Are the Wizards in danger of missing the playoffs after Nene's injury?

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Probably not, but falling to No. 7 or No. 8 seems like a decent possibility. The good news? The schedule is pretty easy.

Barring a reversal of a very troubling trend, the Wizards are likely to struggle without Nene on the court for most of the rest of the regular season. Since Nene was acquired in 2012, the Wizards are 60-61 when he plays and 7-34 when he sits. Now, he's sitting for an extended period of time and will likely be spending the last week of the regular season getting back into game shape even if he does return.

Does that mean the Wizards are in danger of missing the playoffs? Let's take a closer look.

THE STANDINGS

The East's ineptitude is the biggest feather in Washington's cap. Here are the current standings.

  1. Indiana: 42-13
  2. Miami: 40-14
  3. Toronto: 31-25
  4. Chicago: 29-26
  5. WASHINGTON: 28-28
  6. Brooklyn: 26-28
  7. Charlotte: 27-30
  8. Atlanta: 26-29
  9. Detroit: 23-34
  10. Cleveland: 22-35
  11. New York: 21-36
The Wizards are currently 5.5 games up on Detroit, 6.5 games up on Cleveland and 7.5 games up on the Knicks for the postseason with only 26 games left to go. It'd take an absolute collapse, combined with a strong streak by any one of those three teams, for the Wizards to completely drop out.

To put things in perspective: If the Wizards go something like 8-18 down the stretch, the Pistons would need to finish 14-11 to finish ahead of them. Never say never, but that seems unlikely.

BUT WHAT ABOUT PLAYOFF POSITIONING?

Here's where the Wizards are in trouble. Everyone is hoping to avoid the No. 7 or No. 8 seeds, because then you'd have to face the Pacers or Heat, and winning that series isn't happening. Problem is, the other four teams in the 3-7 slots are playing well right now. The Raptors are now 25-11 since the Rudy Gay trade. The Nets and Bulls are 16-7 and 17-8, respectively, since January 1. Hell, the Bobcats have won five of six and are now just 1.5 games behind the Wizards for fifth.

Keeping pace with all of these teams is going to be a challenge.

THE SILVER LINING

The good news is that the Wizards have a very easy schedule to end the year. The Wizards have just one West Coast trip to Denver, Sacramento, Portland and the Lakers left, and will face three other West teams -- Utah, Phoenix and Memphis -- at home. The remaining 17 games are against Eastern Conference foes, and just two of those -- at Miami on March 10 and vs. Indiana on March 28 -- are especially difficult. (The Wizards do face Miami at home in the second-to-last game of the season, but the Heat will probably be resting players for the playoffs).

Those 17 games include:

  • Three games against the 17-41 Magic.
  • Two games against the 11-45 Bucks.
  • Two games against the 19-39 Celtics.
  • One game against the 76ers on Saturday, who might have the worst roster of all time.
  • One game against the hilarious Knicks.
  • One game against the Hawks, who might be on the verge of collapse themselves.
Otherwise, it's a lot of games against the competition for playoff spots. Three games remain against Charlotte, and those will be critical. There's still one game left in Toronto on Thursday, plus home games against Brooklyn and Chicago. But that's not the scariest down-the-stretch schedule in the world. I count a combined winning percentage of just under 45 percent on the Wizards' schedule, and even that is misleading because there are games like Miami to close the year that'll likely be easier.

Put it this way: I can count only six games -- at Toronto on Thursday, vs. Memphis on March 3, at Miami on March 10, at Portland on March 20, vs. Phoenix on March 26, and vs. Indiana on March 28 -- where the Wizards would be clear underdogs. By contrast, I count 12 games (13 if you assume Miami rests starters in that April game) where the Wizards should be clear favorites.

This is a good thing because other East teams have tricky schedules:

  • Charlotte's next four games: at San Antonio, at Oklahoma City, at Miami, home vs. Indiana. It eases up after that, but oof.
    • Toronto still has six very difficult games left against Phoenix, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Indiana, Houston and Golden State, though all are at home.
    • Chicago still must face Miami, San Antonio, Houston, Golden State, Oklahoma City and Portland at home, has two remaining games against the Pacers and must travel to Dallas.
    • Atlanta has a six-game road trip coming up that includes Portland, Golden State and the Clippers.
    • Brooklyn's schedule is pretty tame, but the combined winning percentage of the rest of its opponents is still higher than the Wizards'.
    Of course, this only remains an advantage if the Wizards stop laying down against bad opponents. But if the Wizards can take care of business, they could probably remain with a decent playoff seed even without Nene.

    Here's hoping.
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