, or Bradley Beal as the window).

May 15, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal (3) dribbles around Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) during the first half in game six of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

May 15, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal (3) dribbles around Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) during the first half in game six of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

We’re not sure who fits Lil’ Jon’s song best, but what we do know is there are plenty of great interchangeable parts here who can all get low. Veterans – at 36, newly signed Paul Pierce isn’t even the oldest regular player as Andre Miller is two years Pierce’s senior – as well as young bucks, such as Wall and Beal, who are 23 and under.

The Wiz also have complimentary players, such as Martell Webster and newly signed DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries. These players all fill roles. The depth of Washington is unmatched… and their core is returning from last year, so like the Raptors, chemistry looks to be in their favour.

The players the Wizards have acquired via trade are to be envied (also like the Raptors). Nene, Miller, Gortat, Blair, Humphries… nicely done. Then you look at who they’ve drafted – Wall, Beal, Otto Porter Jr. – and I realize, that wow, I may just love this roster. So I like what GM Ernie Grunweld and the scouting staff have done (and can everyone stop calling Humphries “Mr. Kardashian” please? Marrying her must’ve been emasculating enough).

Mar 30, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics center Kris Humphries (43) grabs a rebound during the first half against the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 30, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics center Kris Humphries (43) grabs a rebound during the first half against the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The potential bad: There are plenty of moving parts here, so chemistry, while looking okay because of the returning players, is still a big question mark. In any case, it will likely take awhile for the team to gel and define their roles… whichever they may be.

As wild as Cleveland’s new additions are and the new territory for every player involved with the team, Washington will have an adjustment period, too. There is no doubt that there will be one. If you just look at the Wizards’ depth chart, they have a major logjam at centre – Nene, Gortat, Blair, Humphries, Drew Gooden, and Kevin Seraphin. That’s six guys… and that’s for one, maybe two spots on the floor.

Aug 8, 2014; Akron, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James talks with the media during the LeBron James Family Foundation Reunion and Rally at InfoCision Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

More potential good: This just in! LeBron James has shifted from Miami to Cleveland as you may have heard…

Anyway, Miami is in Washington’s division, so it appears as if they’ll be a shift atop the Southeast Division. I don’t care about people’s optimism with the Heat: Miami is down, Charlotte is up though and could be division contenders, Atlanta regains Al Horford this season so they have to be on the upswing, and Orlando, almost by default, have to be on the rise, as they get older and more experienced (look for Victor Oladipo to make a serious jump in his career). But to be absolutely serious, there is a void… and even if it takes a few teams getting better, the Wizards are sure to be one. And they could be the number one team, actually.

Last year’s Eastern Conference regular season rank: 5th place

This year’s potential pre-season FS rank: 2nd place

Where do you think Washington will finish this season?

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Followers may be thrilled as this is my first non-push in the last three articles released. However, like the other “pushes” this one makes a lot of sense.

Apr 27, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards point guard Andre Miller (24) dribbles against the Chicago Bulls during the first quarter in game four of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 27, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards point guard Andre Miller (24) dribbles against the Chicago Bulls during the first quarter in game four of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

With Miami pretty much out of the way, there has to be a team that supplants them – and while the team of that stature may not come out of that division, the division still needs a winner. Because of the reasons listed above, and the fact Charlotte is probably a year away from properly gelling together, the winner of the Southeast Division will be the Washington Wizards this coming season.

The Wiz have an approximate range of first to fifth place, to be safe. As was said before for the Raptors, the door is wide open for any Eastern Conference team to step up, and why can’t it be the Wizards? They could win the Eastern Conference, and this guy wouldn’t be too terribly surprised.

Click here to return to the intro page, which includes links to the rest of the preview series.

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