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The 2-8 Wizards Are Still Favored to Win the Southeast

John Wall drives to the hoop against the Golden State Warriors.
Easy baskets have been few and far between this season for John Wall and the Wizards. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr) [CC License].
  • The Wizards still have the shortest odds to win the Southeast Division in spite of their slow start
  • Will Washington’s abysmal record cost Scott Brooks his job? 
  • Are the Hornets a safer bet at this point in the season? 

It’s going to take more than a five-game losing streak and a little internal discord for bookmakers to give up on the Wizards.

Washington is still favored to win the NBA’s Southeast Division despite stumbling out of the starting blocks with a dismal 2-8 record. Bovada currently has the Wizards just ahead of the Heat and Hornets, and comfortably in front of the Magic and Hawks.

Odds to win the NBA’s Southeast Division in 2018-19

Team Record Odds to Win the Southeast Division at Bovada
Washington Wizards 2-8 +160
Miami Heat 5-5 +200
Charlotte Hornets 6-5 +215
Orlando Magic 4-7 +1500
Atlanta Hawks 3-8 +9000

Bovada’s vote of faith is puzzling considering just how wretched the Wizards have been during the first three weeks of the season. Washington has already given up 130 points or more on three different occasions, and finds itself in 14th place in the Eastern Conference.

Washington has already given up 130 points or more on three different occasions, and finds itself in 14th place in the Eastern Conference.

That’s miles away from where many experts thought the Wizards would be after their first 10 games of the season.  The oddsmakers at BetOnline had Washington as the odds-on favorites to win the Southeast Division at -150 as recently as mid-September.

So, what gives? Why is one of the league’s deepest teams suddenly a raging garbage fire?

Washington has Been Atrocious on Defense

The Wizards rank dead last in the league in points allowed at 120.5, and are letting opposing teams shoot 47.5% from the floor and 39% from beyond the arc. They gave up 16 three-pointers in their 136-104 blowout to the the Clippers, and 15 three-pointers in their soul-crushing 144-122 loss to the Warriors.

The Wizards rank dead last in the league in points allowed at 120.5, and are letting opposing teams shoot 47.5% from the floor and 39% from beyond the arc.

Granted, everyone is taking – and making – more threes than ever before, but the Wizards need to make a concerted effort to chase shooters off the line and defend better in the pick and roll.

Injuries and Absences Have Hurt the Wizards

Washington began the season behind the eight ball due to the absence of starting center Dwight Howard, who missed the team’s first eight games with what was described by doctors as a “buttocks injury.” It was an ironic condition for a player who’s been a pain in the ass everywhere he’s gone.

Personal shortcomings aside, Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year who knows how to alter shots and move bodies in the lane. His absence was a crushing blow to the Wizards early on, and is a big reason why Washington presently ranks 16th in points allowed in the paint.

Chemistry Has Been an Issue

The NBA doesn’t keep tabs on disparaging comments, but if they did John Wall and Bradley Beal would be leading the league. The fellow All-Stars have repeatedly thrown their teammates under the bus this season for a variety of perceived slights and infractions.

Wall recently went on the offensive about players who put their own agendas ahead of the good of the team. “We’ve got guys that’s worried about who’s getting shots. …You should never worry about that,” he told The Athletic. “No matter if you’re missing or making shots, you gotta be able to compete on the other end. You can’t do it on both ends of the floor, you don’t need to be playing.”

Beal has echoed Wall’s sentiments. “Sometimes, we have our own agendas on the floor, whether it’s complaining about shots, complaining about playing time, complaining about whatever it may be,” he said. “We’re worried about the wrong shit, and that’s not where our focus needs to be. And it’s just going to continue to hurt us.”

It’s getting to the point where the Wizards may have to fire Scott Brooks and bring in Dr. Phil instead.

Past Southeast Division Champions

Year Team Record
2017-18 Miami Heat 44-38
2016-17 Washington Wizards 49-33
2015-16 Miami Heat 48-34
2014-15 Atlanta Hawks 60-22
2013-14 Miami Heat 54-28

The Hornets Have Plenty of Sting

Washington will eventually start winning games, but it feels increasingly unlikely that they’ll win the Southeast Division. You’ll find much more value by placing a wager on the Charlotte Hornets, who are the only team in the division with a plus .500 record.

The Hornets have the NBA’s fourth-best offensive rating and sixth best net rating. They score at an elite level, are among the league leaders in three-point percentage, and have one of the league’s best closers in Kemba Walker. The two-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 28.1 points per game and has been torching teams from all over the court.

The Hornets have also developed one of the league’s best benches. Tony Parker is still a valuable contributor in limited minutes, Malik Monk has become a mini microwave, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a physical lock-down defender who doesn’t need the ball to be effective.

Charlotte will ultimnately need another go-to player to make any noise in the playoffs, but they have more than enough pieces to overtake Washington in the Southeast.

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Ryan Murphy began his love affair with sports journalism at the age of nine when he wrote his first article about his little league baseball team. He has since authored his own column for Fox Sports, and now serves as SBD’s resident NBA and MLB expert.