The 2022-23 schedule is out, and it’s clear the Washington Wizards will coast to a 65+ win regular season, dominate the Eastern Conference playoffs, and smack around whatever team the West produces to claim their first NBA championship since 1978.
The preceding paragraph might be the kind of thing I’d post on Twitter to communicate I’d been kidnapped without saying I’d been kidnapped.
Slightly more seriously, looking at the schedule isn’t a bad way to spend an evening in August, but it doesn’t really mean a whole. Last season, for example, the Detroit Pistons had the league’s most difficult schedule. How hard was it? Their opponents were about 0.37 points per game better than average. Much of that was simply because Detroit couldn’t schedule games against themselves.
The Phoenix Suns had the easiest schedule — 0.56 points per game easier than average. That “easy” schedule may have added a win (as in one) to their total.
My back-of-the-spreadsheet estimate based on offseason forecasts is that Washington’s upcoming schedule is maybe slightly more difficult than average, probably at the same level as last season (0.15 points per game “more difficult” than average).
Like last season, the team’s high-water mark seems likely to come early. They have a good chance of opening the year 4-1 with victories coming against the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons and the Pacers again.
Like last season, things look tougher from there. Here’s where my preliminary forecast has them at 10-game mileposts:
- 10 games — 5-5
- 20 games — 8-12
- 30 games — 11-19
- 40 games — 15-25
- 50 games — 21-29
- 60 games — 27-33
- 70 games — 32-38
- 80 games — 36-44
- 82 games — 37-45
That 15-25 record at 40 games (10 games under .500) wouldn’t be the low point, by the way. That would come the previous game, which this rough forecast has as a second consecutive loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. That loss would put the Wizards 11 games under .500.
This isn’t a final forecast, of course. I’m making rough estimates using Vegas predictions for relative team strengths.
Using this crude prediction, after that 4-1 start, the Wizards wouldn’t win two in a row for another 27 games — until matchups with the Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings just before Christmas. That span would include six consecutive losses in November to the Miami Heat (twice), Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets.
The new year would be kinder with the possibility of a four-game win streak, and a pair of three-game tears. There’s also a tantalizing 11-game stretch where the Wizards could win eight.
The team would finish 2022 at 14-23 and then finish out the season 23-22.
Of course, as seasons play out, there are injuries, randomness, and flukes. So, I replicated the season 10,000 times using the same relative team strength inputs. On average, the Wizards won 39.5 games. One replication had the Wizards winning 50 games. One had them winning 27.
I haven’t done my usual full forecast method, but 39-40 wins doesn’t seem outlandish. Getting to 50 seems a much more remote possibility — a 1-in-10,000 chance feels about right. It would likely require an All-NBA type of season from Bradley Beal or Kristaps Porzingis, an All-Star level season from the other of the duo, plus strong play from one or more of the newcomers, and a breakout season from one or more of the team’s youngsters.
Falling to 27 wins is a bit more plausible because there’s a clear path to catastrophe — if Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis get injured and miss a bunch of games, it’s easy to envision this team losing a lot.
What would 37 wins mean? Well, the New York Knicks won 37 last season and finished 11th. Out west, the New Orleans Pelicans won 36 and the San Antonio Spurs won 34, and they each made the play-in games.