Thirty-one games are left, and there are plenty of reasons to believe the Wizards will or won't make the postseason. They have three consecutive games out of the All-Star break, starting Thursday vs. the Utah Jazz, Friday vs. the Detroit Pistons and Saturday at the Miami Heat.
The game with Utah is a makeup from a postponement due to a snowstorm as teams don't play back-to-back-to-back games. Come out of the gates with a losing record and it's difficult to see how the Wiz
Why they will make the playoffs:
- Every game, except maybe at the Golden State Warriors and at the L.A. Clippers, is winnable. Three more meetings with the NBA's worst, the Philadelphia 76ers, two left vs. the Brooklyn Nets, two vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves, vs the Knicks, Kings and Suns. Even the Atlanta Hawks, not nearly the same team they were a year ago, are beatable with three meetings left.
- Bradley Beal is back in the starting lineup after having his minutes dialed back because of a minutes restriction after another stress reaction in his lower right leg. Beal has sank 10 of his last 18 three-point shots. He should be better as long as he doesn't end up back on the injured list. Therefore, the Wizards will be better.
- It's hard to believe, but Alan Anderson should be playing soon. Coach Randy Wittman hasn't given any detailed updates on his status, but the eye test is sufficient. Anderson (left ankle) is not only doing more each day, he's doing individual work that's putting extreme pressure on his leg. He's doing full workouts. The only thing he hasn't done yet is actual contact in practice. This is the healthiest this roster has been all season.
Why they won't make the playoffs:
- Reality is, this is a terrible defensive team and they are what their record (23-28) says they are. They might have a lot of games left vs. bad teams, but so far they've proven to be a bad team. Last in rebounding (39.8), last in three-point defense (37.8%) and last in overall field-goal accuracy allowed (47.1%).
- Beal can play lights out and John Wall can continue on his torrid pace and probably will reach 40 double-doubles. But who's the No. 3 scoring option? It's supposed to be Otto Porter, who has been playing with a tear in the cartilage in his hip. His 31.7% accuracy from three-point range won't cut it and it's a step down from what he shot last season.
- In-game adjustments don't come as quickly as needed, and several players -- Wall and Jared Dudley in particular -- have pointed out this at times. They don't trap the ball out of the hot player's hands as quickly as they should. Why leave Kris Humphries matched up with C.J. Miles when he's on fire from three-point range? Why stick with Gary Neal so long when he's allowing more points than he's making in fourth quarters? That responsibility falls on coach Randy Wittman, who contends his team isn't always putting for the maximum effort defensively. It's only if they can put for that effort that he then can make the necessary adjustments. It's a chicken-vs.-egg equation. If they're all not on the same page now, they never will be.
I've gone on record already that they will make the cut, but by no means will it be easy. They're four games in the loss column behind the No. 4 seed Hawks and the No. 5 Heat.
So a No. 8 seed, two games in the loss column from the Charlotte Hornets for the final spot, is manageable. It's just that with expectations so high coming into the season, having this discussion of will they or won't they is beyond surprising. It's unacceptable.
To be sure they're in, the Wizards probably have to go 21-10 to end the season. That would put them at 44 wins, two fewer than a season ago.
MORE WIZARDS: Grading out: Where Gary Neal stands at All-Star break