T-Minus 30 Days: A Playoff Snapshot for the Washington Wizards | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

T-Minus 30 Days: A Playoff Snapshot for the Washington Wizards

Updated: March 18, 2015

[Game 3 #WittmanFace - via instagram.com/truthaboutit]

[Game 3 #WittmanFace – via instagram.com/truthaboutit]

It seems like only yesterday that Washington was in a free-fall, fans were calling for Randy Wittman’s head, and there was no end to how low the Wizard’s playoff seed could drop. Nothing like a four-game win streak to steady the ship. The Wizards still have roster holes and have shown a scary inability to hold onto leads, but over the last week their playoff picture has become significantly clearer. With only one month left in the season, let’s take a snapshot of where Washington stands and where they will likely end up.

Here are the current Eastern Conference standings:

  1. Atlanta (53-14, .791)
  2. Cleveland (43-26, .623) – 11 GB
  3. Toronto (40-27, .597) – 13 GB
  4. Chicago (40-28, .588) – 13.5 GB
  5. Washington (39-28, .582) – 14 GB
  6. Milwaukee (34-33, .507) – 19 GB
  7. Indiana (30-36, .455) – 22.5 GB
  8. Miami (30-36, .455) – 22.5 GB
  9. Boston (30-36, .455) – 22.5 GB
  10. Charlotte (29-37, .439) – 23.5 GB
  11. Brooklyn (27-38, .415) – 25 GB

With Cleveland morphing into a true title contender and Milwaukee fading, the Wizards seem (almost certainly) locked in to one of the following four playoff scenarios as a 3-, 4- or 5-seed:

#3 Washington vs. #6 Milwaukee

#4 Washington vs. #5 Chicago

#5 Washington vs. #4 Toronto

#5 Washington vs. #4 Chicago

As you contemplate which of these matchups is preferable, keep in mind that if Washington rises to the 3-seed, they would play Cleveland should they advance to the second round. A victory in the 4/5 matchup would lead to a second-round date with Atlanta. Toronto, 9.5 games up on second place Boston in the Atlantic Division, is essentially guaranteed a top 4 seed as the likely division winner.

So, what seed is Washington likely to grab?

Toronto, Chicago and Washington are all within a game of each other. However, per NBA.com, their remaining strengths of schedule are far from equal (1).

Toronto Raptors (40-27):
15 games remaining (7 home, 8 away);
Strength of Schedule – .3943;
Games remaining vs. opponents over .500 (3 of 15)

Chicago Bulls (40-28):
14 games remaining (7 home, 7 away);
Strength of Schedule – .4346;
Games remaining vs. opponents over .500 (5 of 14)

Washington Wizards (39-28):
15 games remaining (6 home, 9 away);
Strength of Schedule – .5157;
Games remaining vs. opponents over .500 (6 of 15)

Based on strength of schedule alone, Toronto has the inside track for the 3-seed. But the SOS algorithm does not tell the whole story. Of Toronto’s three remaining games against winning teams, two are against Chicago. Chicago already won its first two matchups with Toronto, so their upcoming head-to-head games (March 20 and March 25) will go a long way in determining playoff seeding.

Another limitation of the SOS analysis is its inability to predict when coaches will rest players. Two of Washington’s final three games of the season are against Atlanta (April 12) and at Cleveland (April 15). Just like Memphis last week, those games could quickly turn from potential losses to likely wins.

If the Wizards wish to overtake the Bulls or Raptors, they will have to rely on the kindness of others. Washington already finished its season series with both Chicago (2-2) and Toronto (0-3). Should Washington end the season tied with Chicago, the first playoff tie-breaker is conference record. Currently, Chicago (23-15) holds a slight advantage over Washington (25-18).

For those doomsayers among us who subscribe to the Flip Saunders school of prognostication (“Don’t think it can’t get any worse…”) hopefully this will allay your fears: Washington won the season series against Milwaukee (2-1) and currently holds a five-game lead over the Bucks, who have lost 10 of their last 13 games, seemingly damaged by the trade one of their best players, Brandon Knight (who was in the conversation for the All-Star game) for Michael Carter-Williams (former Rookie of the Year who was discarded by the 76ers).

If you are comforted by websites that portend to give definitive answers to unknowable questions based on subjective data, then you will be further pleased to learn that PlayoffStatus.com gives Washington only a 4 percent chance of sliding to the 6-seed—and that was calculated before the Bucks lost to the Pelicans last night. By comparison, the predictive website calculates a 66 percent chance that Washington remains at the 5-seed, which is where Washington has landed the last five times they have made the playoffs. And if I had to guess, that’s where they will end up again. All that’s left to do now is watch some basketball and wait.

[Shed a tear, the playoffs are here.]

[Shed a tear, the playoffs are here.]

  1. NBA.com strength of schedule considers opponents for your remaining games, their winning percentage on the road or at home, and whether or not either team is on the second night of a back to back.
Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.