Six games is a small sample size. No team gets eliminated from playoff contention or wins the title based on their performance over a five-game stretch, but how about the Washington Wizards?
Six games in, they sit atop the Eastern Conference as one of three teams with a 5-1 record. A huge reason for their success so far has been their impressive depth as they have seven players contributing eight points or more with sharpshooting Davis Bertans yet to find his rhythm of the past two seasons.
Story so far
Game 1 in Toronto, a contest that the Wizards led by as many as 29 was a no-contest. They jumped to an early lead and never looked back.
While Bradley Beal led all scorers with 23, the three next-best contributors in this game were offseason acquisitions in Kyle Kuzma (11 points, 15 rebounds, three assists), Montrezl Harrell (22 points, nine rebounds in 26 minutes) and Spencer Dinwiddie (13 points, six assists).
A day later, in their first home game, Dinwiddie officially announced his return.
The 6-5 guard posted a game-high points tally in just his second game back from an ACL injury just three games into last season. Despite missing key players like Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant, Dinwiddie scored eight in the final 2:17 of regulation that helped the Wizards force overtime against the Indiana Pacers.
Then, in the extra session, he scored or assisted on 10 of the team's 12 points which was key to the Wizards winning 135-134.
After dropping a game in Brooklyn to the Nets, the Wizards bounced back with a win in Boston, behind five double-digit scores - Beal and four offseason acquisitions - Kuzma, Harrell, Dinwiddie and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
What's more impressive was one of their recent victories. On the second night of a back-to-back without Dinwiddie, the Beal-led squad defeated Trae Young and the 3-1 Atlanta Hawks.
Four Wizards players had 20 tonight.- StatMuse (@statmuse) October 29, 2021
Beal - 27 PTS, 8 REB, 8 AST
Kuz - 21 PTS, 8 REB, 3 STL
Trez - 25 PTS, 13 REB, 5 AST
KCP - 21 PTS, 8 REB, 5 3PT
The Wizards are 4-1. pic.twitter.com/Nb3u1Gbcqq
Their depth showed up once again against the Boston Celtics. It took an extra 10 minutes but four players scoring 17 or more led by Beal's 36 points plus the clutch steal by KCP has the Wizards off to their best six-game start of 5-1 for just the third time in franchise history.
Double-OT thriller in D.C. 😱- NBA (@NBA) October 31, 2021
The @WashWizards come up with a couple of clutch buckets and a big steal late to clinch their third-straight win 🙌 pic.twitter.com/KjHFaMRv54
How did Wizards build this team depth?
Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Spencer Dinwiddie and Aaron Holiday were all acquired in connection with the trade that sent Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers.
So far, that deal of converting one player into five productive role players is paying huge dividends. Add these guys to the team's existing rotation players in franchise star Bradley Beal followed by Davis Bertans (watch out for him when he gets comfortable with his playing time and shooting rhythm), Dani Avdija, and Raul Neto, and you've got a solid rotation.
Not to mention the fact that they have back-up in two reliable rotation guys who could join them later in the season - Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant.
Hachimura, the third-year forward, joined the team late due to personal reasons and is 'working his way back with individual workouts and weight lifting at the team's practice facility', the team's rookie head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said prior to the Hawks game.
Meanwhile, Bryant - the team's young promising young center - is scheduled to be ahead in his ACL recovery and could return in another couple of months.
Unlike the Chicago Bulls, who have a daunting 12-game slate ahead after their 4-0 start, the Wizards schedule ahead is far more favourable.
Of their next 13 games, five are against the likes of Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans (twice), Orlando Magic and the Toronto Raptors.
|Nov. 1||at Atlanta Hawks|
|Nov. 3||vs. Toronto Raptors|
|Nov. 5||vs. Memphis Grizzlies|
|Nov. 7||vs. Milwaukee Bucks|
|Nov. 10||at Cleveland Cavaliers|
|Nov. 13||at Orlando Magic|
|Nov. 15||vs. New Orleans Pelicans|
|Nov. 17||at Charlotte Hornets|
|Nov. 18||at Miami Heat|
|Nov. 20||vs Miami Heat|
|Nov. 22||vs Charlotte Hornets|
|Nov. 24||at New Orleans Pelicans|
|Nov. 26||at Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Nov. 27||at Dallas Mavericks|
Also, part of their slate are a few East teams, who were bunched-up in the same tier as them last year and have gotten off to impressive starts as well this year, in the Charlotte Hornets (twice) and Cleveland Cavaliers.
They certainly have the tools but can the Wizards keep up this early season momentum? Only time will tell.
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