Have you ever seen one of those nature documentaries on Animal Planet or National Geographic where the hawk swoops down and grabs a fish for its meal? Or where the cheetah races out across the African plain and devours the antelope?
As I sit here watching the Spurs and Lakers going through the motions in the final quarter of Game 4, or as I check Twitter to see what the world has to say about Miami advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the same feeling I get watching those programs arises in me. A feeling of apathy, boredom and disappointment blend into a potent cocktail, ready for my consumption. I wonder, where is the fun in being the seventh or eighth seed? Is the right to be Lebron’s warm-up act worth losing the chance for a decent lottery pick?
Our beloved Wizards are in the mist of a playoff drought, not having played meaningful basketball games in April since 2008. And as the springs have gone and past without postseason basketball in Washington, the fanbase has gotten restless. We grow more and more anxious, especially as similarly tortured fans in Golden State and Houston, as well as the hardy souls in Los Angeles who only know Elgin Baylor as a GM, get their moments in the sun. It’s aggravating, frustrating, and frankly, it sucks.
However, if you’re going to do something, you gotta to do it right. Next season, what if the Wizards are within reach of the seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs at the All-Star Break? Do you trade away Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, or keep them for a run at the postseason? Remember, Miami will be waiting for their appetizer in the top seed, and the second seed could be the Knicks, Pacers, or maybe the Bulls with a healthy Derrick Rose. Is going to war with Okafor and Ariza and losing in five games in the opening round worth the potential haul you could get for those two?
I don’t think it is. Okafor and Ariza are two solid pros with expiring contracts, players that any contending team would be willing to give away assets for. There’s a certain possibility that they could be worth a first round draft choice and a player on a rookie deal. Considering that the 2014 draft has scouts drooling over the potential quality, with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and the Harrison twins headlining the players eligible, I’d rather have the Wizards finish 10th in the East and try their luck in the lottery, as well as having another first in the 20s and a potential young piece instead of just the 17th pick and one playoff win.
Now, am I saying that the team should avoid the playoffs like Dwight Howard avoids the mothers of his children? Of course not. If we get a full season of March’s John Wall, an improved Bradley Beal, plus a good 60-70 games out of Nene, we could see a Wizards team in the position for a 4th-6th seed, a scenario that is much more favorable for winning a playoff series. The playoffs in my opinion are worthless unless you have a significant chance of advancing.
Ultimately, I believe that being one of the 53% of NBA teams to make the postseason isn’t enough. If the Wizards go out next year and play like a top four team the whole year, I’ll be nothing short of ecstatic. But a 40-42 win sacrificial lamb for the Heat will not quench my thirst for a winning basketball team. The Wizards goal for the 2013-14 season shouldn’t be “Playoffs or Bust”, but rather “Playing Games in May or Bust”, or “Eastern Conference Finals or Bust”.
Of course, this is the Wizards we’re talking about, so all of this talking I’ve been doing’ll be for nothing by Thanksgiving. But you gotta believe, right?