The Wizards go up I-95 tonight to face the New York Knicks in Carmelo Anthony's home town. Let's get ready for this preseason game.
Where and when? Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Baltimore Arena in, you guessed it, Baltimore. This will be the first game in what should become an annual event called The Baltimore Basketball Classic.
Why should I care? New York's a mess, one that probably doesn't even realize its a mess yet, but they should be fun to watch. In addition to a barrage of three point attempts, fans will be treated to seeing Carmelo Anthony play in his hometown for the first time ever as a professional.
Are they good? The Knicks were good last year. This year? Perhaps. After winning 54 games last year, New York lost a bunch of veterans (Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace) who were role players but could have retired years ago without raising any eyebrows. They also traded Steve Novak, one of the best catch and shoot three point shooters in the NBA, for Andrea Bargnani. Il Mago has his fans, myself included, but he's really a terrible fit for this team. While Novak was a defensive liability who made up for it by hitting three pointers at an extremely high percentage, Bargs is a defensive liability who hits threes at an at-best middling percentage and can do almost nothing else at an even league-average rate. He's fun to watch, though, so at least he should make for some good television, especially if you don't want his team to win.
Who's out? Metta World Peace is out with an ankle injury and won't be with the team in Baltimore. J.R. Smith and Amare Stoudemire are also out, as neither is able to run at full speed right now. Washington's going to be missing Emeka Okafor, Otto Porter, Chris Singleton and Nene, who is back from Brazil, but is expected to miss his second straight game.
What are they good at? New York was one of the NBA's best offensive team's last year, posting the NBA's third-best offensive rating, but that could change this season. Last year's Knicks were so effective because, with Melo at power forward for much of the season, the team was able to play him with great catch and shoot players at all three perimeter position and former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler dunked pretty much anything in his general vicinity. This year, though, with no Kidd to move the ball, the horribly-inefficient Bargnani replacing the sharp-shooting Novak and more minutes for the shaky-shooting World Peace, the chemistry that served the team's offense so well might not be there any more.
That said, the team still has the ability to put up a lot of points by playing off of Anthony and running Raymond Felton-Chandler pick and rolls. As long as the Knicks are able to force defensive breakdowns in this manner, they should be able to get a lot of open three pointers. They're just not going to make as many of them.
What are they bad at? New York's defense ranked only 17th in the NBA last year, and that ranking could fall as they incorporate their new personnel. Smith and Bargnani are abysmal defenders who are expected to play major roles. Felton isn't great either and can be out of shape, especially at the start of training camp. Iman Shumpert and World Peace are the team's stoppers, but World Peace is old and coming off a knee injury. Chandler is good when he's healthy and can make up for a lot of his teammates' mistakes, but with his health deteriorating, it's anyone's guess as to how many games he plays this year and how limited his mobility and explosiveness are.
Who's going to win? If Washington can beat Miami without Nene, they can beat New York too. New York's roster is still coming together and every key player other than Anthony and Shumpert seems to be in decline. This is a team that a lot of smart people think is going to win 50 games, but the parts they have aren't that good and don't really fit together. I'll go out on a limb and predict a Washington victory tonight.
What are your thoughts and predictions regarding tonight's game? Sound off in the comments and vote in our poll!
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- Heat vs. Wizards: Bradley Beal stars as Washington wins in a rout