Over the next month, we’ll be talking with a variety of people who cover each NBA team to find out a little bit about their team, and how they expect the season to go. We’ll also find out what they believe will be the most intriguing matchup when the two team’s meet during the regular season. Continuing with the Southeast Division, we look at the Washington Wizards with the help of Ben Mehic of WizOfAwes. You can find Ben on twitter @BenMehicNBA.
Thursday, October 30th @ Orlando
Saturday, November 15th @ Washington
Wednesday, December 10th @ Orlando
Monday, February 9th @ Washington
Last Season: 44-38; Finished Fifth in Eastern Conference; Lost in Second Round To Indiana Pacers
December 2nd: Washington 98 Orlando 90
February 25th: Washington 115 Orlando 106
March 14th: Orlando 101 Washington 104 OT
April 11th: Orlando 86 Washington 96
Point Guard: John Wall
Shooting Guard: Bradley Beal
Small Forward: Paul Pierce
Power Forward: Nene Hilario
Center: Marcin GortatOct 8, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza (1) dribbles the ball as Brooklyn Nets small forward Paul Pierce (34) defends in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
A: I don’t think anyone should expect Paul Pierce to replace Trevor Ariza. Ariza was one of the best 3-and-D players in the league this past season, and at this point in his career, Pierce won’t contribute much on the defensive end of the floor.
But, with that said, I think the Wizards will gain a bit more offensive versatility. Pierce had a lot of success with the Brooklyn Nets playing the power forward position and I think we’ll see Randy Wittman play more small-ball this season. His ability to score should take some pressure off John Wall and Bradley Beal, especially in the fourth quarter.
Ariza was also a great leader for Washington last season, but the Wizards will add a future Hall-of-Famer, which is something they haven’t had on their roster in quite some time. Pierce has been through it all. If there’s anyone you’d want to mentor someone like Otto Porter, it’s Paul Pierce. He’s not the same player he used to be, but I still think he has some gas left in the tank. He’s The Truth, after all.Apr 14, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) dribbles the ball past Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Q: What’s the next step for the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal this season?
A: In order for the Wizards to take the ‘next step’, John Wall and Bradley Beal are going to have to be more consistent throughout the season. Now that Wall is entering his fifth season in the NBA and Beal is considered one of the best young guards in the league, we’ll probably see both players play well on a more consistent basis.
Of course, Wall needs to show that he’s capable of knocking down the outside shot after posting career numbers last season. As for Beal, he has to become more efficient. He played very well during the playoffs, so hopefully that carries over to the regular season.
Q: What’s one matchup you’ll be watching this season when the Magic and Wizards meet?
A: Even though he declined to work out for the Wizards, I’m a huge fan of Victor Oladipo. I personally think he could have won the Rookie of the Year award this past season, and now that he has a year of NBA basketball under his belt, I’m excited to see how much he’s improved his game this summer.
Watching Oladipo compete against Beal this season should be super fun. Both players are competitive and they had some good games against each other last year. I’m definitely excited to watch that match up. Oh, and the Elfrid Payton/John Wall match up should also be great. It’s safe to say that I’ll be watching the Magic on League Pass this season.
Q: What do you expect out of this Wizards team this season? Do they possibly unseed the Miami Heat for the Southeast Division?
A: I expect the Wizards to become a top team in the Eastern Conference. After beating the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, they’ve got postseason experience and I think that will be huge for their growth. Getting home court advantage in the playoffs should be their goal this season.
The Southeast Division will probably be one of the most competitive divisions in the NBA. Miami isn’t a championship contender without LeBron James, but they’ve added a few very solid pieces in Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, and whatever is left of Danny Granger. The Charlotte Hornets are still criminally underrated. The addition of Lance Stephenson should make them a top team in the conference, and they could also propel up the standings. The Atlanta Hawks should also be better this season now that Al Horford is expected to return.
Washington could win the division, but it won’t be easy.