What does .500 mean for the Wizards?

Updated: February 4, 2014

The Washington Wizards are finally over the .500 mark this season. After making it to .500 and failing to get over it six times in 2013-14, the Wizards got over the hump last night with a convincing 100-90 win over the visiting Portland Trail Blazers, a western conference team 20 games over .500.

The Wizards went 355 straight games without being over .500 — easily the longest streak in the NBA.

Consecutive Games
Wizards 355
Bucks 62
Celtics 49
Jazz 47
Kings 46

  – Elias Sports Bureau

No one currently on the Wizards roster was on the roster the last time the team was over .500. Since that Halloween night 51 months ago, when the roster was led by Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, the team has a record of 120-236, a miserable .336 winning percentage. At no point during his NBA career has guard John Wall, the team’s franchise player, been even one game over .500 — until now.

So what does it mean for the Wizards to be one game over .500, at 24-23? Well, not that much. Coach Randy Wittman has repeatedly warned the team not to read much into going one game over .500 — especially since a team like the San Antonio Spurs is next on the menu. After all, what’s  the big deal about going one game over .500 if you lose seven of the next eight games and fall back to being what the Wizards have been for most of the last 30 years.

What probably matters more is that the Wizards have won four of their last six games, with those four wins coming over the Portland Trail Blazers third in the Western Conference], the OKC Thunder [first in the West], the Phoenix Suns [seventh] and the Golden State Warriors [sixth in the West]. The Thunder, Blazers and Warriors are three of the best offensive teams in the NBA, all held well below their season scoring averages by the Wizards defense. The Thunder rolled into DC on a 10-game winning streak and left town with a loss and their worst scoring output of the season.

So, are the Wizards a good team? In one word — no. They’re an average team, which is a pretty obvious description of a team with a record of 24-23 and a .511 winning percentage. Washington has a record of 7-14 against teams above .500 this season. A truly good team would be doing better than that. As I noted above the Wizards are capable of beating good teams, but they’ve also lost to bad teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and the Utah Jazz. So, what can they do to become a good team?

Well, the NBA trade deadline is later this month and it is possible — though unlikely — the Wizards will make a big move to acquire a very good player. The Wizards players most often mentioned as trade bait are forward Trevor Ariza and center Marcin Gortat because both are in the final year of their contract. However, it is hard to see a team parting with a franchise-changing talent for the right to rent one or two pretty good players for a couple of months.

No, the most likely way for the Wizards to improve right now would be through internal improvement. It would be John Wall’s jumper becoming more reliable, Nene staying healthy, Bradley Beal getting more minutes and attacking the hoop more often. It would involve continuing to play good defense, combined with an offense that shoots far more layups and 3-pointers than it does right now. Washington takes far too many two-point jumpers, which from a statistical point of view are often the worst shots a player and team can take. So attacking the hoop and taking [and hitting] a good number of threes would be one way to improve. In other words, getting smarter about their shot selection.