Come April, we may not be able to speculate at all. So here's my rundown of the Wiz's chances if the playoffs started tomorrow.
Before I get to the playoff match-ups, I'll offer some universal truths that should be as correct in April as they are today:
- A 7 or 8 seed equals failure. Even if we still end up 2nd in the Southeast, a 7 or 8 seed would pit us against Boston or Detroit in Round 1. Making the playoffs is no fun when you get swept in Round 1 and your average loss is by 20 points.
- Gilbert's knee impacts everything except truth #1. If he comes back healthy and we still only manage a 7 or 8 seed, we'll still get swept by Boston or Detroit. The point differential may be closer, but we'll still get mushed.
- Jamison and Butler have to be healthy. Even if Gilbert comes back, I don't know how far this team can go w/out these two guys running at full speed.
A. If the playoffs ended tomorrow, Wiz fans should be pretty happy w/ the seeding. We'd have home court in the first round against NJ. From what I've seen so far this year, we could take em (with or without Arenas). Plus, the Nets don't have any roster help waiting to come give them a boost (barring a trade obviously). Kristic, I believe, is out for the year. Granted, I'd still be scared of a Jason Kidd-led team in a 7-game series, but we match up really well against the Nets. Advancing to Round 2 is about as good as the Wiz can do this year. I'd watch and root every second of every game against Bos or Det, but this year's Eastern Conference Finals appear to be a foregone conclusion.
B. Orlando doesn't scare anybody. They got off to a hot start, but are coming back to earth rapidly. Plus, the player who they turn to the most (Dwight Howard) is a turnover and missed free-throw machine. In addition, Howard is their only tough player. Lewis and Hedo are soft as tissue paper. In today's playoff bracket, they'd play Cleveland. If I were a betting man, I'd place a large wager on the Cavs in that match-up.
C. Toronto scares me. Everyone on that roster can shoot. If TJ Ford comes back healthy (not sure about his status), they'll have a lethal 1-2 punch at PG with Calderon. If Bargnani improves at all over the last 3/5s of the season, the Raptors are a strong bet to make it out of Round 1 (provided that they are not a 7 or 8 seed).
D. I hope the Hawks make the playoffs. It makes me sick to my stomach when I see a Hawks home game and there are 11 people in the stands. This franchise needs some excitement, even if it is a 1st round drubbing at the hands of the Celtics.
E. The inevitable Celtics/Pistons Eastern Conference Finals will be a world war. As it stands right now, could you schedule two more evenly matched juggernauts?
F. The answer to the above question is "Yes." The Spurs versus the Suns over in the West would also be a world war. If the conference finals in both the East and the West play out this way, look for NBA TV ratings to skyrocket.
G. Any match-up resultant from those conference finals will be yet another world war. After last year's disaster w/ the overmatched Cavs, look for the NBA to take a long, deserved sip of refreshment in this year's playoffs.
H. Lastly, take a look at the bottom of the current playoff standings. Do any of those non-playoff teams scare you? Indy, Philly, Chi, Mil, Char, NY, and Mia (a hilarious double meaning in the contraction by the way) are all struggling to put 2-game win streaks together, much less make the playoffs. I know it's too early. I know anything could happen. But I personally think the 8 teams currently in the playoffs will be the same teams to be there in April. Maybe not the same order, but most likely the same teams...and that includes the Wiz!