The Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Bobcats actually have a lot in common. Both teams struggled throughout most of the aughties, "peaking" with 40-something win seasons in which they were never strong contenders to even make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, much less win a championship. The two teams are also currently comprised of a few over-priced veterans (Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, meet Ben Gordon and DeSagana Diop) and a half dozen or so recent first-round picks.
The most significant of these picks for Charlotte is a player the Wizards know: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Kidd-Gilchrist was one of the most-discussed draft picks in recent memory, with most of the controversy related to whether or motor and work-ethic would be able to make up for a shaky jumper and relatively weak handle. Drafted second overall, how he performs in comparison to Wizards' rookie and third overall pick Bradley Beal will be very interesting, as the two players, while vastly different in terms of playing style, are still trying to prove themselves at the professional level.
While the Beal/Kidd-Gilchrist matchup will be fun to watch, the rest of the game probably won't be. Despite a decent record and a few underrated offseason moves, Charlotte is still a very bad team, one that should provide the struggling Wizards with the team's best chance at a victory so far this year.
Where, When, and How Do I Watch: The game will be played in Charlotte at 7 PM EST and will air on Comcast SportsNet.
Why Should I Care: Because Washington will hopefully win. Charlotte's got some nice pieces, most notably Kemba Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist, and Bismack Biyombo, but even at their best, these guys aren't going to scare anyone.
What Does Charlotte Do Well: Handle the ball. Charlotte is scoring at a very nice clip this year, ranking seventh in the NBA in offensive efficiency, largely based on the strength of the team's perimeter attack. By running the offense almost entirely through Walker and pick and roll maestro Ramon Sessions, Charlotte has become an extremely low-turnover team that almost never posts up. The flip side of this, though, is that they're especially vulnerable to teams with solid defensive point guards and mobile bigs, two things that Washington actually does have right now.
What Does Charlotte Do Poorly: Play defense, although that should eventually change. After a few year's of Larry Brown-led dominance, Charlotte's defense has fallen off a cliff, ranking last in the NBA in 2012. Despite the team's youth and length, they struggle to defend, largely as a result of poor rotations and defensive effort. Point guard Sessions is one of the worst defenders in the league, too, and big man Byron Mullens makes Andrea Bargnani look like Wes Unseld.
How Do the Wizards Match Up With Them: The Wizards are more talented than the Bobcats, but the matchups actually do favor Charlotte. Sessions is an excellent pick and roll operator, while A.J. Price has been an at-best middling defender this year. Also, Kidd-Gilchrist is very good at cutting to the rim for dunks and layups, something that gets a lot easier if he's being checked by a gambler like Ariza. Beal should excel, though, as his ability to quickly change directions with the ball will likely flummox the Bobcats' inexperienced and/or disinterested frontcourt players.
How Has Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Done So Far: Kidd-Gilchrist has been very successful through his first five NBA games, averaging 9.6 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, and 1.9 steals per 36 minutes to go along with 14.6 points and solid defense. He's been particularly effective around the basket, making 62 percent of his shots at the rim. Unfortunately for Charlotte, he's been as advertised as a shooter, having made only four of his 14 shots that haven't been at the rim this season. As teams develop more detailed scouting reports on him, his scoring rate will likely fall, at least until he begins to develop a mid-range game or some advanced ball-handling moves.
What Happened to Tyrus Thomas: Remember how Tyrus Thomas used to be this beastly power forward with almost infinite length and hops, a guy who had the potential to be one of the best defensive players in the entire league? Yeah, that guy's long gone. Basically, Thomas did really well in his first season in Charlotte, showing a lot of growth as a scorer, rebounder, and teammate. Then, once the ink dried on a huge extension, the Bobcats decided to move a 6'10 guy who can't dribble to small forward, something that almost never works, especially in an NBA that is becoming smaller and more skilled every day. Thomas lost his confidence, then his motor, then became disgruntled, and now he's basically Charlotte's Andray Blatche.