This can't be what the NBA had in mind.

Sure, the possibility of artificially elevating bad teams - especially in the Eastern Conference - loomed once the NBA announced the ninth- and 10th-placed clubs in each conference would get a crack at earning a playoff spot through play-in games. But what's transpired in the East this season is embarrassing.

With just over three weeks remaining in a 72-game season, the chase for the East's 10th spot has devolved into a snail's-paced race for 30 wins - perhaps 31 or 32 if one of the teams catches its own mediocre version of a heater.

With all due respect to the Cavaliers, this is a three-team race between the Wizards, Raptors, and Bulls. They're separated by a half-game in the standings with only 13 or 14 games to go.

So how did Washington, Toronto, and Chicago get here? How will they fare as potential play-in contenders? And where does each team go from here?

Wizards (25-33)

The Wizards have won 43% of their games and own a worse point differential than the 18-41 Pistons, yet they currently lead this race after six straight wins. The latest victory came Wednesday night when Washington rallied past the Warriors in the fourth quarter.

Such is the state of the Eastern Conference, and such is the power of Russell Westbrook.

Say what you will about Westbrook's efficiency, offensive discipline, and defensive deference, but the man is a delightfully competitive maniac and that makes him the ultimate floor-raiser. The Wizards have received the full Westbrook experience this season. At times, when Bradley Beal is out of the lineup, he has propped up a comically overmatched team of misfits. Other times, even with Beal in the lineup, Westbrook shot the Wizards out of games he had kept them in.