While five current lottery teams in the Western Conference will be given the opportunity to snatch the No. 8 seed from the Grizzlies when play resumes in Orlando this summer, only one current non-playoff team in the East has been invited to Disney. That team is the Wizards, the No. 9 seed in the conference when the season was suspended in March.
The Wizards weren’t exactly knocking on the door of a playoff spot before play was halted. At 24-40, Washington was 5.5 games behind the Magic for the eighth seed in the East and a full six games back of the seventh-seeded Nets. However, the NBA’s new 22-team format for the summer will give the Wizards at least an outside shot at a spot in the postseason.
Here’s what Washington will have to do to make the playoffs this summer:
- Pull to within four games of either Orlando or Brooklyn. This will mean outplaying one of those clubs by at least two games during the eight “seeding games.” In other words, if the Nets and Magic each go 3-5, the Wizards would need to go 5-3 to force a play-in tournament.
- If they force a play-in tournament, the Wizards would need to defeat the Nets or Magic twice without losing a game to earn the No. 8 seed in the East.
There are other scenarios in which the Wizards could make the postseason, but they’re next to impossible. For instance, if Washington goes 8-0 when play resumes and the Nets and Magic can’t muster more than a win or two, the Wizards could claim the No. 7 seed outright, or move up to No. 8 and get the double-elimination advantage in a play-in tournament. That’s a pipe dream though, especially given the schedule Washington will face this summer.
We don’t yet know exactly what the schedule for those eight seeding games will look like, but reports have indicated that the general plan is for teams to pick up where they left off in March, with games against bottom-eight clubs skipped.
For the Wizards, that could mean opening with games against the Celtics, Thunder, and Sixers before getting an opportunity to play the Nets. From there, Washington’s next three games may be again Boston (again), the Suns, and the Bucks. There are some winnable games in there, but given how the Wizards played in their first 64 games, expecting more than three or four victories is probably overly optimistic.
Still, anything could happen when play resumes. While the Wizards aren’t expecting John Wall back, it sounds like the Nets won’t have Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving active, and there’s no guarantee the Magic will have Jonathan Isaac or Al-Farouq Aminu available. If they can force a play-in tournament, the Wizards wouldn’t necessarily be massive underdogs to either of those teams.
What do you think? Is there any chance the Wizards make the postseason? If you believe in Washington, do you think they’ll knock out the Magic? Or will the Nets be the team to slip out of the postseason?
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