There is plenty of local and national talk about the Wizards legitimately stepping up into the Eastern Conference playoff race. There is no discussion about Washington winning the Southeast Division title. John Wall, what about it?
"That's a goal too, but we feel like that's a bigger goal," Wall said at the team's media day. "The first goal is just playoffs. Then you can worry about that."
"That" could mean the franchise hanging a division title banner for the first time since 1979, the year after winning its only NBA title. In this case, "that" really means slaying the two-time defending NBA champions Miami Heat.
How heavy a favorite is Miami to win its fourth straight Southeast Division title? According to the line makers over at Bovada.lv, this heavy:
Miami Heat: 1/100
Washington Wizards: 12/1
Atlanta Hawks: 14/1
Charlotte Bobcats: 200/1
Orlando Magic: 200/1
For those not familiar with the odds game, this means to win $1 on the Heat, a bettor would have to wager $100. For comparison, the Nets are 1/2 to win the Atlantic, the Bulls 2/3 to win the Central, the Thunder 1/4 to win the Northwest. Those odds suggest heavy favorite. Miami's odds suggest a lock akin to wagering the sun will rise in the East.
"You never know what can happen, but they're very hot right now," said the grinning point guard, referring to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company. "They're on a roll. I don't know about that one."
Let's look at those divisional odds again. Perhaps talk of coming in first is burying the lead. The odds makers project Washington into a second place finish, a rung the team hasn't achieved since its last playoff appearance in 2008.
Speaking of the postseason, at 50-1, Washington has the eighth best odds in the Eastern Conference. Miami leads that pack as well, then Chicago, Indiana, Brooklyn, New York, Cleveland and Detroit. Emphasizing the East's projected top-loaded scenario, the top five teams are no worse than 9-1. Cleveland and Detroit are 40-1, followed by the Wizards. Atlanta, Boston and Toronto are each 66-1.
Most observers have the Cavs, Pistons, Wizards and Hawks as the primary contenders for the final three spots in the East. From an upside standpoint, Cleveland has more IF Andrew Bynum and Kyrie Irving can stay on the court. Detroit massive frontcourt of Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond could prove nightmarish. The defensive-minded Wizards have their positives as well thanks to John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene and a deep roster.
As for bigger picture odds, the Wizards are 50-1 to win the Eastern Conference and 100-1 to win the NBA title. Those inclined to lay down some coin would be better off putting money on these more-bang-for-the-buck scenarios than on the division crown. Should the Wizards dethrone Miami for the division crown, they would automatically become a league-wide threat.
Then again, it's best to take Wall's advice: focus on the Wizards making the playoffs. The division title, don't know about that one.