Most No. 4 vs. No. 5 seed matchups are fairly even, and we think the Wizards-Bulls series might be too. But the coaching matchup? That is not even on the surface.
On one side, you have Tom Thibodeau, a defensive specialist who has helped revolutionize the way the league guards the NBA pet play: the pick and roll. He's prepared for anything and helped his team overcome all odds to secure the fourth seed in the East. He's appropriately regarded as one of the best coaches in the league, and it's almost a near certainty that he's in the running for Coach of the Year from here on out.
Then, you have Randy Wittman. He has a career win percentage under 40 percent and hasn't sniffed the playoffs until now. His team's offense can be a dumpster fire a lot of time and he's basically scoffed at the notion of using analytics in his game plan. The team as a whole led the league in midrange jumpers under his watch this season ... and finished in the bottom 10 in efficiency from that range.
But he's also led this franchise to two straight top-10 finishes in defensive efficiency, which is no easy feat considering what this team has gone through this season. They lost Emeka Okafor, replaced their anchor in Nene with the likes of Drew Gooden and Al Harrington for eight weeks and replaced Garrett Temple with Andre Miller. The Wizards were right there sitting at No. 10 in defensive rating when all this occurred, and I was sure they'd fall off. They didn't. For all his faults, he has the Wizards right where they should be.
So, can he pull off the upset? Can David beat Goliath? Can he hold his own against probably the second best-coach in the league? The Bulls offense is all but shot, and if Wittman manages to take away Joakim Noah's passing lanes by crowding him with Nene (who had a lot of success with this in the past), the Wizards could very well run win this. And who knows what can happen if John Wall catches fire from mid-range in game one or two and steals away homecourt advantage. The possibilities are endless.
This is Wittman's change to change the narrative. If he pulls it off, will it be enough for us to want him back on a multi-year extension?
We'll see. Regardless, I doubt people would keep looking at him as another lame-duck coach.
- John Wall appeared on ESPN's First Take this morning. The interview was short, nothing of note was really said, and no mention of Skip Bayless calling him a "shoot-first point guard" during the offseason.
- SB Nation should be your only source for playoff team previews. You're not going to find a more extensive one on the web. Here's the Wizards preview, and the preview of their series with Chicago which includes predictions. Spoiler: Mike has the Bulls in 7.
- John Wall is done writing "playoffs" on his shoes, and is now going with "We made it." Pretty great story here from Michael Lee of the Washington Post on the team's mindset going into the playoffs.
- Another great piece from Michael Lee, this time talking to Chris Webber about losing to Chicago in 1997. Moral victories!
- Yesterday I wrote a little something on what John Wall has to do against the Bulls.
- And in case you needed more reasons why the NBA is better than the NHL, the Bog has you covered.
- Andrew Sharp accurately sums up the Wizards' dilemma in this Grantland piece.