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Wizards vs. Hawks preview: Washington opens regular season in Atlanta

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NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info

When: Thursday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m. EST
Where: Phillips Arena in Atlanta, GA
TV: CSN Washington / Fox Sports Southeast / NBA League Pass
Radio: WFED 1500 Wizards Radio App

Injury Report

The Wizards should have everyone available except for Ian Mahinmi, who won’t be back until at least late November. For the Hawks, Tiago Splitter is out and Mike Scott is a game-time decision.

What to look for

How will the Wizards defend Dwight Howard?

Though not the threat he once was, Howard is not a player to take lightly. He’s a big, athletic presence inside, and the Hawks may look to involve him as much as possible to smooth his adjustment period with the team.

Historically, Marcin Gortat has been fairly average guarding Howard - not particularly good, not particularly bad. In eleven head-to-head matchups since they ceased to be teammates, Howard’s points per game and rebounds per game roughly match his average over those years.

But where things get interesting is when Gortat sits down. If the Polish Machine picks up a couple early fouls, or takes his normal rest a few minutes before Howard, the Wizards essentially have three options: They can play the well-overmatched Jason Smith at center and hope for the best. They can play undrafted rookie Daniel Ochefu and hope for the best. Or they can go small, with either Andrew Nicholson or Markieff Morris at center, to see if they can make up for a lack of interior defense with outside shooting.

The answer would be simple of Ian Mahinimi were healthy, but as Mike Prada pointed out on the Limited Upside Eastern Conference preview, Mahinmi’s injury may be a blessing in disguise if it forces the Wizards to experiment with five-out lineups.

Can Kelly Oubre continue to be productive against NBA-level competition?

The Wizards’ lack of depth on the wing means that the backup small forward spot is Kelly Oubre’s to lose after spending much of last season out of the rotation. You can argue whether or not it’s a good idea, but the Wizards will be relying on him to be serviceable backup to Otto Porter this year.

Oubre turned a lot of heads in the preseason, averaging 13 points per game and shooting 35 percent from three. But Oubre did a lot of his damage against fringe players fighting for a shot at being the 15th man. Against a tightened NBA rotation, Oubre will have to prove that he can make the right reads in traffic and finish at the rim more efficiently against bigger, more athletic players than the ones he faced in preseason. If he does, the gaping hole on the wing will start to look a lot smaller for the Wizards.

Most Likely Wizard Killer: Kent Bazemore

He’s not gonna Baze less, is he?