The Wizards built a playoff team before last season and then declared the playoffs their primary goal.
It was so short-sighted, maybe even detrimental to the franchise’s long-term future. That roster should have viewed the postseason as the bare minimum.
But it’s also understandable how a team in a five-season playoff drought would become fixated on ending it above all else.
Nobody bought into Washington’s postseason-or-bust mantra more than John Wall, who wrote “playoffs” on his shoes before each game. The All-Star point guard certainly did his part to lead the Wizards into the postseason with a controlled game that, more than ever, eliminated mistakes.
Now, though, Wall is ready to strive for more.
“The Finals. All you can ask for now is the Finals,” Wall said from Team USA training camp in Las Vegas when asked for his goals for the upcoming season. “We’ve been to the second round. We know what it takes to win. We know what we need to do. We know everybody needs to get better individually, and I think [the front office] just did a great job of adding pieces, great veteran guys that know what it takes to win.”
With LeBron James heading to Cleveland, the East is much more open the last four seasons, when the Heat won each year.
In the new order, LeBron’s Cavs should rank highest. Adding Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and a healthy Derrick Rose should help the Bulls. Beyond those two top contenders, the Pacers, Raptors, Heat, Bobcats and Nets have fighting chances.
And so do the Wizards.
They were the youngest Eastern Conference team, weighted by playoff minutes, to win a postseason series. And for the most part, they kept the squad together, swapping Paul Pierce for Trevor Ariza. Wall and Bradley Beal are also still young and growing as team leaders.
The Wizards certainly shouldn’t be considered Finals favorites or anything near that, but it’s possible – and encouraging to see Wall aspire to such a high goal.
And hey, last year, merely meeting their goal of making the playoffs didn’t cause the Wizards to rest on their laurels. They upset the Bulls in the first round and challenged the Pacers in the next. If the Wizards somehow make the Finals, there’s no reason they can’t keep going and win the whole darn thing.