No matter how many times most other NBA fan bases say everything will even out and that early-season results should be taken with a grain of salt, those following the Washington Wizards certainly don't -- and shouldn't -- understand the sentiment.
Winless in its first three games, Washington finds itself the closest to hitting the panic button. That feeling was likely only exacerbated by the Wizards trading for center Marcin Gortat before the regular season. They did so by sending a top-12 protected first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns, and the move signaled the team wanted to assure itself of a playoff berth. But looking ahead just a month, it's possible Washington could be in deep trouble by December.
Let's just take a look a month ahead.
The Wizards play Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers, which in the preseason looked like a win. That assumption faded when Michael Carter-Williams and crew toppled the Wizards in their second game of the year, in between stunning victories against the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls.
Here's the rest of the November slate:
|vs. Brooklyn||Nov. 8|
|@ Oklahoma City||Nov. 10|
|@ Dallas||Nov. 12|
|@ San Antonio||Nov. 13|
|vs. Cleveland||Nov. 16|
|vs. Minnesota||Nov. 19|
|@ Cleveland||Nov. 20|
|@ Toronto||Nov. 22|
|vs. New York||Nov. 23|
|vs. Lakers||Nov. 26|
|@ Milwaukee||Nov. 27|
|@ Indiana||Nov. 29|
|vs. Atlanta||Nov. 30|
Reasonably, there are five surefire playoff teams in Washington's next 14 games. Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Indiana, New York and Brooklyn should all make it into the postseason. After that, there are still teams that could be quite the test.
The Dallas Mavericks have looked like an offensive juggernaut early on, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are rolling with a healthy and hungry roster. Cleveland could be a surprise team and plays Washington twice in three games. And if you believe in momentum, the three-game road stretch at Oklahoma City, Dallas and then San Antonio could make the wheels fall off sooner rather than later.
If the Wizards beat the teams they are supposed to -- supposed to, meaning off the preseason predictions of who's the better team -- that's generously four wins against the Hawks, Bucks, Lakers and Raptors. Call it a redemption win against Philly, a split in the two games against Cleveland, a split of the Minnesota and Dallas games, and Washington will enter December with a 7-10 record.
That seems to be a middle ground. And for the rest of the season, that still means Washington could be one bad stretch away from dropping out of the playoff race.