1) After starting out 2-6, the Washington Wizards have gone 8-6 since with solid wins over the New York Knicks (twice... and thank you) and the Atlanta Hawks. Do you think the Wizards, who were/are dealing with the loss of Bradley Beal and Nene will get to that place many pundits thought they would be as postseason contenders? Certainly, in the East, it'll be a lot easier, but how legit can they be?
Quizas, quizas, quizas ... Bradley Beal helps a lot with the offense since he gives the team another source of points and playmaking in the halfcourt, but he's still not a game-changer yet. Nene's a beast and a much better defensive player than the guy who are currently getting minutes in his stead (Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely), too. So, when healthy and at full-speed, the Wizards are a good if not great team that in a vacuum would win 45 games or so and probably finish third or fourth in the East. The problem, and they're far from unique in this respect, is that they need almost perfect health in order to play at this level. Any time any of the starters, especially Nene or Wall, is out, the team is far worse since they don't have any depth or set up men outside of Wall, Nene and Beal. Players like Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster and Trevor Booker can be very effective when they're the fifth option on offense, but they become painfully bad when the team relies on them to score in isolation or facilitate the offense.
2) I've always been a fan of Bradley Beal since his playing days at Florida and he currently leads the team in scoring (20.6 PPG). Everyone knows what John Wall can do, so where do you see this backcourt compared with others around the NBA? I always think of them as an Isiah Thomas/Joe Dumars type of combo with flash and silent assassin type of personalities... but I'm old.
As far as overall talent level, they're up there, probably in the top five in the NBA. What makes them work so well is that they're perfect complements for each other, fitting together as well as any two guards in the NBA with the possible exception of Curry and Thomas or Williams and Johnson. Wall's improved as a shooter but is still at his best with the ball in his hands, while Beal can make the occasional play off the dribble but is at his best running off of screens and using his catch and shoot game. Offensively, they fit together perfectly. Defensively, not quite as well, since Wall's usually focused on offense and Beal's not particularly big, athletic or long.
3) There was such high hopes for Otto Porter, Jr. who's only seen the court four times this season. Naturally, injury will do that to you, but seriously, what's going on with him?
Ok, so before I go any further, I should mention that I'm far less of a fan of Porter than almost anyone else who covers the team. That said, he's looked tentative early on and still hasn't found his rhythm. Being injured will do that, plus he's trying to find a role on a team with three other small forwards who are currently better than him. Long term he should be fine, at least health-wise, and is a great fit next to Wall and Beal as a shooter, defender and off-ball cutter. He's a high character guy and has a lot of local support, I just worry that he lacks the upside to be worthy of his draft position. Ariza and Webster have been excellent this year and even Chris Singleton has looked good as a three and d type, so it seems like a waste to drop one or two better players in order to give him minutes.
4) Continuing on Porter, Jr. somewhat... if he continues to stink, do you then re-sign Trevor Ariza whose contract is up after the season? Ariza has improved significantly compared to last year's performance. Or do you try to trade him during the season to get some assets back instead of potentially losing him for nothing? It's a tough call, don't you think?
It's a tough decision but they need to trade Ariza and hope against all hopes that they can get a draft pick in return. The problem with re-signing Ariza is that Washington is very close to the luxury tax and his $7 million salary is almost the exact same amount that Wall is going to get as a raise this summer once his extension kicks in. My dream scenario is that they trade Ariza and some bench players or second rounders for Ekpe Udoh, who'd finally give the team the rim protector that they've lacked since Emeka Okafor hurt his neck and went to Phoenix. Re-signing Ariza on the cheap is unlikely, too, since there are a ton of contenders who have their MLE available and you really can't have too many long wings who can shoot, defend and move the ball.
1) The more jumpers John Wall shoots, the better the game will go for the Nets. 2) If Lopez and Garnett move their feet well enough to cut off penetration, the Wizards' offense is going to largely consist of Wall jumpers from the elbow and long twos from Bradley Beal. 3) Andray Blatche has a grudge against the Wizards and will probably appear extra motivated. 4) Marcin Gortat is in a funk and is taking too many jump shots, largely because the team's spacing is poor. 5) If there was any justice in this world, the halftime entertainment would consist of Trevor Booker and Reggie Evans fighting each other using UFC rules.
I think this one will be 105-98 and I expect the Nets to come out on top. Brooklyn's looked better lately and has the homecourt advantage, plus Johnson is too big for Beal to guard or shoot over. At the same time, if Washington's going to get the W, it's going to be because no one on the Nets can follow Beal around screens and the defense is unable to control Wall off the dribble.
DV's Prediction: Washington Wizards 101, Brooklyn Nets 112.
What do you think the final score will be? Leave your answers below in the comments because if you don't, you won't have proof what a genius you are! BROOK IT!