The way the Wizards tell it, if it weren't for injuries they’d have been a playoff team this past season.
Instead, they finished 29-53 in the Eastern Conference, losing their last six games to finish tied for the 11th with the Detroit Pistons.
This week, they were recipients of good fortune. The Wizards moved up five spots in the NBA draft lottery and will choose third overall. The draft is June 27 in New York.
Injuries or no injuries –- they started 4-28 without John Wall and Nene to start the season and lost several others for extended stretches –- the pressure is really on coach Randy Wittman and GM Ernie Grunfeld.
Wittman, however, is trying to deflect that and not put too much responsibility on their top rookie draft pick which could turn into Anthony Bennett, Victor Oladipo, Nerlens Noel or Ben McLemore among others.
“It doesn't matter with the No. 3 pick. If we could stay healthy and come together as we did last year, have a full season right from the start, we should put ourselves in that (playoff) position,” Wittman told CSN Washington in a phone interview Wednesday. “It doesn't matter if we pick eighth, third or 30th.”
Maybe Wittman has good reason to be optimistic that his team will qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
The Wizards were a top 10 defense, just behind the Miami Heat. Scoring was the problem at 93.2 points per game which was tied for last in the league.
Defense is harder to come by than offense. The Wizards were the only non-playoff team among the top 10. The expectation to be a playoff team shouldn't hinge on a draft pick who could be below the legal drinking age.
“We should already anticipate that. Forget about the draft pick,” Wittman said. “Now you have the draft pick and you've got free agency, the possibility to make changes through trades," Wittman said. "We got to make the team better. Having the third pick doesn't change my thinking in what this team should be able to do next year.”