Washington Wizards: 5 Takeaways At The All-Star Break

Feb 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris (5) shakes hands with guard John Wall (2) after defeating the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Washington defeats Indiana 111-98. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards are third in the Eastern Conference despite a slow start to the season. Here are five takeaways during the All-Star Break.

The Washington Wizards are 34-21 in the Eastern Conference after starting the season 16-16 entering the month of January. Since then, they are 18-5 and have won 15 of their last 17 games. Currently, they are on a four-game winning streak.

The Wizards are 24-7 at home with one of the best starting lineups in the NBA. They took the Cleveland Cavaliers to overtime back on Feb. 6 before losing 140-135, snapping a 17-game home winning streak. They rank seventh in the league in points per game (108.1) and 12th in opponent points per game (105.3). As the season has progressed, however, they continue to improve their all-around numbers.

Washington so far has made 11.6 three pointers per game in the month of February. They made a team-high 15 three-pointers in their last game before the All-Star Break against the Indiana Pacers. Their average as a team this season is nine per game. As they’ve made more three-point shots, they’ve won more games.

The Washington Wizards have become a selfless team and it’s showed in their assists per game average as well. They are averaging 25.2 assists as a team in the last two months, showing first-year head coach Scott Brooks has a good young core of talent on his hands.

With 27 games left in the season and John Wall in his fourth All-Star game, the Wizards are on the verge of their first 50-win season since 1979. To do that, they just need to win 16 games.

Here are five takeaways for the Washington Wizards at the All-Star Break.

Feb 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter (22) takes a shot against Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 16, 2017; Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

5. Wizards’ Three-Point Shooting Continues To Improve

The Washington Wizards’ three-point shooting is improving by the game. With small-ball slowly taking over the NBA, that’s a good thing. They are fifth in the league in three-point field goal percentage at 37.6 percent.

The Wizards made 15 three-pointers, tying a season-high set all the way back in November to defeat the Indiana Pacers 111-98 on Feb. 16. They shot 51.7 percent from three as a team in the game with 23 assists.

To begin the season, Washington made 6.7 three pointers per game. In December, their average went up to 8.5. In January, their average went up to 9.9. This month, with a record of 6-1, the Wizards are averaging 11.6 made three-pointers.

Teammates Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are averaging 4.1 and 3.1 three point makes per game in February. Just behind them are forward Markieff Morris and point guard John Wall with 1.8 and 1.3 three-pointers made per game. They are shooting 41.1 percent from the three-point line as a team in February as well.

With such a good young core, the Wizards are turning a corner in the East. At third place, they can move a move for the No. 1 seed. They’ll just need to continue to be consistent on all fronts.

Dec 30, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) looks on with teammates from he bench against the Brooklyn Nets in the fourth quarter at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 118-95. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 30, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

4. Starting Lineup Continues To Carry The Load

The Washington Wizards have one of the best starting lineups in the NBA. They are second in the league behind the Golden State Warriors in points per game with 84.7. They rank second in rebounds per game as well behind the Cleveland Cavaliers with 32.0.

Center Marcin Gortat is averaging 14.4 points and 11.6 rebounds on 58.4 percent shooting this month. Forwards Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris are averaging 17.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game and 19.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game, respectively, through February.

Wall is averaging 23.3 points, 12.6 assist and 3.7 rebounds and Beal is averaging 24.0 points, 4.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game in the same span for the backcourt. It seems the Wizards have figured out their offensive strategy and its largely worked. They are 9-1 in their last 10 games.

There’s still work to do, however. So far they are 3-1 against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Pacers this season. They are 2-1 so far against the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics. Against the Charlotte Hornets, they are 2-0. With games remaining against the Hawks, Celtics, two against the Hornets, and back-to-back games against the Toronto Raptors on March 1 and 3, the Wizards will have a tough road to make a late playoff push.

The Wizards still have to face the Miami Heat again twice as well, whom they are 0-2 against.

Feb 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter (22) reacts to the Wizards defeating the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Washington defeats Indiana 111-98. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

3. Otto Porter Jr. Is Playing Well In His Contract Season

Washington Wizards’ forward Otto Porter Jr. is turning heads in his final contract season before becoming a restricted free agent this summer. While the Wizards are unsure of signing him to a max contract, the 23-year-old forward is still having a career season.

Porter Jr. is averaging 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game. His points and rebounds per game are both career-highs. He’s shooting a league-best 46.5 percent from three-point range, also a career-high. His 53.4 percent shooting percentage is also a career-high. The fourth-year forward has come a long way since entering the NBA as the Wizards’ third overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

In his rookie season, Porter Jr. averaged 19.0 percent from three. The next season, his average went up to 33.7 percent. Last season, Porter Jr. shot 36.7 percent from three-point range. This season, he’s made a career-best 118 three-pointers, well above his total of 98 three-point makes a season ago.

As he enters the final stretch heading into the playoffs, look for Otto Porter Jr. to play a role in the Wizards’ run. He’s made six three-pointers in three games this season, including their previous win over Indiana on Feb. 16.

Porter Jr. has gone from playing 8.6 minutes per game and no starts his rookie season to 33.9 minutes per game and 55 starts in 55 games this season. His hard work is paying off, which could mean for a huge payday for him this offseason.

Feb 10, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) and Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) talk against the Indiana Pacers during the second half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 10, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

2. Bradley Beal Is On His Way To All-Star Status

Shooting guard Bradley Beal is another young Washington Wizards player on his way to doing great things. Beal is playing well entering his fifth season in the NBA.

The Florida product is averaging 22.2 points, 3.7 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game for the 34-21 Wizards. He is shooting a career-high 47.3 percent from the floor and 40.2 percent from three-point range.

Despite being a bit snubbed by the All-Star Game, Beal still finished 10th overall in voting. The East All-Stars were stacked this season with point guards Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas and teammate John Wall, but that’s okay.

He is currently ninth in the league in three-pointers made with 148. He has made at least one three-pointer in all but four games so far this season. The fourth-year guard is averaging about 2.9 three-pointers per game this season, but that average has gone up in February.

Beal is averaging 4.1 three-point makes through seven games in the month of February. He is shooting 49.2 percent over the same span as well. He has made two threes or more in all seven contests for the Washington Wizards so far, making his presence known as an established All-Star.

Despite losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Beal led all scorers in points with a game-high 41. He made 6-of-14 three-pointers in the game. He stepped up in a big way against the defending NBA champions and continues to do so.

As he continues to play alongside John Wall, look for his play to elevate as the Wizards need him at his best.

Feb 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris (5) shakes hands with guard John Wall (2) after defeating the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Washington defeats Indiana 111-98. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 16, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

1. John Wall Is Playing Great Basketball

Point guard John Wall is fighting for the title of best point guard in the East and his play has shown that. Wall is averaging 22.8 points, 10.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game for the Washington Wizards this season. His steals per game are a career-high as he’s currently on pace to break his career-best of 149 total steals, set in the 2013-14 season.

Entering his fourth All-Star Game, John Wall is showing he’s ready to lead by example. Whether it’s a between-the-leg pass to Otto Porter Jr. on the break or a drive-and-kick to Bradley Beal for three, Wall has done it all for the Wizards.

Wall is averaging 21.5 points and 12.9 assists in Washington’s last 10 games. Despite taking a hit in the points department, teammate Bradley Beal has largely made up for that. He ranks third in total assists (561) behind James Harden (654) and Russell Westbrook (578).

Wall is also tied for first in the league in steals (112) with Houston Rockets’ forward Trevor Ariza. He set the Wizards’ franchise record for steals at 762 back on Dec. 14 against the Charlotte Hornets. He scored 25 points with 10 assists, seven steals and six rebounds in a 109-106 victory.

More of that is still to come after the All-Star Break for Wall. After all, there’s a reason Sacramento Kings‘ forward DeMarcus Cousins thinks he’s the best point guard in the NBA. He recorded 10 or more assists in 34 games so far for the Washington Wizards. With the East’s top seed in their sights at five games back, look for Wall to elevate his play.

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