The Wizards had been on a five-game losing streak when we last checked on their playoff odds. At the time, ESPN's projections gave Washington a dismal 4.1% shot at the postseason.
Fast forward five days and the Wiz are still in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, but have won three games in a row. Two of those victories came against No. 8 Chicago and No. 9 Detroit, which swapped places in the standings over the past week.
So where do Washington's playoff odds stand now that they've beaten the two teams ahead of them (and hold tiebreakers in both series)? Let's take a look at three different projections and how each works.
ESPN gives the Wizards a 15.3% chance at making the playoffs, compared to 45.2% odds for the Pistons and 42.8% odds for the Bulls. The ESPN model uses 10,000 simulations of the remaining schedule based on an advanced statistical measure of team quality called BPI (Basketball Power Index).
FiveThirtyEight is the most optimistic about Washington, giving them a 29% chance at the postseason. Detroit and Chicago are more vulnerable in this projection, with 43% and 34% odds respectively. The FiveThirtyEight model simulates the remaining schedule 50,000 times based on two advanced statistical measures: Elo (team rating) and CARM-Elo (player rating).
Basketball-Reference.com gives the Wiz the lowest odds of a playoff berth: just 13.4%. The Pistons and Bulls are safer, with a 50.1% and 41.2% chance at the postseason respectively. Basketball-Reference.com simulates the rest of the season 7,500 times based on the average conference rank of each team. It doesn't seem to use advanced stats like the other two, but more complicated isn't necessarily better.
It's important to keep track of Detroit's and Chicago's chances because Washington will likely have to surpass both to secure the 8th seed in the East. Only 1.5 games separates all three teams in the standings.
Beating the Pistons and the Bulls this past week definitely improves the Wizards' playoff odds, but it's still a steep hill to climb with only 14 games left in the regular season.
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