For some teams, the NBA playoff race can drag on and on for weeks and months until it's sorted out. For the Wizards, they should learn plenty about their chances over the next nine games.
In their next nine games, the Wizards will play five against teams currently ranked between fifth and ninth in the East. They will face Charlotte, the No. 8 seed, twice to close out their head-to-head season series. They will also play the Magic, who are in ninth, once more for the final time.
Playoff tiebreakers are first determined by head-to-head records. The Wizards will know soon where they stand in that regard against what are currently the last team in and out.
Only 22 games remain on the Wizards' schedule. After this nine-game stretch, they will have 13 more, but only one of those - March 23 at the Heat - is against a team they are vying for a playoff spot against.
Eight of their final 13 games are against Western Conference teams. The best opportunities to gain ground quickly by beating a direct competitor are all in the next few weeks.
Nine games from now will take the Wizards to the middle of March where the priorities could be shifting. They are currently 4 1/2 games out of the No. 8 playoff seed. If they can't gain any ground in the next nine games, the draft lottery will all but be a certainty.
Selection Sunday is on March 17 and the NCAA Tournament begins four days later. Wizards fans should know what to root for by the time the first round tips off, whether it be playoff scenarios or draft lottery odds.
The Wizards can go two very different ways when it comes to the latter. Making the playoffs would likely net them the 15th overall pick for the second straight year, barring a rare first round upset.
But because the middle of the Western Conference is so much better than the East, the Wizards could conceivably net the sixth-best lottery odds. They are currently seventh from the bottom with a record only 1 1/2 games better than the Memphis Grizzlies.
As of this week, the Wizards could realistically pick anywhere in the top half of the draft. That even includes No. 1 overall. The sixth-best lottery odds would give them a nine percent chance of getting the first pick, only five percent worse than the top three teams.
If these next nine games don't go well, the Wizards' goals could change dramatically. If they are out of the race down the homestretch of the regular season, they could pare the minutes down for veterans like Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green. They could give Troy Brown Jr. more opportunities to play.
They could go into evaluation mode to further see what they have in upcoming free agents like Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker, Thomas Bryant and Sam Dekker. Meanwhile, they could turn a keen eye towards the top prospects in the NCAA Tournament.
Losing nine of their past 12 games have put the Wizards' playoff aspirations in peril. Though they still hold out hope, it won't be long before they have a good idea of what the end of this season will hold.
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