The Washington Wizards chances to make a playoff run were dealt a serious blow earlier this month, as the team announced that star guard Bradley Beal would not be participating in the NBA restart at Walt Disney World due to a shoulder injury.
OFFICIAL: Bradley Beal will not participate in the NBA restart due to a shoulder injury. https://t.co/fd0eOT0Baf- Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) July 7, 2020
According to FiveThirtyEight's NBA Predictions, the Wizards (24-40) were given just a 9% chance to advance to the playoffs prior to the restart. While it was a relative longshot, Beal, who averaged career bests of 30.5 points and 6.1 assists in the 2019-20 season, has proven to be capable of willing this team past stronger opponents in the past. This would have been an unprecedented challenge, however, as the Wizards were already without Davis Bertans (15.4 ppg), who elected to sit out of the restart due to preexisting injury concerns.
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Down its two leading scorers, Washington is now even less likely to advance to the postseason, but the decision to hold Beal out could prove to have a ripple effect on a number of teams that will be participating in Orlando.
Take a look at the schedule:
|1||Jul. 31||Phoenix Suns||4 p.m.|
|2||Aug. 2||Brooklyn Nets||2 p.m.|
|3||Aug. 3||Indiana Pacers||4 p.m.|
|4||Aug. 5||Philadelphia 76ers||4 p.m.|
|5||Aug. 7||New Orleans Pelicans||8 p.m.|
|6||Aug. 9||Oklahoma City Thunder||12:30 p.m.|
|7||Aug. 11||Milwaukee Bucks||9 p.m.|
|8||Aug. 13||Boston Celtics||TBD|
Aside from the first-place Bucks, who have a comfortable 6.5 game lead over the Toronto Raptors, all of the teams on the Wizards schedule are jockeying to move up in the standings. By no means is a date with Washington a guaranteed win, but the eight teams slated to face the Wizards don't have to worry about game planning for Beal, which is a challenge in itself.
With Phoenix having a less-than-1% chance to qualify for the postseason and Brooklyn having a bevy of injury issues of its own, the focus shifts to the middle of Washington's schedule, as it is slated to take on Indiana and Philadelphia, who enter Orlando with an identical 39-26 record - two full games behind the Miami Heat, who, according to opponent win percentage, have the toughest schedule among the 22 teams in Orlando.
While the Pacers could be without a former All-Star in Victor Oladipo, the Sixers, viewed by many as a sleeper team to make a deep postseason run, have an outside shot at overtaking the Heat for the fourth seed. Philly split its first two meetings with Washington this season, with Beal posting averages of 31.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in those games. For the Sixers, seeding will likely play a large role in their ability to stage a big run; while they struggled against the Heat (1-3), they asserted dominance over the Celtics (3-1) in the regular season, meaning a sixth-place finish might not be so bad if it means a date with Boston.
For this exact same reason, the Celtics will look to overtake the Raptors for the East's No. 2 seed. Is it possible? Making up three full games with eight to spare is no easy task, but working in Boston's favour is its relatively-light schedule (20th out of 22 teams) and a meeting with Toronto five games into the restart.
MORE: Can Raptors hold off Celtics for No. 2 seed?
Boston closes its eight-game schedule with Washington and if it comes down to the final day, it has a good shot of defeating a Beal-and-Bertans-less Washington team to jump in the standings.
Toronto, owners of the second strongest schedule in Orlando, needs to be ready to go from Day 1.
Out West, the Pelicans and Thunder have an opportunity to use their meeting with the Wizards to their advantage as well. New Orleans is in contention with five other teams for the West's final playoff spot and will look to take advantage of the league's lightest schedule to do so. New Orleans and Washington were set to meet twice over the final month of the NBA season, so it's only fair that the two teams meet in Orlando. By Game 5, Zion Williamson and company should have found their stride and will look to build momentum for a potential play-in situation.
In other words, things become even harder for the Suns, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies.
The Pels are coming.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.