51Q: Will the Wizards impress Kevin Durant?

3 Comments

PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Will the Wizards impress Kevin Durant?

The Wizards have mastered exceeding expectations.

They’re one of two teams (with the Raptors) to improve their record each of the last four seasons from the year prior. Washington has steadily risen from 23-59 to 20-46 to 29-53 to 44-38 to 46-36.

The Wizards are also the only team to win a playoff series as the lower seed each of the last two years, upsetting the Bulls in 2014 and Raptors in 2015. Washington even appeared a John Wall injury from reaching the conference finals last season.

But the Wizards’ success is only raising expectations at a pivotal time for the franchise, when perception – specifically Kevin Durant’s – matters.

Can they keep it up?

Washington has been building toward the summer of 2016, when Durant becomes an unrestricted free agent. So, next season is the last chance to leave an impression.

Sure, the Wizards playing in Durant’s hometown got their foot in the door. But he won’t sign just because of that.

You think LeBron James signed with the Cavaliers only because he wanted to go home? Or did ditching an aging Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for a team with Kyrie Irving the resources to land Kevin Love have something to do with it?

Everything matters.

The Wizards are appealing because they’re a team on the rise. John Wall and Bradley Beal form an excellent young core. Marcin Gortat and Nene can help a team win now. Between Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre, Washington hopes at least one will emerge.

But keeping the momentum going won’t be easy. Paul Pierce, a key player in last year’s run, left for the Clippers. His main replacement, Jared Dudley, is injured. The Wizards really need Porter and/or Oubre to step up sooner than later.

At least the East is wide open outside Cleveland. There’s no good reason the Wizards can’t be the conference’s second-best team, though that’s also true of several others.

What constitutes a successful season for Washington? A trip to the playoffs? Another playoff-series win? Going further, at least to the conference finals?

Really, that’s for Durant to decide.