The Washington Wizards have been on a roll lately. In case you hadn't heard, they're at .500 in December for the first time since 2007 and, with what should be a home game against the struggling Milwaukee Bucks tonight, they have a good shot at improving on their 9-9 record. What may be even more exciting is that lottery pick Otto Porter could make his long-awaited debut.
Where and when? Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center.
Are they good? Nope, not even at full health. The Bucks were a marginal playoff contender coming into the season, but an injury to defensive ace Larry Sanders and an under-performing offense has left the team with a 3-15 record. This is a team whose best case scenario was probably 40 wins and a sweep at the hands of the Heat in the first round of the playoffs. One month into the season, they're already looking like they're going to be leaders in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes.
Who's out? The Bucks will be missing Sanders, Caron Butler and Carlos Delfino, while centers Zaza Pachulia and Ekpe Udoh are both questionable for tonight after leaving Wednesday's game early. Washington is going to be missing Bradley Beal and Al Harrington, while Porter is a game-time decision.
What are they good at? Not much. Milwaukee is 25th in the NBA in defensive rating and last in offensive rating. In short, they can't score and are bad at preventing anyone else from scoring, hence their 3-15 record. The defense should improve once Sanders, who could be a dark horse candidate for Defensive Player of the Year this season, returns. Udoh is also an excellent defender, capable of both protecting the rim with his length and shot blocking instincts and stepping out onto the perimeter to bottle up pick and rolls.
What are they bad at? Putting the ball in the hole. OJ Mayo is leading the team in scoring with only 14.8 points per game, and no one else other than Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour is particularly adept at creating anything off the dribble. Players like Ersan Illyasova and John Henson could actually be very useful if they were paired with a pass first point guard with good court vision and a small forward or big man who could draw a double team. Unfortunately, the Bucks don't have either of those. Knight tends to overdribble and look for his own shot, while the team's other shot creators, Gary Neal and Butler, just aren't that good. Meanwhile, all of the big men are good rebounders and can get the occasional garbage bucket, but none of them are particularly good in the pick and roll or posting up.
Are Ersan Illyasova and James Franco the same person? Yes.
Will Otto Porter play? And if so, how much? While Porter is still listed as a gametime decision, I suspect he'll finally play tonight. This is a fairly unimportant game against a weak opponenet, so it should help as far as easing him into the NBA. He's also been practicing without any setbacks, plus it's not like the team would need him to shoulder a heavy minutes load with Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza ahead of him in the rotation. My guess, and this is purely speculation, is that he'll make his debut late in the second quarter, play anywhere from ten to 15 minutes and put up a fairly pedestrian statline.
Who's going to win? Washington is playing at home, plus they're just a better team, so the smart money is on the Wizards. That said, the Bucks' smaller lineups gave the team trouble during their last meeting, so it's possible they pull off the upset. If Washington loses, it will likely be because the Bucks' big men were able to move their feet well enough to keep John Wall out of the paint and take away the uncontested three pointers that Washington's wings have been feasting on as of late.
What do you think is going to happen tonight? Vote in our poll and sound off in the comments!