With nearly a third of the 2013-14 NBA season in the books, the Washington Wizards are off to one of their best starts in recent history. A far cry from the dreadful 3-23 start to their 2012-13 campaign, the Wiz Kids are 12-13 and would hold the sixth spot in the NBA's Eastern Conference playoffs if they were to begin today.
Bearing in mind the Wizards' newfound success, here are some of the biggest surprises for Washington in the season's early going:
5. Marcin Gortat
When the Wizards acquired Marcin Gortat via trade from the Phoenix Suns, Washington was expecting a big, physical inside presence that could hopefully score and rebound. Gortat has exceeded expectations.
Accepting the largest role of his career, playing over 34 minutes per game, Gortat is averaging 12.8 points per game to go with nine rebounds and a career-high 1.6 blocks.
The Polish Hammer's inside threat has also taken some of the defensive pressure off of Nene, his frontcourt counterpart, who's averaging a career-high 14.8 points per game.
4. Continued disappointment from first-round draft picks
While the Wizards have scored high with Bradley Beal and the jury's still out on Otto Porter Jr., the production of 2011 first-round picks Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton remains nonexistent.
Vesely is averaging 2.9 points per game in just under 18 minutes of play. Singleton has produced decent numbers off the bench but can't remain healthy. The former Florida State Seminole has appeared in just seven games.
The Wizards are holding out hope that both of these players can right the ship and become prosperous performers, but no signs are pointing in that direction. Both young players' contracts are due to expire at the end of the season and they have roughly five short months to prove why they should stay.
3. Team chemistry
Washington is producing like it hasn't in quite some time offensively. The Wizards are averaging 99.2 points per game, their highest mark since they averaged 104.3 points per game in the 2006-07 season.
Beyond the scoring, Washington is sharing the ball extremely well. The Wizards are averaging 23.1 assists per game—good enough for fourth highest in the Eastern Conference and ninth highest in the NBA.
2. A star can shine as brightly as his surroundings allow for
As a result of the emergence of Bradley Beal, the shoring up of the frontcourt with the addition of Gortat and the increased level of play from Trevor Ariza, who's thus far having the best year of his career, John Wall is producing more than ever before.
The 2010 NBA draft's first overall pick is averaging 19.6 points per game and 9.1 assists per game, both career highs.
While Wall can be a bit of a prima donna, if he's surrounded by players that he likes as teammates and on a personal level, the sky's the limit for this guy. The former Kentucky Wildcat has never been on a winning Wizards team.
Now that his team is on the cusp, he's clearly matured and is a far cry from silly ejections he received last year, such as the one he was granted by his war of words with Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson last year.
1. Bradley Beal is the real deal
Following a solid rookie season in which he was awarded a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team and finished third in the NBA's Rookie of the Year voting, Bradley Beal has elevated his level of play even further in his sophomore season.
Though appearing in just 16 of the Wizards' 25 games thus far due to a leg injury (as reported by Michael Lee of The Washington Post), Beal's contribution and winning flare is undeniable.
The former Florida Gator leads Washington in scoring, averaging 19.6 points per game. Additionally, the Wizards won just one of six games in Beal's absence. Upon his return, the Wizards won three consecutive games and are 11-8 on the season when he starts at shooting guard.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com.