The can continues to kick down the road for the Washington Wizards, as the squad hangs on for dear life in the playoff race. The Wiz currently sit at 31-37 with 14 games remaining in the season, half a game behind the Chicago Bulls for the last play-in tournament spot, and are also three games behind the 8th seeded Atlanta Hawks.
That 8th spot is significant in the play-in tournament format, as they would have two chances to enter playoff contention should they lose to the 7th seed. The Wizards missed a massive opportunity to solidify their status in the playoff race, as they lost a back-to-back home set against the Hawks on March 8th and 10th. Getting out of the play-in and being one of the top six seeds appears out of reach, as the Knicks are 8 games ahead of the Wizards in this regard.
It’s looking like another low playoff seed for the Wizards if they do indeed get through the play-in. From there, it’s likely a date with either Milwaukee or Boston, who expect to make short work of them. Expect yet another year in the NBA draft where they pick just outside of the lottery. However, with the team’s recent run of play, the Wizards could miss the postseason entirely.
A Disappointing Deadline
Many speculated about what the Wizards would end up doing this year at the trade deadline. Would they attempt to add to a core of Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis, and Kyle Kuzma? Would they trade Kuzma since he is due a contract extension at the end of this season? Or would they stand pat with what they have? The answer is yes to only the final question.
Only smaller moves were made, with Rui Hachimura being dealt to the Lakers for Kendrick Nunn and multiple second round picks. The Wizards and Hachimura could not agree to a rookie contract extension, and the Wizards later signaled their intent to re-sign Kyle Kuzma in the offseason. The roster has been pretty stable otherwise the entire season. Washington seems content to move forward with the core they have in place, at least for now.
The Wizards are currently on trajectory to at least be a part of the play-in this season. However, ailing questions continue to loom large beyond the postseason. Kristaps Porzingis has been a consistent performer and has managed to stay relatively healthy by his standards. He has played 58 of 68 games, averaging 22.9 points and 8.5 rebounds on 49% shooting from the floor. However, he has a player option for next season that sits at just over $36 million.
It is said that Porzingis likes his situation in DC and would re-sign with the team, but at what price? Kyle Kuzma is in a similar situation. Kuzma is averaging a career best 21.2 ppg and 3.8 apg, while being a rock solid third scoring option for the Wiz. However, his player option for next year only sits at $13 million and he is due a raise in salary. It is almost certain that Kuzma will decline this player option and test free agency. The Wizards have expressed that they want to resign both Porzingis and Kuzma, but will the price be too steep?
Is this core alongside superstar Bradley Beal really good enough to compete with the big boys in the East? Judging on how they’ve performed so far this season, the answer would be no. The Wizards will look to find some answers down the stretch here and some consistency in their play, as this offseason could be a massive one for the franchise.
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