There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Washington Wizards this season, which is exactly why coach Randy Wittman's hot seat might be set on fire if his team struggles.
The Wiz proved during the second half last season that they absolutely have the talent to make the playoffs this season.
Without John Wall, due to injury, the Wizards began the season 5-28. But once Wall returned to the team, the Wizards were 24-25, which is a better winning percentage (48.9%) than that of the Milwaukee Bucks (46.3%), the No.8 seed in the East.
Wall helped turned an abysmal offensive team into a serviceable one (their offensive rating was 102.1 with him and 94.8 without him) and helped the Wizards maintain their standing as one of the best defensive teams in the league (they finished with the fifth-best defensive rating).
And at 23 years old, Wall is likely to improve this season after averaging 18.5 points, 7.6 assists and four rebounds per game in 2012-13.
Factor in that Bradley Beal, 20, should also be better this year, that the team added a top-three draft pick in Otto Porter Jr. and that they didn't lose any of the 2012-13 team's solid veterans (such as Martell Webster and Nene) and it's hard not to be bullish on this team.
The last three playoff spots for the East are completely up for grabs. There's no reason why a healthy Wizards team can't win 38-40 games and outdo the likes of the Toronto Raptors and Bucks and grab the No. 8 seed.
So if things don't go well, Wittman is the easy guy to point the finger at.
Here are some facts about Wittman's seven-year coaching career: Zero playoff appearances, zero winning records, zero seasons with more than 32 wins. His 33.6 career winning percentage is the worst among active NBA coaches.
Unless injuries just deplete this team, the blaming of Wittman is likely justified.
Wittman has done a great job of establishing a defensive identity with this Wizards team since arriving during the 2011-12 season, but it's time for the Wiz to be more effective on offense for a full season.
Washington needs to improve its shot selection. The Wizards can't repeat the 28th ranking in field-goal percentage that they had last season if they want to make the playoffs. They have to be smarter offensively, and that's partly on Wittman.
Not helping to lengthen Wittman's leash is the fact that there are a good amount of established coaches available right now (George Karl and Lionel Hollins, to name two). While Hollins, Karl and some of the other free-agent coaches may want to wait for the opportunity to coach a contender, it's hard to fathom that most of them wouldn't be intrigued by the idea of coaching Wall.
Bottom line: The Wizards made a statement when they signed their franchise PG to a five-year contract worth $90 million earlier this summer. This is a franchise that is serious about winning and wants to end its five-year streak without a postseason appearance.
And if it doesn't look like Randy Wittman can help Washington take the next step this season, the Wizards should start looking for someone that can.
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