Weaker East benefits Wizards' playoff hopes

Weaker East benefits Wizards' playoff hopes
April 28, 2013, 2:00 pm
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To be realistic, let’s establish who the Wizards certainly won’t be better than for the 2013-14 season in the Eastern Conference: Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks.

If that holds up that leaves two playoff spots in play. This is why there’s so much optimism from the Wizards, provided they can get a better start with better health and add another scorer to help the bench in the off-season. 

“I don't want to go through 4-28 again,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said about the start to 2012-13 season when they finished 29-53. “I learned a lot about these guys individually. There were a lot of guys I didn't know about. We added a lot of new faces and I learned a lot through adversity.”

This is the first in a two-part series on the Wizards' outlook vs. the remaining eight teams in the East and assessing how they'd stack up:

Boston Celtics (41-40)

Head-to-head: Celtics won 3-0.

Trending: Downward. PF Paul Pierce enters his 16th season unguaranteed at $15.3 million and PF-C Kevin Garnett limps toward the final guaranteed year of his deal that pays $12.4 million. Their status as a power is over and ability to just be a playoff team hinges on the return of PG Rajon Rondo from an ACL tear. They still have solid role players in Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Jordan Crawford and Brandon Bass, but they’ll have problems generating offense without Rondo.

Wizards chances: Possible, but likely a year away from supplanting Boston.  

Milwaukee Bucks (38-44)

Head-to-head: Wizards won 2-1

Trending: Downward. Bucks poised to have significant turnover, particularly if the early-termination clause on SG Monta Ellis is executed. SF Mike Dunleavy, SG J.J. Redick and C Samuel Dalembert are free agents. PG Brandon Jennings, who has long made it known that he’s not happy in Milwaukee, already has promised he won’t be back after next season if he doesn't see significant upgrades in the roster which would include him getting a hefty raise beyond a $4.3 million qualifying offer.

Wizards chances: Very likely. The main reason the Bucks finished with a better record was because of better health. 

Philadelphia 76ers (34-48)

Head-to-head: Sixers won 2-1

Trending: Downward. The Sixers have been in disarray since the trade for C Andrew Bynum turned into a disaster. He didn't play a game for them this season, is a pending free agent and even if he plays may never be the same. Coach Doug Collins stepped down after leading them to the second round of the playoffs a year ago. Nick Young, Damien Wilkins and Dorrell Wright become free agents. 

Wizards chances: Very likely.  The Sixers still have Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young, but that's not enough. 

Toronto Raptors (34-48)

Head-to-head: Tied 2-2.

Trending: Downward. Will return mostly the same roster, including SF Rudy Gay, SG DeMar DeRozan, PF Amir Johnson, unless they make trades or other moves. PG Kyle Lowry has an unguaranteed year at $6.2 million. C Andrea Bargnani, who has been a disappointment is due to make $10.7 million next year and an early-termination option for 2014-15 of $11.5 million. He could be waived under the one-time amnesty clause allowed by the collective bargaining agreement. 

Wizards chances: Very strong. Raptors have room under the salary cap but still have trouble luring quality free agents. 

Coming Tuesday: How the Wizards stack up vs. the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats.