The 1 subtle move Brian Keefe can make to maximize Wizards lottery odds

Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards
Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

Firmly in the cellar of the NBA standings at 9-53, the Washington Wizards are sitting pretty in terms of NBA Draft lottery odds. Interim coach Brian Keefe took over the head coaching duties 43 games into the season and has continued the trend set by now-front office advisor Wes Unseld Jr.: tank for draft position.

The Wizards have lost 17 of their first 19 games under Keefe, including a treacherous 16 games in a row, the latest of which came on Wednesday against the Orlando Magic. Having once led Orlando by 21 points in the second quarter, Washington collapsed in the second half. The Magic outscored the Wizards 66-44 coming out of halftime, an inefficiency that has become a theme with Keefe's Wizards.

Wizards-Magic (3/6). 109. 142. Final. 119. 38

How Brian Keefe can lead the Wizards' tanking efforts

Coach Keefe's latest rotational experiment was put on display during Wednesday's loss to Orlando, which involves a small-ball style with Kyle Kuzma playing center. On paper, the benefits to Kuzma playing small-ball five are evident. His 6'9" 221 lbs frame allows him to contest taller players in the post while remaining versatile in switches. Coupled with his confident outside scoring ability, the combination would seemingly make Kuzma a matchup nightmare. However, it has not worked out that way.

With Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. each missing Wednesday night's matchup, coach Keefe opted to go with a small-ball lineup to open the game. According to the NBA Lineups Tool, last night was the first time this particular combination had seen game action since returning from the All-Star break.

Recently, Keefe has begun going to a small-ball lineup in closing situations, swapping in sixth-man Jordan Poole in place of Corey Kispert. The lineup of Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Bilal Coulibaly, Deni Avdija, and Kyle Kuzma have appeared in three of the Wizards' last eight games, logging minutes in crunch time against the Magic and the Utah Jazz. In each game, Washington has surrendered a big lead and given the game away in the closing moments.

The failures of the small-ball lineup have frustrated fans who continue to watch the losses pile up down the stretch of the season. Should they continue to suffer these embarrassing losses, this year's Wizards squad will finish the season among the worst teams in franchise history.

The worst single-season records in Washington Wizards franchise history, sorted by win percentage

Year/Team Name

Win-Loss Record

Win Percentage

2023-24 Wizards



1961-62 Packers



2000-01 Wizards



2008-09 Wizards



1966-67 Bullets



Although the season-long struggles are displeasing to fans in the short term, fans are hopeful for the long-term impact of this lost season. The Wizards hold the NBA's worst record, giving Washington the best odds of coming away with good results in the draft lottery.

Despite the ugly play as of late, continuing to push through the growing pains is key for Keefe's Wizards to improve and go where they hope to go on the other side of this rebuilding process.

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