The Washington Wizards are below .500 again, having lost two in a row since defeating the Portland Trailblazers last week. Tonight should offer them as good a chance at getting back on track as they could hope for, as the struggling Sacramento Kings come to town.
Where and when? Tip off is at six p.m. at the Verizon Center.
Are they good? That's totally relative. Sacramento is 17-33 with the point differential of a 21-29 game. They had a little bit of success after trading for Rudy Gay, fell into a rut and lost seven in a row, and have won two of their last three. They have a good if not quite elite offense that is built around the shot creating abilities of Demarcus Cousins, Gay and Isaiah Thomas, and that's rarely good enough to off-set an awful defense. Sacramento would probably be a fringe playoff contender in the East, roughly in the same position as Detroit or Charlotte. Unfortunately for Kings fans, the West is kind of sort just a little bit stacked so their season was basically over a month ago.
Who's out? Al Harrington should be out tonight, although he's expected to return in the next few weeks. Marcus Thornton and Rudy Gay are questionable for Sacramento.
What are they good at? Creating shots. Gay, Cousins and Thomas are all excellent shot creators, fully capable of going off for 30+ points on any given night and scoring from anywhere on the floor. Cousins has become one of the most dominant scoring big men in the NBA and looks like he's finally starting to live up to his All-NBA talent. Gay, despite his reputation as a wildly inaccurate volume shooter, has made 53% of his field goal attempts since coming to Sacramento. Thomas is averaging 20 and 6 assists in 34 minutes a night. The talent is definitely there for this team to put up a ton of points, and this team could become downright scary if they could find a way to surround these three with long three and d specialists who move the ball.
What are they bad at? Protecting the rim. Sacramento is allowing their opponents to make 63% of their shots from five feet or less from the basket, the second worst clip in the NBA per NBA.com/stats. Cousins, largely due to a lack of effort, isn't much of a rim protector, although he's looked better this year. The only other rotation player over 6'10, Jason Thompson, also isn't a particularly strong defender, and the team usually goes small with one of their small forwards at the four which only makes the lack of rim protection more obvious. While it's possible to field a great defense without an elite rim protector, it would require a lot more effort and discipline than the Kings have shown this year.
Who's going to win? I'm going with the Wizards tonight. While Cousins is a handful, Nene excels at guarding strong post players and will likely make him work hard for everything he gets tonight. Meanwhile, the Kings' weak defensive rotations should lead to a lot of open looks for Bradley Beal and John Wall. If Washington loses, it will likely be due to a freak shooting night from someone like Ben McLemore or a lack of effort out of the gate.