I think this is the night. The Washington Wizards have clawed their way to .500 time and time again and never quite seem to win the one game necessary to go over. Tonight, in the second game of a back to back, they play the team with the worst record in the Western Conference, the 14-29 Utah Jazz. Pray for pancakes.
Where and when? The game is at 9 p.m. in Utah.
Are they good? No, although there's definitely talent there. Utah completely tore it down last year, letting Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk in free agency, and have gone all in with their young core. Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Alec "Don't Call Me Trey" Burks, Trey "Don't Call Me Alec" Burke and Enes "Don't Call Me Anus" Kanter, all look like potential future studs, or at the very least starting caliber players. The chemistry isn't quite there yet and they still haven't developed to the point where they can consistently play cohesive, NBA-caliber defense yet, though, so they're a really bad team. The bright side, at least from their perspective, is that in a few years and with another high lottery pick or three, they could be a championship caliber team.
Who's out? Derrick Favors is questionable for tonight's game. Washington is missing #GRJR and Al "Donatello" Harrington. Martell Webster missed last night's game due to illness and there's been no word with regard to his status for tonight as of this writing.
What are they good at? Uhh ... nothing? MySynergySports isn't working right now so I might be overlooking something minor, but their league rankings in almost every major statistical category are pretty bad (they're 18th in the NBA in defensive rebounding rate and offensive rebounding rate, huzzah!) so there's not much good that can be said about them. Subjectively, I like their length and mobility, especially that of the wings and Favors, and they have the potential to be a very solid defensive team down the road. Kanter is the odd one out here. He's fairly slow and is nowhere near the three point shooter he was supposed to be coming into the NBA and his presence seems to be holding back the rest of the team. They'd actually likely look a lot better with someone like Nene who excels at playing positional defense, can step out onto the perimeter and defend veteran post players next to Favors.
Hayward also deserves some love here. He's not good enough to be the focal point of an offense but he's stepped up admirably this season and really emerged as a do-it-all offensive player who can score, pass and even hit the glass at a good rate. His game reminds me a little bit of Gallinari with better court vision and less size, and that's a very good thing.
What are they bad at? Their spacing stinks. Even with Marvin Williams in the starting lineup as a smallball power forward, Utah still struggles to score when teams pack the paint. Burke and Burks are both making less than 35 percent of their three pointers and Hayward, the owner of one of the prettiest strokes in the NBA, is making only 32 percent. Some of this is scheme, some is a matter of talent, and some is simply a lack of consistently good point guard play. The bright side is that all of the young wings look like they should eventually develop into above average three point shooters. As they improve their off the dribble game and Favors improves as the dive man in pick and rolls, they could actually be very good one day.
Is Jamaal Tinsley still in the league? Not any more, but he played five games and 105 minutes this year before being let go. It's the end of an era.
Who's going to win? Washington has to get over the hump tonight. Look for Wall to dominate the smaller and less athletic Burke and for the Wizards to play off of him all night. Bradley Beal should also have a big game, as young teams like Utah tend to struggle to defend players who excel at cutting off the ball. If the Wizards lose, it's going to be a result of effort or some kind of freak shooting night in which someone like Hayward makes 8-10 three pointers. Even then, I think the Wizards will be able to outlast the Jazz tonight. Seriously, if they don't beat an inferior team that they match up well against, they need to start looking at making major changes to both the team and the coaching staff. Someone will need to ... wait for it ... face the music. Because they're playing the Jazz. Right?
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