PREVIEW: Rockets at Wizards- April 9

Apr 7, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; A Washington Wizards Dancer gestures to the crowd during a timeout against the Miami Heat in the fourth quarter at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Rockets at Wizards- April 9

The Rockets will end the 2022-23 season when they visit the Washington Wizards on Sunday afternoon. With a win, the Rockets can close the season by winning their last three games, giving them a two-win improvement over last season. Kevin Porter Jr. will miss the game due to knee soreness.

Eye on the Wizards

Record: 35-46 (11th in Eastern Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 113.8 (T-20th)

Defensive rating (rank): 115.0 (T-20th)

The Wizards will miss the playoffs for the second straight season and enter the summer with huge question marks as their second and third-leading scorers, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma, are set to become unrestricted free agents. They will both miss Sunday’s game, as will leading scorer Bradley Beal, who played in just 50 games while averaging 23.2 points per game for a second season consecutive season after averaging more than 30 points the two seasons prior, and he is still owed more than $200 million over the next four seasons. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. will reportedly return next season, but he could be the only source of stability within the organization.

Matchup to watch: The clock vs. Time

Let’s be honest: This game is completely meaningless. The Wizards are sitting their top three leading scorers, while the Rockets are sitting their point guard. Everyone is just going to want to get out there as quickly as possible without suffering some sort of injury that will impact their summer. Unfortunately, that’s what Sunday is going to be across the NBA. All 30 teams will be in action, but aside from a handful of teams in the west jockeying to stay out of the Play-In Tournament, very few will have any interest in actually winning their games, and that is proven out by injury reports longer than CVS receipts.

What I’m watching for

The Rockets are listing Porter out due to right knee soreness, but it’s really more of a clerical reason. The extension Porter signed before the season gives him a $2.3 million bonus each season if he reaches 60 games played. He will end this season with 59 games played, but sitting him out Sunday won’t cost Porter any money because the extension doesn’t kick in until next season. If he reaches the 60-game threshold this season, the 60 games played bonus would be considered a “likely bonus,” and it would count against the Rockets’ salary cap this summer, so sitting out Sunday’s game will net the Rockets an extra $2.3 million in cap space this summer. The absence of Porter and Jae’Sean Tate means Daishen Nix and TyTy Washington will likely share point guard duties on Sunday. It could be the last chance for Nix, whose contract for next season is non-guaranteed, to show he belongs on an NBA roster.

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