When we checked in on the Wizards’ playoff odds during the All Star break, three of the major playoff prediction models (FiveThirtyEight’s CARM-Elo, ESPN’s Power Ranking Index, and Basketball Reference’s Playoff Predictions) all had the Wizards holding steady at #10 in the Eastern Conference, just a few games shy of the playoffs.
Business as usual. The Wizards have failed to make up the ground they needed to since we last checked in.
What’s happened since the All Star break?
Before the All Star break, the Wizards had a point differential of -2.7, fourth worst in the Eastern Conference, and a win percentage of 45.1. In the 12 games since, the Wizards are 7-5 with a point differential of +2.1.
The Wizards are also getting a lot of help. The injury-stricken Bulls are .500 since the All Star break and have been rapidly losing ground in the standings. The Pistons have gone 5-4 in the same time period, failing to go on the big run they needed to establish themselves as the final Eastern Conference playoff team. Here's how the standings look as of Wednesday morning:
|Current Rank||Team||Record||Games Behind #8|
So in some ways, it's wide open. But the Wizards are still playing from behind, and they're currently riding a three game losing streak. Nearly every game is about to turn into a must-win.
What needs to happen for the Wizards to catch the 8 seed?
Models can be inaccurate (just ask the Michigan pollsters), but the Wizards are not in a good position. Chicago has 20 games left, and like Washington Detroit has 19. If the Bulls and Pistons finish the season by going .500 over their final 20 games, the Wizards will need to win 13 (68%) of their remaining 19 games (for a final record of 43-39) to make the playoffs.
The silver lining here is that there are plenty of winnable games remaining in the Wizards schedule. They play the Nets twice, the Timberwolves, the Sixers, the Lakers, the Jazz, the Nuggets, and the Suns. Of course, the Wizards also have to play Atlanta three times and Charlotte once (teams who have historically given the Wizards problems), the Clippers, and the Golden State Warriors. They also have one remaining game each against the Bulls and Pistons.
The playoffs are still in reach, but the Wizards don’t just need to play well themselves, they need both the Bulls and Pistons to falter. Poor decision making like we saw last night in Portland won't cut it.