Tag Archives: Washington Wizards

Eastern Conference Playoff Bubble: Who’s In and Who’s Out?

As the NBA heads into the final stretch of its season, playoff seeds are beginning to crystallize. By my count, eleven teams have already essentially clinched a spot in the playoffs, leaving five positions available for the other nineteen teams.

In the Eastern Conference, there are two playoff berths available for four teams and Washington, Indiana, Detroit, and Chicago are set to duke it out over the next month to make it into the postseason.

Which teams on the Eastern Conference playoff bubble will make it in? Which ones won’t? Let’s take a look.

In the East, the seventh and eighth seeds are up for grabs. Currently, the Pacers and Pistons hold those two spots, but the Bulls are tied with the Pistons for the eighth seed. The Wizards are lurking one-and-a-half games behind the Bulls and Pistons after recently pulling out of a tailspin; after making it back to .500, they lost five straight games before a dominant forty-three point blowout against the Pistons earlier this week on national TV and a twenty-one point victory against the Bulls last night.

Washington is the furthest from a playoff spot, but there remains hope in D.C. thanks to a fairly easy schedule to close out the season. Of its fifteen remaining games, only two are near-certain losses (@GSW and @LAC). In addition, the Wizards play three times against the Hawks, although two of those games are at home, and once against the surging Hornets in Washington.

Though Washington is one-and-a-half games out of a playoff spot, there still remains a head-to-head opportunity to make up ground on its direct competitors. The Wizards will play in Detroit on April 8th, a game that will be vital to their playoff aspirations.

The Pacers are elevated above the fray, sitting two-and-a-half games above the Bulls and Pistons and four above the Wizards. With a strong finish, Indiana could even push its way into the fifth or sixth seed, and with a creampuff schedule down the stretch, there’s a very real possibility that it could happen.

The Bulls have the easiest schedule of all, but they currently face severe problems with injuries. Jimmy Butler returned only a couple of days ago from a knee injury, Derrick Rose is dealing with a groin injury, and Pau Gasol has an injured knee. If Chicago is down its best three players, it won’t matter how easy their schedule is.

The Pistons begin a nine-game homestand against the Hawks, but their schedule is the most challenging of the teams they’re competing against. Eight of Detroit’s fifteen remaining games come against playoff teams, and that doesn’t include the games against its direct competitors. It plays in Chicago on April 2nd and against Washington at home on April 8th.

The question remains: Which of these teams will make the playoffs?

It seems to be a forgone conclusion that the Bulls will miss the playoffs since the 2007-08 season. They have too many injuries to adequately compete, and if they lose to the Pistons on April 2nd, they won’t have the tiebreaker against either the Pistons or the Wizards. Chicago will compete to the end, and it’s certainly within its capabilities to scratch out just enough victories to make it to the playoffs, but the postseason seems out of reach at the moment.

The Pacers have a stranglehold on a playoff berth. They’re as close to the #4 seed as the Pistons and Bulls are to them. It’s far more likely that Indiana moves up the ladder to nab a higher seed than they collapse and miss out on the playoffs.

The most intrigue comes with the battle for the eighth seed between the Wizards and Pistons.

I’m torn on this prediction, and although it’s safer to bet on the Pistons maintaining their lead, the Wizards have the tiebreaker and the ineffable, possibly nonexistent “mental edge” after the blowout earlier this week. Instead, I think that whoever wins that April 8th game in Detroit will take home the eighth seed. Washington should be the underdog in that game, so I guess my prediction is Detroit, but if it can defy expectations and win that game on its way to the playoffs, I bet there’ll be a big…

(at least until they get blown out by the Cavs in the first round)

Trade Grade: Morris to Washington

Yesterday, news broke that Phoenix had traded Markieff Morris to Washington for Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair, and a top-9 protected 2016 first round pick.

Phoenix Suns

Morris had to go. After his twin, Marcus, was traded to the Pistons before the season, Markieff turned into a malcontent. Just last week, he and Archie Goodwin got into a fight on Phoenix’s bench during a game against the Warriors:

Well, actually, that’s not quite accurate. Morris was already awful with regards to discipline. Last season, even with his brother on the team, he was second in the NBA with fifteen technical fouls. He had so many that some YouTuber was inspired to make this video:

For obvious reasons, that’s not the sort of player that the Suns, or really any NBA team, would want to have in their locker room. However, Morris is a solid stretch four, the kind of player than any team would be happy to have on their team. That duality, of both being a desirable player and an undesirable locker room presence, is a big factor in the confusion over Morris’ value around the league.

Nabbing a first round pick for Morris is great. They get rid of a locker-room cancer who, at twenty-six years old, is unlikely to become much more than he currently is. Kudos to Ryan McDonough for a very good trade.

Grade: A-

Washington Wizards

It’s a big commitment to take on Morris, who, as we just discussed, isn’t exactly a positive locker room influence. Morris is under contract for three more seasons after this one, so if he turns out to be a mistake, the Wizards will have a hard time extricating themselves from him.

However, those three years are part of what makes Morris so valuable. He’s signed through his age-29 season at a dirt-cheap contract that averages $8 million per season. Yeah, that’s a lot of money, but under the rising cap, $8 million for a solid starter is nothing.

The Wizards are gambling that Morris manages to put his immaturity behind him so that his talent can shine through unhindered. However, it remains to be seen if he’s capable of doing so.

Morris could potentially be a useful player for the Wizards, but he’s risky and at the price of a first round pick, it’s not a risk I would have taken. This trade will turn out poorly if Morris bombs in Washington, but if he can turn his career around, this trade could very well lead to a…

Grade: C+

Notes From Wizards-Clippers

I’m in DC right now, and a couple of nights ago, I took the opportunity to see the Wizards square off against the Clippers in the Verizon Center. Here a few observations from the game.

There were a couple of strange things that occurred during the game. For instance, at one point in the second half, plastic cows attached to mini parachutes were dropped from the rafters. Why? I think it had something to do with a Chick-Fil-A promotion, but honestly, I’m not sure.

The halftime show was immensely enjoyable. A pair of goals were set up at the free throw lines and a three on three game of soccer was held. The fun part was that, since each player was encased in a plastic bubble, it was impossible to get hurt, so the game was spent watching the players ram into one another. Always a pleasurable experience.

During the pregame warmups, I had a good time watching Josh Smith practice his free-throw shooting. Sorry Josh, even sinking sixty free throws in a row won’t make up for this travesty:

The game itself wasn’t overly exciting. Despite the absence of Blake Griffin, the Wizards were unable to take a single lead. The Clippers opened up the game on a 13-2 run and didn’t look back.

Cole Aldrich, of all people, had a solid game. He produced thirteen points, six rebounds, three assists, four steals, and a block over twenty minutes. Aldrich’s main contributions to the game were the four times he tried and failed to throw down a big dunk, leading to plenty of taunts from the stands.

DeAndre Jordan was particularly entertaining for a couple of reasons. One, whenever he has a big dunk, he hangs on the rim for a moment, letting his lengthy limbs loose:


Two, Jordan has a magnificent deer-in-the-headlights look whenever he goes to the free throw line. On his first two attempts, his anxiety, nervousness, and dread were plain to see:

As expected, he missed those free throws, although he rallied to make three of his next four to finish the night with a solid three of six at the line.

Throughout the night, the Wizards were discombobulated on offense. There were many possessions that ended late in the shot clock with a contested heave from John Wall. Even when a Wizard had a wide open three-pointer, more often than not, the shot clanked off the rim.

There was one notable near-achievement from a Wizards player: Jared Dudley, a starter, nearly earned a thirteen trillion. He played thirteen minutes, and recorded a grand total of zero points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and fouls. The only thing keeping Dudley from a historic performance was one measly turnover. Alas. Better luck next time, Jared.

It’s indicative that I talked more about the sideshows, both literal and figurative, from the parachuting cows to DeAndre Jordan’s gangly legs, than about the game itself. I guess it was just that kind of night.

Still, despite the uncompetitive game, I had a good time, and it certainly was a…

This article can also be found at Jock Journal.