With 18 games left in the NBA regular season, the Washington Wizards still have a solid shot at making the play-in tournament for one of the final two playoff seeds. The play-in tournament is played between the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th seeds and the winners take the final two playoff spots. This graphic from NBA.com illustrates the format of the tournament.
The 10th seed is currently occupied by the Chicago Bulls who have a 22-32 record, but the Wizards sit just one game back in twelfth place with a 21-33 record. Making the play-in tournament is still very much in reach. Russell Westbrook’s recent triple-double tear has helped the Wizards go 4-1 over their last five games and 6-5 over their last 11. He is now the Wizards all-time leader in triple-doubles.
With the Wizards season having been so rocky, it is a testament to the weakness of the Eastern conference this season that the Wizards are still very much in reach of a postseason berth. They also have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NBA, with their future opponents having a combined win percentage of 46%. This makes it the third easiest remaining schedule in the NBA. Chicago Bulls All-Star point guard Zach LaVine is also out for COVID-19 protocols, which could lead to them struggling in the near future.
While a chance at a playoff berth would be exciting, there is a school of thought that the Wizards should simply embrace tanking instead of fighting for a sliver of a chance at the playoffs, where they will not even get out of the first round. It could be smarter long-term for the Wizards to focus on increasing their lottery odds and having a chance to draft a fortune-changing player high in the draft. This might be the best decision overall going forward, but lottery odds do not get you ratings, and after years of undercutting expectations, owner Ted Leonsis probably would rather have the viewership and marketability of a playoff series. It will certainly be exciting to see how the rest of the season plays out, here’s to hoping it is entertaining no matter the outcome.
All stats courtesy of Pro Basketball Reference and ESPN