The Washington Wizards return to the postseason after an underachieving season last year. With a 49-33 record this season John Wall is arguably appearing as the best all-around point guard behind Russell Westbrook. 23.1-points per game, 10.7 assist per game and shooting 45-percent from the field are all the best Wall has played in his career. The 2.1 steals per game he averages for this season sets him second in the league overall behind Draymond Green (2.03-steals per game).
Beal the Wall
An injury plagued backcourt of Wall and Bradley Beal last season never could get them in sync for this Wizards teams. Beal also is having his best year scoring as he’s averaging 23.1-points per game and shooting 48-percent from the field; 40-percent from the three-point line. Between this backcourt duo that’s an average of 46 points combined from Wall and Beal. Again, we could lay the scapegoat of injuries on why these two are blooming late but this is the backcourt that was imagined a year ago.
Dwight Down low
On the opposing side the Atlanta Hawks will certainly have their work cut out on the defensive end. Dennis Schroder and Thabo Sefolosha will need to at their best contain the Beal/Wall combination. At 6-1 Schroder will be undersized coming into this match-up against a 6-4 Wall. The advantage of having a Dwight Howard under the rim however, is what could make the difference in the world defensively for the Hawks. While he isn’t prime Dwight Howard, 13.5-points per game, 12.7-rebounds per game and 1.2-blocks per game is still enough a significant impact in the paint. Howard will be opposed by his former teammate Marcin Gortat who himself can hold his own in the paint defensively.
Perhaps the only saving grace for Atlanta is the fact they kept Paul Millsap on the roster despite trade rumors early in the season. In this fourth straight All-Star year all with the Hawks Millsap has been the best player in Atlanta this season. The versatility to post-up or play the perimeter and shoot the ball will help spread the Wizards defense. Defensively, the Wizards will call upon Ian Mahinmi and Markieff Morris to match the size of Millsap.
Another player that benefits with the improvement of Wall and Beal is Otto Porter. Porter is having a career year himself with 13.4-points per game, 6.4-rebounds per game and shooting 52% from the field (43-percent from the three-point line). This a prime example of the Wizards young core finally gaining traction and improving themselves which is translating to winning. Should Porter be able to keep his shooting consistent in the playoffs the penetrate and dish game will be off the wall. For the Hawks keep an eye on Tim Hardaway to come in and give a boost to the offense off the bench. Defensively, the Hawks will need him to help contain Bradley Beal meaning Hardaway could see significant playing time in this series.
The containment of the Wizards will be difficult and hard to match from an Atlanta standpoint. The loss of Al Horford has drawn the Hawks thin of a bolstered frontcourt as Kris Humphries and Ersan Ilyasova round out the remaining Power Forwards on the roster. Although, this is the four and five seed match-up the I believe the Wizards could take this one home quickly.
Series prediction: Wizards in 5 games
Baseline Times NBA Staff Writer