We still don't know who the Washington Wizards will play in the first round of the playoffs. They can rise to the No. 5 seed and they could fall to the No. 7 seed. They could face the Toronto Raptors or Chicago Bulls, two streaking teams that seem to be trying hard to avoid the Miami Heat in the second round. Or, they could face ... the Heat.
We've spent much of the last couple weeks thinking about each of those possibilities. Dreading Toronto. Dreading Chicago. Really dreading Miami. Trying to decide which of the three we dread least.
Now that we're finally on the doorstep of the postseason, I say ... bring 'em on. Whoever that "'em" happens to be.
No matter who the Wizards play, it'll be in the playoffs. That's an obvious statement, but one that finally hit me as I woke up on Wednesday morning knowing this wouldn't be the last game we cover this season. The playoffs are different. There's more attention, even with the series that get stuck on NBATV. There's more energy and enthusiasm, even if the building doesn't sell out.
And it is special the first time your core players experience it. John Wall and Bradley Beal are not going to be perfect in their first trip to the league's second season. Remember, though: they are 23 and 20, respectively. Players that young have a huge opportunity with very little to lose. Look at what the playoffs did to Paul George's status last year, for example. The Wizards are not going to advance as far as Indiana did last year, but we have at least four games for those two players to apply a signature postseason moment. Those moments matter.
They can happen against anyone, too. Yes, the Raptors have whipped the Wizards twice at home this year, but they too have not been on this stage. Yes, the Bulls crushed the Wizards in D.C. the other week, but the Wizards beat them the other two times with Nene in the lineup, and doesn't Chicago's all-out style become less of an advantage in the playoffs anyway?
And yes, Miami would provide the least likely chance at victory, but it'd also provide the best chance at maximizing those postseason moments. A big game from Wall or Beal against Miami would really get people's attention. Some of the league's best teams (the Bulls and Thunder in 2010, the Pacers in 2011) broke onto the stage by challenging great teams in the first round of the playoffs. If the Wizards drop to the No. 7 seed and have to face Miami, that's the silver lining.
The Wizards have nothing to lose. They aren't expected to advance, so pulling an upset would be a huge accomplishment. Their two core pieces are green, so if they struggle for some reason, inexperience is an appropriate out. There are difficult future questions on the horizon, sure, and there does appear to be a lack of appropriate buzz, but I'm now ready to rally around this team.
Bring on whoever.
Just so we're clear of the seeding scenarios:
THE WIZARDS FINISH SIXTH IF ...: They beat the Celtics and the Nets beat the Cavaliers ... or if they lose to the Celtics and the Bobcats also fall to the Bulls. The former would put the Nets at 45-37 and the Wizards at 44-38. The latter would put both the Wizards at 43-39 and the Bobcats at 42-40. A Wizards win over Boston clinches no worse than sixth, so this is the most likely scenario.
The Wizards would face Toronto if the Raptors beat the Knicks. They'd face Chicago if the Raptors lose to the KNicks and the Bulls beat the Bobcats.
THE WIZARDS FINISH SEVENTH IF ...: They lose to the Celtics and the Bobcats beat the Bulls. Both teams would then be 43-39, and Charlotte owns the tiebreaker because of a 3-1 season series record. The Wizards would face Miami.
Bottom line: just win, baby.
A note that I'll be doing a Reddit AMA at 2 p.m. today. Amin will be joining the other seven SB Nation Eastern Conference blogs in a group AMA on Thursday at the same time. Here's the announcement.
- Nice story by Michael Lee of the Washington Post on Randy Wittman. I'm not always in agreement about Wittman's tactics, but I appreciate his demeanor and honesty about working to improve as a coach.
- CBS Sports' Matt Moore suggests the Wizards are the 15th most dangerous team in the playoffs, ahead of only the Hawks. I'd put Washington ahead of Charlotte myself, but hard to disagree otherwise.
- Truth About It's Adam McGinnis on Trevor Booker's re-emergence is worth reading. Wittman will have some difficult rotation decisions to make.
- Nice feature from Howard Beck of Bleacher Report on the Bulls, one of the Wizards' possible first-round opponents. Spoiler alert: the mothership will have something huge dropping today on the Wizards' other likely first-round foe.
- Amin posted this link to Kirk Goldsberry's analysis on Grantland, but it's worth posting again: John Wall, by far, assists on the most corner threes in the league. This is either the second or third straight year (can't remember if he finished second two years ago or won) where he's worn this crown on a per-game basis. I believe he even had the most total last year despite playing half the games, but I need to check that.
- Everyone's doing their postseason awards now. Do we think any Wizards players belong on any lists? Only thing I can think of is Wall possibly making third-team All-NBA, but there's a lot of competition. Perhaps Trevor Ariza merits some all-defense consideration.
- No, we are not changing our site's name to QuibblesForever.com. That said, a reader did make this, so ...