Here at RaptorsHQ we have made it a habit of speaking with a guest blogger each week to preview one of the Raptors' matchups. This week we reached out to Thomas Pruitt of Bullets Forever to answer a few questions about the Washington Wizards. He was kind enough to provide us with some interesting insight into the suddenly solid Wizards:
RHQ: As someone that has followed the Raptors for many years, I can sympathize with what you must have had to go through covering the Wizards during the early part of the season. How close were you to swearing off of basketball all together?
TP: I'm not going to lie, December was tough. This is my first season covering the team, too, which made the horrible start even worse for me. Even then, though, you just sort of take your little victories. Jordan Crawford averaging 19, 5 and 6 in December was to us what I imagine Bargnani's pre-All Star break performance last year was to you guys.
RHQ: Since the return of John Wall, the Wizards have really picked things up. Obviously having Wall in the lineup helps, but what has this team been doing since his return that has lead to their recent success?
TP: Defending like crazy. Washington has the NBA's fifth best defense this season and the much-criticized Rashard Lewis for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza deal is a big part of why. Both guys have had their ups and downs on offense, but they've been rock solid defensively all year, with Okafor dominating the glass and Ariza doing a very solid job against most star wings. The players, with the exception of Jordan Crawford, have done a very good job of playing smart defense that can range anywhere from decent to great.
RHQ: Martell Webster is awesome, thoughts?
TP: Pretty much, yes. The best thing about that killer three point percentage is that he's doing it for the league's worst offense and a defense that regularly holds opponents under 90 points. He's been a better passer than his reputation would have you believe and he's a vocal locker room leader. His defense has been more decent than good, but with Ariza and Chris Singleton behind him in the rotation, you can totally live with that.
RHQ: Bradley Beal is a player that has intrigued me since I first saw him in the Hoops Summit a couple of years ago. I was hoping he would wind up with the Raptors, but obviously that didn't happen. What have you seen from Beal so far this season? what area of his game needs the biggest improvement?
TP: He's got a lot of talent and I think he'll eventually be a guy who can get you 20 a night with decent efficiency. The best thing about his game, at least right now, is that he's able to put up points but do it completely within the flow of the offense, something that's really necessary with a point guard who needs the ball in his hands like Wall. He still takes too many long twos, but as he gets older more will probably find the net. Beal also needs to become a better defender and has taken more than his fair share of rookie lumps, but his heart seems to be in the right place and he's strong and athletic enough that he'll eventually become at least adequate.
RHQ: What is more enjoyable: Pizza or Jordan Crawford's Steez.
TP: These days just about anything is more enjoyable than Crawford, so I've got to go with pizza.
Follow Thomas Pruitt @TheRealTPruitt and read his writing here.
My answers can also be found here.