Wizards

Wizards

The Washington Wizards' playoff hopes came to an unceremonious end on Thursday night, as they were officially eliminated due to a win for the Miami Heat. Now, they have six games left before the season comes to a close on April 9. 

Here are five questions to ponder as they play out the string...

1. How will they handle minutes for Bradley Beal and others? 

Now that they are officially out of it, the Wizards should probably do something drastic with Beal's workload. He leads the NBA in minutes and has appeared in every single game this season. There is no reason to continue that pace with nothing on the line. At the very least, they should pare his minutes down from the 37.6 he has averaged to something in the low 30s, or maybe even the high 20s, to give him some rest.

Beal isn't the only one. There is also Trevor Ariza who is battling a groin strain and has averaged 34.1 minutes for the Wizards since joining them in a December trade. He's 33 and an upcoming free agent. It might make sense to just shut him down entirely for the final six games.

2. Where will they finish in the draft lottery?

This has become arguably the most important thing to watch for the Wizards. They are out of the playoff race, but still have reason to keep an eye on the standings.

As of today, the Wizards have the eighth-best odds in the draft lottery. That would net them a 26.2 percent chance to get a top-four pick and a six percent shot at No. 1 overall. If they drop down to seventh from the bottom, those odds improve to 31.9 percent for a top-four pick and 7.5 percent for the No. 1 selection. 

 

The Wizards could slip into the teens for lottery odds if they went on a win streak to end the year. If they stack more losses, they could finish as high as fifth, which would give them a 42.1 percent chance at a top-four pick and 10.5 percent odds for No. 1. The teams they are racing to the bottom with are the Grizzlies, Mavs and Hawks.

A top-four pick could change the Wizards' franchise, as this year there are four prospects that stand out above all: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Ja Morant.

3. Do they make organizational changes?

The Wizards falling short of expectations brings up natural questions about the job status of key people in positions of power. Team president Ernie Grunfeld and his front office, as well as head coach Scott Brooks, come to mind. Even with the injuries, was missing the playoffs enough to spark an overhaul? We should find out within the next several weeks. 

As for the front office, how much will the bad luck with John Wall's Achilles tear and Dwight Howard's back surgery be factored in? Was allowing Grunfeld to make the Otto Porter Jr. trade at the deadline a sign his future was safe? 

When it comes to Brooks, the fact he is due $14 million after this season is important to note. The Wizards would have to pay him if they give him his walking papers and that's a lot of cash. Would they keep him as coach despite changing the front office, or would it be a full clean-house? We'll see.

4. Will Beal set himself up for All-NBA?

If Beal's minutes do go down, that could affect his final push for All-NBA numbers. Though it is an individual award in a season that has become a lost cause, it has extra-importance these days because an All-NBA nod would set Beal up for a possible supermax contract extension this summer. Basically, Beal has tens of millions of dollars on the line.

He is in pretty good shape statistically as at least a serious candidate for the final All-NBA guard spot. There would seem to be four, maybe five, locks. Those would be Stephen Curry, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving. All have put up All-NBA numbers on much better teams than Beal.

The final spot could come down to Beal, Charlotte's Kemba Walker, Golden State's Klay Thompson and Philly's Ben Simmons. 

If Beal gets All-NBA, which we won't know until the awards are announced in June, that would be a massive game-changer for the Wizards. They already have Wall signed to a supermax deal.

5. How will Brooks handle his rotations?

 

The final six games with nothing on the line will offer Brooks an opportunity to experiment. The process really started about a week ago, but Brooks can continue tinkering with lineups and with giving players like Troy Brown Jr. heavy minutes for development's sake.

The Wizards have 10 players set to hit free agency including their two-way guys. And that doesn't include Jabari Parker, who has a team option, and Dwight Howard, who has a player option. Even if Ariza doesn't play, and Howard doesn't return (a lock at this point), the Wizards have a ton of players to evaluate for the future.

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