The Washington Wizards are in unfamiliar territory, in position to make the playoffs with almost three quarters of the season behind them. They haven’t been this successful since the 2008 team made the playoffs. It has been a painful five years for this franchise since that last playoff run, with a record of 117 wins with 277 losses during that span. The Wizards have 24 games remaining this season and currently are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They have a seven game lead over the current ninth place team in the Eastern Conference, the Detroit Pistons.
In the remaining games this season, they are now challenged with the loss of Nene, who since coming to the Wizards has been a big catalyst in winning games. The Wizards are 3 – 6 in games when Nene hasn’t played so far this season and 10-34 in games he didn’t play since he joined the team. They are going to have to rely on players like Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker and Chris Singleton to make up for Nene being on the bench for four to six weeks with a sprained MCL. Nene was averaging 14.2 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game, so the other three players will need to find a way to replace that production for the Wizards to be successful. I would look for Trevor Booker to primarily fill that void, as Seraphin has been dealing with an injury of his own and Singleton hasn’t played enough this season to be confident he can produce when it matters.
Looking at the schedule, the Wizards have one of the easier schedules in the league remaining. Their record is equally split between Road and Home games for the rest of the season so that shouldn’t play a large factor in how this team finishes. The Wizards have only six games against teams with winning records remaining. That gives them eighteen games against teams with losing records to get the twelve to fourteen wins it will likely take to lock up a playoff spot. The Wizards next nine games feature seven teams with losing records, with only the Miami Heat and Portland Trailblazers as teams with winning records in this stretch. This will be a great opportunity to get critical wins towards the playoff hunt. If they manage to go 7-2 in this stretch, they likely would only need five to seven wins over their fifteen remaining games at that point.
The most challenging stretch left on the schedule will likely be the west coast road trip of four games against the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trailblazers, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Denver Nuggets. If they manage to win just one out of four of those games and play the others at an equal split, it should be enough for the Wizards to be playing playoff basketball.
The Wizards are in an enviable position by playing in the Eastern Conference, where there is the potential for as many as three teams with losing records to get into the playoffs as things stand now. If they can go 18-6 down the stretch, they will likely end up with the third seed in the East behind Miami and Indiana. If the Wizards can keep their final record near .500, it should be good enough to get a fourth or fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Regardless of their seed, it will be good to see John Wall and Bradley Beal get a chance at playoff basketball.