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Why the Bulls present a much easier playoff matchup for the Wizards than the Raptors

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As the regular season winds down, it's time to think about playoff matchups. Here's the case for why the Wizards would be better off facing the Chicago Bulls in the first round than the Toronto Raptors.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards only have seven games left in the regular season. Frightening, right? It means we have to start thinking about potential playoff matchups. Even scarier.

It's tough to feel about Washington' s chances in any playoff series right now with the way it's playing, but they are five games up in the loss column on the Milwaukee Bucks for the fifth seed so the Wizards are basically locked in there.

What fans need to watch now is the race for the No. 3 seed between the Raptors and Bulls. It's more relevant to the Wiz who loses that series, which means fans should be pulling for Toronto to keep willing and keep Chicago at the fourth seed.

Is this the same Bulls team the Wizards handily defeated in the first round of last year's playoffs? No, but it is still a more advantageous matchup this year than the Raptors would be in the first round. Is there any chance of the Wiz making it out of the second round? Probably not.

But it sure would be fun to see them win another first-round playoff series, and right now, their best chance lies in facing off against the Bulls. Here are a few reasons why, aside from the fact that the Wizards haven't beaten the Raptors in three tries this year.

Derrick Rose may not even be ready for the series, and if he is, it won't make much of a difference

Wednesday, Rose said he wouldn't make a commitment to even returning before the end of the regular season, and didn't give a timetable for his return.

Obviously, the Bulls are going to be at a disadvantage if they are going to be without a former MVP.

But if he does come back, there's no telling what version of Rose the Bulls might be getting, and it's tough to truly say that Rose would make that much of a difference for them.

John Wall is on pace to play every game this season, while Rose has only appeared in 46 games. However, when comparing the two's seasons, it's clear Wall has the advantage right now.

Here's Wall and Rose's per-36 numbers for this season, courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

Player FG% Reb. Assist Stl. TO Pts.
Wall 45 4.7 9.9 1.8 3.7 17.7
Rose 40.7 3.6 5.3 0.8 3.7 21.3

This season, Wall has been a better distributor and a more efficient shooter than Rose, and Wall has frankly made the players around him better than Rose has.

Washington's usual starting lineup of Wall, Bradley Beal, Paul Pierce, Nene and Marcin Gortat has a plus/minus of 1.9, averages 31.8 points per game on just over 50 percent shooting and makes just under 40 percent of their shots from three.

Rose's starting unit of him, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah scores more points per game than Washington's starting unit but shoots 46.9 percent from the floor, including 35.3 percent from beyond the arc and has a plus/minus of 1.3, according to NBA.com/Stats.

Rose certainly makes a difference when he's on the floor, but his presence shouldn't be anything to scare away fans from this series. He clearly makes the Bulls better when he's on the floor, but not to the point that he would have three years ago, and certainly not to the point that Wall has his unit playing at this year.

Washington has better options at small forward

All year, the Wizards have gotten burned by shooters on the perimeter. While Butler will certainly present a problem to the Wizards no matter what, Chicago's options at small forward are pretty limited.

Assuming Butler is in at shooting guard, Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell or Doug McDermott (if he's healthy) will be at the three.

Paul Pierce's numbers are actually pretty close to Dunleavy's, but Pierce still gets the edge. Pierce is averaging almost three whole points more than Dunleavy on a per-game basis, and per 36 minutes, Pierce has the edge over Dunleavy in points, assists, rebounds, steals and field-goal shooting.

There's no telling what Randy Wittman might do on a nightly basis, but Pierce also gives him the option to go small at the end of games, and slide Pierce over to power forward.

Chicago has Nikola Mirotic, who has been on fire lately and is looking to become one of the best stretch fours in the game. In crunch time, though, Chicago isn't going to playing Mirotic. It'll find a way to get Gasol and Noah in there at the same time.

Pierce at the four would be a tough matchup on the perimeter for Gasol and he could be a formidable defensive matchup for Mirotic when he's in the game.

But back to small forward. After Dunleavy, Otto Porter Jr. is even a better option than Tony Snell. Snell, who made his name in college as a defensive stopper, has a defensive rating that's four points higher than Porter's and Porter has him beat in rebounds, assists and blocks per 36 minutes, per Basketball-Reference.com.

Washington's lack of depth has been lauded all season, but when it comes to the wing, the Wizards have a solid advantage over the Bulls.

The Raptors would be a tougher matchup than people think

Toronto has certainly been slipping as of late, but don't sleep on their offense just yet.

The Wizards are currently 16th in the league in pace, per NBA.com/Stats, which isn't that bad considering how often they stand around on offense and settle for a 12-foot jumper.

Still, Toronto is 20th in pace among all teams, and Chicago is even worse at 23rd. Chicago simply isn't a face team, which is something the Wizards can handle. Granted the Raptors aren't going to be going to be blowing by anyone soon with their offense, but it's a significant enough of a difference to point out.

The Raptors also draw in a great deal of their offense from pick-and-rolls and mid-range jumpers.

Washington averages 16 points per game on pull-up shots, but only shoots 36.6 percent of them. Toronto is third in the league in pull-up points per game (just over 20) and are shooting just one percentage point worse than the Wiz on those shots.

According to John Hollinger's efficiency ratings over at ESPN, the Raptors actually have the third most efficient offense in the league while Washington comes in tied for 16th.

Basically, the Raptors are a slightly better version of Washington's offense. And, as Mike Prada pointed out to me in an email today, the presence of Patrick Patterson makes Toronto's pick-and-roll offense tough to defend, which is something we can go deeper on during a potential series preview.

Just know that Toronto's offense is far more explosive than Washington's. Chicago's is much more methodical and would be easier for the Wizards to keep up with.

At the end of the day, it may not even matter if the Wizards play poorly. I'd be hesitant to name them the favorites in a series against the Bucks. But if we're hoping for the best, I saw we hope for the Bulls.