Wizards hope to finish like Suns did in NBA bubble

Rui Hachimura and Corey Kispert

There is a saying in politics you hear often during the presidential primary season, that 'winning begets winning.' The idea is that when a candidate wins an early primary or caucus, it builds momentum and more people want to be a part of it.

The Wizards are hoping their recent winning begets more of it, as they happen to be playing their best basketball right after getting eliminated from playoff contention. The games they are currently playing are technically meaningless, yet they have won five of seven, their best stretch since mid-November when they started the season 10-3.

Each win, including their 132-114 victory over the Timberwolves on Tuesday night, doesn't really help them in the short term. In fact, some might argue it hurts the Wizards because of their draft lottery odds.

But the players believe there are long-term benefits to winning now and several of them are invoking a famous recent example; the Phoenix Suns who went 8-0 in the 2020 bubble in Orlando, made the NBA Finals the next season and this year have far and away the best record in the league.

"That’s what’s important going into next season, to bring that momentum just like, I don’t want to compare us to Phoenix, but Phoenix what they did in the bubble," Kristaps Porzingis said after the Wizards' win over the Mavs on Friday. "They went undefeated and they didn’t make the playoffs, but they took it to the next level the next year."


"I remember Phoenix and I remember watching Phoenix in the bubble," Ish Smith said after Tuesday's win on Wizards Postgame Live. "When they went 8-0 in that bubble, they kind of kept that good energy, that good winning energy throughout the whole organization. It’s crazy how that bubble set the tone for them and where they sit right now."

While it may be an extreme comparison, lofty enough to where even Porzingis made sure to stop short of connecting the dots directly, there might also be a potential parallel. When the Suns went 8-0 in the bubble, they weren't the same team that went to the NBA Finals the next season. They became a contender because, in the subsequent offseason, they traded for future Hall of Famer Chris Paul.

By going undefeated to close the year, the Suns put their young talent and ascending roster on display and it helped attract a star player. Paul was traded to the Suns and welcomed going there because he sensed they were a team on the rise.

That's where winning could beget winning for the Wizards. By closing this season strong and looking good with Porzingis now in the mix, they could make themselves a more desirable landing spot for other players around the league. You take what Porzingis is doing now - he had 25 points against Minnesota - plus the prospect of Bradley Beal returning and Kyle Kuzma being in the mix, plus their young players continuing to show promise, and you may have a decent pitch for a star looking for a change of scenery.

The Wizards may end up needing to make a case like that. In order to become contenders, they may need to bring in another star and often times those players need to be convinced.

Related: How do 2022 NBA Draft Lottery odds look for the Wizards?

At the moment, it's a simple fact the Wizards aren't helping their lottery odds. By winning on Tuesday, they moved back from a tie for the 10th-best odds into a tie for 11th-best. Their percentages to get a top pick dropped, if slightly.

But it could all be worth it if what they are doing now leads to something bigger down the road. It worked for the Suns, maybe it will for the Wizards.