The Washington Wizards won't have a starter in the NBA All-Star Game. While it's hard to argue that John Wall doesn't deserve the nod, the All-Star starter gig is a popularity contest -- and that's not what Wall and the Wizards are trying to win.
The Wizards are trying to win the Eastern Conference and unseat the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Here are 9 reasons the Wizards look like they can do it as the All-Star break gives a natural pause to assess.
1) Wizards are 8-2 over their last ten games and winners of four straight. John Wall (an All-Star reserve selection) has elevated into a "Top 5 Player."
2) Wizards have massive momentum -- their bad start seems to actually be working in their favor as the team gels.
3) Otto Porter Jr. is playing All-Star caliber basketball. Against Indiana in the last win before the All-Star break, he scored 25 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, knocking down six threes.
4) Wizards have a true inside-out offense where multiple players can score multiple ways. Often all five starters are double figure scorers.
5) The Verizon Center arena is hopping. Though still a losing road team -- and that's a lingering result of the rough start -- the Wizards have turned on the crowd to the point where it's a tangible advantage for them. If this turns into a playoff home court advantage -- they're just 5 games back -- the Verizon Center is an increasingly tough place to get a road win.
6) Wizards head coach Scott Brooks has a chip on his shoulder (he wears it lightly, but...) and he knows how to surge going into the playoffs, as he proved with OKC. And he has the players' total confidence.
7) John Wall's distribution. Wall enters the All-Star break not just as a dominant scorer but as a player doing the intangibles a good team needs. The Wizards' unselfish (and undisputed) leader is averaging 10.6 assists as his teammates knock down shots.
8) Markieff Morris is a sort of Eastern Conference Draymond Green. A winner who does things that make teams win, much as Otto Porter does.
9) Marcin Gortat looks fresh instead of frustrated. The hustling, high IQ big man can contribute in multiple ways. He's grabbing 11.4 rebounds per game, 8th best in the NBA.
10) Bonus reason: Despite being highly regarded and very well paid, Bradley Beal is STILL one of the most underrated guards in the NBA. He is destined to catch fire in the playoffs.Most INTERESTING FINDS on Amazon]