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Celtics' win creates big domino effect with Wizards' loss to Heat in NBA playoff picture

Celtics' win creates big domino effect with Wizards' loss to Heat in NBA playoff picture

The walls are closing in on two well-known regular season goals of the 2016-17 Wizards. With their loss to the Heat on Saturday night, combined with the Boston Celtics' win over the Charlotte Hornets, both reaching 50 wins and securing a top three seed in the East will not be easy for Washington.

Getting to 50 wins is something John Wall, Bradley Beal and others have signified this year as an important step in the Wizards' rise as a franchise. Washington hasn't had a 50-win season in 38 years, the longest drought in the NBA. But now in order to get there they will need to win out and beat both the Pistons and Heat on the road to close their season.

The players have talked more about winning 50 than where they end up in playoff seeding, but the latter is more important at this juncture. With Saturday night's results, the Wizards have essentially backed themselves into a corner in the fourth spot. The Celtics have clinched at least a top three seed and in order for the Wizards to take the third spot from the Raptors, they will have to win out and have Toronto lose each of their last two games. The Wizards are just one game back, but would have to finish with a better record than the Raptors to overcome the head-to-head series tiebreaker.

Not much will be affected in the short-term by the Wizards landing in the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, rather than the third. There is not much separating their potential first round opponents. But that small difference could loom large down the road, if the standings hold as they are currently.

The Wizards, if they are fortunate enough to advance a round in the playoffs, would now likely face the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round. That makes their quest to make the Eastern Conference Finals - another stated goal by Wall and others - much more difficult. The Cavs have been to each of the last two NBA Finals and boast the best player in basketball. No one wants to see them earlier than they have to.

A year that ends with the Wizards losing to the Cavaliers, or another team, in the Eastern Conference Finals would be a success by many measures. It would be their best season since 1978-79. Losing in the second round, where they have been two of the last three years, would probably end in debates about whether that was good enough.

The way things have shaken out in the standings brings up the question of whether the Wizards will adjust their priorities heading into these final two games. Does essentially being locked into the fourth spot give them the opportunity to rest Wall, Beal or others in anticipation of the playoffs?

Wall and head coach Scott Brooks have spoken out against NBA players resting without injury, but the Wizards could find themselves in a situation where it makes perfect sense to give their stars a night off. What if they reach the final game against Miami on Wednesday and have nothing at all to play for?

The Wizards know they will be in the playoffs, but their loss and the Celtics' win have quickly shifted the dynamic. Now the goals may be different for the Wizards, who have to keep an eye on the bigger picture with the playoffs set to begin.

[RELATED: VIDEO: Projected NBA top pick Markelle Fultz goes 1-on-1]

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What It Means: Wizards reportedly expected to make extension offer to Bradley Beal

USA Today

What It Means: Wizards reportedly expected to make extension offer to Bradley Beal

Despite the litany of teams who would love to get their hands on Bradley Beal this offseason, Washington has so far remained committed to keeping Bradley Beal a Wizard.

And when he's eligible in July, they plan to offer him a three-year, $111 million extension, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.  

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Keeping Beal long-term may wind being a smart move, as NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig wrote this week. The extension would lock Beal up for the next five years and secure him and John Wall -- once he's fully recovered from offseason Achilles surgery -- as the Wizards' backcourt for the foreseeable future. 

The offer may seem financially burdensome, considering the Wizards just signed John Wall to a massive supermax extension that starts this season. But although the Wizards are currently strapped for cash, there's hope on the horizon. Ian Mahinmi's $15.6 million deal and Dwight Howard's $5.4 million deal expire after the 2019-2020 season.

The Wizards could decline Jabari Parkers $20 million team option and let Bobby Portis walk in restricted free agency this offseason. If both those happen, the Wizards could open up cap space for Beal's extension.

Considering John Wall is out for likely the entire next season and the Wizards still don't have a GM, their best move might be to lock in what proven production they have.


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How Al Horford opting out could affect Bradley Beal

How Al Horford opting out could affect Bradley Beal

NBA free agency madness has started early this year. Just hours after it was reported Tuesday that Al Horford would opt out of his current contract to negotiate a more cap-friendly one for the Celtics, he's had a charge of heart. 

If Horford leaves, would it make it more or less likely that the Celtics make the Wizards an offer for Bradley Beal? 

According to Sports Illustrated NBA Insider Chris Mannix, who appeared on NBC Sports Boston this week, made the possible case for Boston to pursue the two-time All-Star in a trade.

Ted Leonsis, the owner in Washington, loves Bradley Beal, but a new GM could walk in there and say look, I've got John Wall probably not playing next season. Bradley Beal has three years left on his contract. He is an enormously valuable trade asset. Can you get a Bradley Beal without throwing a Jayson Tatum in a trade? I don't know. But Bradley Beal is the next big star, I think, that could be available.

The Wizards are reportedly reluctant to part with Beal, but that doesn't mean there's a lack of buzz. In fact, they plan to offer him a three-year, $111 million extension when he's eligible in July, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The Pelicans have shown sincere interest, according to NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig, and there is speculation surrounding the Knicks, yet the Wizards have stood pat.

When it comes to the NBA offseason, however, Kevin Garnett said it best: anything is possible. 

The Celtics have the assets to make a realistic offer. They own three first-round selections in the draft—14, 20 and 22—along with two blue-chip prospects in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

But much of it could hinge on Horford's decision.

The Celtics' most consistent player over the past three years, losing Horford would be a poor start to what looks like a possibly dreary offseason for the Celtics. If the Celtics strike out in free agency and Washington decides to move Beal, perhaps a trade would be Boston's big swing.