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Why the Wizards can and will make the playoffs

NBA: Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards, currently sit at 14-16, half a game out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Right now, it feels like the Wizards are just trying to scrape their way back into the playoff race, but they’re not that far off from being in the mix for a meaningful playoff spot. The Wizards only sit 3.5 games behind the Boston Celtics, who currently hold the third seed.

It’s time to celebrate! Or is it?

One other thing is their point differential. Marcus Atkinson Sr. had a great piece on the site last week about how the Wizards continue to stay in striking distance during games. 15 of the top 16 teams in point differential made the playoffs last season. With the 15th ranked point differential in the league (-1.69), chances are that Washington makes the playoffs.

Given the way the team has played lately, it feels like a given now that the Wizards should make it back into the playoffs, at least as a lower seed. However, lots of statistical projections don’t share my optimism. According to Team Rankings, the Wizards only have a 34.7 percent chance to make the playoffs. The Wizards are also a long shot according to ESPN’s BPI Playoff odds, with a 28.6 percent chance. The most optimistic projections are on FiveThirtyEight, where Wizards are given a 48 percent chance to make it to the playoffs, but even there the projection has it as more likely that they’ll miss the playoffs than make it.

These numbers aren’t encouraging, but I don’t think that these projections take into account how well the Wizards have played lately, winning five of their last seven.

The Wizards also played well against some of the top teams in the league. They took down the Clippers earlier this month, and only lost by two to the Spurs in San Antonio. That is encouraging. Teams of Wizards past would have given up against teams who had more talent. These Wizards haven’t and they won’t.

If the Wizards can find a way to address their bench issues at the trade deadline or with a late free agent signing, they could take things to the next level. They have shown signs they can be better than last year’s team who finished a .500 record. It just starts with winning these next few games at home against the Pacers and Nets, and then trying to get some road success against the Rockets and Mavericks. If they can just take care of business during this very winnable stretch it will put them in a much better position for when they face those more difficult teams later in the season.