Wizards are pretty clearly the underdog in their match up with the Bulls, and we've seen the experts from CBS Sports, ESPN, and several other outlets pick Chicago almost unanimously. But it didn't stop Bill Simmons from talking up the Wizards today on his podcast with Grantland's Zach Lowe.
Simmons: "John Wall is the guy I'm thinking for the leap, and you and I are not crazy about this Washington team, but on the other hand you do have Nene back and I just like this match up for them. I wasn't expecting them to play Chicago in round one and I just think Chicago has a lot of trouble scoring points. I was watching them in that Charlotte game on the last night of the season and when the game slows down like that, they're running plays for Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy Jr. That's not gonna work in the playoffs, I think Washington can beat that team."
Lowe: "I picked the Bulls in six, but I was very surprised that only one of ESPN's analysts picked Washington because I view this as a toss-up series. I get why people love Chicago so much and their record in the last 50 games is remarkable, but I think we as an NBA media collective are overrating the Bulls, and I think the NBA is also overrating the Bulls. I mean, the fact that Brooklyn did everything they could to get the hell out of that series and face Toronto and put themselves in Miami's bracket instead of Indiana's is crazy to me.
I do think people are starting to conflate "they're physical and tough" with 'they're an elite team' and one is true and the other is not. I think the Wizards have a real chance in this series, I don't like the way that they match up with Chicago and how their style of play plays into Chicago's defense but Wall -- if he's a superstar -- this is why you have superstars. You have the guy that says 'this is a bad match up, our offensive tendencies play right into what they do, but I'm going to take all of that and totally flip the equation because I'm that good. And I can get to the basket against a team that doesn't let people get to the basket, or I can get those passes into the corners that the Bulls don't normally allow.' He's fascinating in the first round for exactly that reason."
Simmons: "On top of it for Washington -- the Gortat and Nene combo -- at least you know that they're not gonna totally be pushed around by those guys. I think Washington can play fast, run and push the pace. Beal is a bad match up for Chicago, and Washington has dudes that's been in games, you know? Ariza's won a title, Al Harrington has been in a bunch of big games, the Professor! What happens to Chicago when The Professor decides he wants to work some of his magic down in the low post on little short point guards?"
Lowe: "There's always one series where I don't quite have the guts to make the picks that I sorta want to make and I end up regretting it.... I don't quite feel in my bones that Washington's gonna win this series but I do think they have a chance and I want to make the pick but I just couldn't."
Simmons: "It's just fundamentally difficult for them [Chicago] to score. Will they get to 90 points more than twice in any series? I don't know."
Lowe: "You have me regretting my Bulls pick... I think I have Bulls in seven.... I think I'm gonna stick with that, I have faith in the Bulls to grind out these wins and Washington to throw a game away that they probably should win."
Simmons: "Yeah I'm going with the ridiculous final four of Miami and Washington, then Oklahoma City and San Antonio."
Some other highlights:
- Both agree Wall is the breakout candidate in the playoffs this year a la Steph Curry.
- They both fear Chicago will have a lot of trouble against Andre Miller with Lowe citing that they'll probably have to do some cross-matching in order to match up with him.
- Lowe talks about Nene's presence, and how if he's able to start and play 30 minutes, they'll present a lot of match up problems.
- Simmons thinks they won't be the "happy to be there team" in that they have enough experience on the roster to go into round two against Indiana and beat them. Says they'll do what the Grizzlies did last year in the playoffs.