Coming off an excellent performance against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Washington Wizards get to play another weak opponent at home tonight as they face the New Orleans Hornets. The future Pelicans have struggled as of late, having won only three of their last 12 games, providing the Wizards with a good chance to build some legitimate momentum.
Where and when? Tip off is at 7 p.m. at the Verizon Center.
Who's out? Austin Rivers and Jason Smith are dunzo for the rest of the year, while Ryan Anderson is questionable for tonight's game. For the Wizards, A.J. Price, Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal are all day-to-day.
Are they good? Not really. The Hornets have some pieces, but Anderson is the only one of their core pieces that has reached his prime or something close to it. Eric Gordon, the other core piece, has struggled with injury, and Anthony Davis is still pretty raw. As a result, New Orleans is 22-43 with the point differential of a 24-win team.
Why should I care? Because it's almost Mach Mardness and arguably the most popular University of Maryland player of the last decade is going to be in town. Love him or hate him, Vasquez is a lot of fun to watch and seeing him in a featured role when college basketball is on everyone's mind is going to be a treat.
What are they good at? Putting up points. New Orleans has the NBA's 12th best offensive rating despite allowing Rivers - one of the most inefficient scorers in recent memory - play more than 1,400 minutes. The pieces don't fit together as well as they'd like them to, but the Hornets' backcourt of Gordon and Vasquez features two guys who can make plays for Anderson, Anthony Davis and Robin Lopez. Once they iron out some of the kinks in their offense, the Hornets could actually become one of the league's most efficient offenses.
What are they bad at? Defense in general, contesting shots in particular. The Hornets rank 28th in the NBA in defensive rating while allowing opponents to post an effective field goal percentage of 51.5 prcent, third worst in the league. This is in spite of competent if unspectacular interior defense from Lopez being coupled with the length and size of Al Farouq Aminu and The Brow. Once their youngsters have more experience and become better at rotating on defense and sealing off driving lanes, they'll surrender far fewer open threes and shots at the rim and could even become very good once Davis reaches his prime. That said, they're still a few years away from being particularly good.
How's Vasquez? Pretty darned good. The former Terp has become a very effective distributor who HOLY CRAP is third in the league in assists per game. Vasquez is more of a playmaker than a pure passer a la Jason Kidd or Andre Miller, but he makes quick decisions and knows how to play to his strengths. He's still probably not someone who should start for a good team, but he'd be one of the best sixth men in the league if he was put in the right situation.
How's Rivers? Pretty darned bad. Despite a nice-looking crossover, Rivers' lack of athleticism and shooting ability made it almost impossible for him to find a way to score efficiently despite his nasty handles. He's out for the rest of the year with a hand injury and will need to completely overhaul is approach to the game if he's ever going to live up to his draft position and pedigree. That said, he has one NBA-caliber skill (getting to the line), and could be a good sixth man if he ever manages to fix his jumper and develop a good enough spot-up jumper that he could play off the ball from time to time.
Who's worth keeping an eye on? minu is an unrestricted free agent this summer and has loads of defensive potential. It's unlikely he winds up in Washington via free agency, but a sign and trade isn't inconceivable considering Washington's lack of a natural small-ball power forward.
Where can I read more about the Hornets? Check out At The Hive.