The NBA's return-to-play format has put the Wizards in a position where they have no reason to tank, based on the draft lottery odds, and a more manageable road to the playoffs, based on the play-in tournament. They are embracing it.
While some have wondered if they will go to Orlando simply to give young guys minutes, if they would not worry about wins in attempt to preserve their draft position, the Wizards say their goal is clear: go all-in on the postseason.
"We're going there to try to make the playoffs. That's 100 percent our goal," general manager Tommy Sheppard said. "Everybody asks the question; when there are 22 teams brought to Orlando, what are we there to do? We're there to win games."
"We're going down there and we want to make the playoffs," head coach Scott Brooks said. "It will be a great opportunity. It would be a great opportunity to get involved in that play-in game and have the pressure of the last possession."
The Wizards will head to Orlando as the ninth-seed in the East and 5 1/2 games back from the No. 8 Magic. But they only have to close the gap to within four games to force a play-in tournament for the playoffs. If they beat the No. 8 team twice without losing, they get in.
The path to the playoffs is there, but there is also the chance they don't fare well in Orlando. They are 24-40 through their first 64 games this season and head to Florida with the worst record among the 22 teams invited.
If the Wizards lose a bunch of games, that could be a problem because they can't increase their draft lottery odds since the bottom-eight teams are locked in. It's a small provision in the return-to-play plan that could affect them directly.
The Wizards, though, have weighed all the factors involved and are viewing their inclusion by the league as all positive.
"With that opportunity to get into the play-in and get in the playoffs, that's all our players ask for," Sheppard said, adding that without these games the Wizards wouldn't play again until December, when next season is expected to start.
"The idea of not playing basketball that long, I don't even want to think about that for us. It's all about gratitude for us," he said.
Both Sheppard and Brooks cited on several occasions how going for the playoffs could also help the development of their young players. Whether the Wizards make the playoffs or not, the extra games will give them more playing time and more film to evaluate.
"Overall, this whole year was all about player development," Sheppard said. "Everybody has to show value. They have to show us 'why are you here and why should we keep you on the roster moving forward?'"
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Wizards want to make playoffs in Orlando, aren't worried about lottery odds originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington