While the season officially started last night as the Bulls outlasted the Cavaliers, Stephen Curry and the reigning champs got their rings before routing the Pelicans, the Van Gundy led Pistons won an ugly one over the Hawks, there are 14 games on tonight’s schedule. For the basketball fans in the nation’s capital, the curtain rises on the 2015-2016 campaign on the road in Orlando where the Washington Wizards start the season against a division opponent. It’s officially the “Wall Show” as the keys to the offense are his to drive as he see’s fit. It’s an honor not every point guard in the league has, but Wall has shown over the past couple of seasons why he is one of the rare breeds that should thrive with the added responsibility.
We could discuss everything that’s changed over the offseason for both teams, but there’s articles already done on that. What we will discuss is the keys to tonight’s game. Scott Skiles has taken over a very young Orlando team, a team that is much closer to playing his type of defense than being a good offensive team. In the backcourt they have two young players in Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo who have the size, length, and athletic ability to bother offensive players on the perimeter. They have a good young big in Nikola Vucevic and several other intriguing young pieces in Mario Hezonja, Aaron Gordon, Shabazz Napier, and Evan Fournier. That being said, they are still several steps behind the Wizards. Skiles has moved around a bit in his coaching career, but there’s one thing he does well. He gets teams to the postseason, getting there would be worthy of a parade in Orlando.
Washington is embarking on a new frontier, they are ditching the ancient traditional way of playing with two back to the basket bigs and moving to the pace-and-space style we’ve come to see take over the league. It will be interesting to see how Nene deals with coming off the bench, but if it means putting four players on the floor around John Wall that can truly spread the floor, it’s worth it. The Wizards hope that this is the season in which their young backcourt can stay on the court together, no injuries. It’ll also be fun to watch the continued growth of Otto Porter, there seemed to be a large faction of Wizards fans who didn’t understand why he was selected that high in the first round prior to his play in the postseason last year. Like that combo of Wall and Beal, Porter’s ability to fit in with those two is very important. He’s the perfect complimentary piece to them, it’s going to be about the power forward position for the Wizards this year. Who’s going to step in at the four and be able to stretch the floor and rebound. Washington is looking to take the next step this season, but it starts with doing what they have to do tonight. Beating teams that you’re supposed to beat.
Keys to a Wizards Victory
Dictate the tempo. With Wall having keys to the offense, it’s on him to decide just how fast to push the pace and when to slow it down. Everyone on his team isn’t going to be able to play at a breakneck pace all the time. Like Chris Paul, it’s on Wall to decide what the team needs when and where in the game.
Limit turnovers. Orlando is not a great offensive team, their goal is to feast off of turnovers and stops. If Washington can dictate the pace while limiting the turnovers, it will force the Magic to score in the half court. Something they’re not exactly great at.
Get the bigs going. It’s a given that Wall and Beal will get going at some point in the game as they can create their own shots, even Otto to a degree as he’s a very good off-ball cutter. It’s on the guards to set the table for the bigs, find Gortat when he’s rim-running and use the 4’s in pick-and-pops when needed. If they can keep their bigs engaged on both ends, it’ll go a long way.
Rebound. While the Magic aren’t a good offensive team, they are able to rebound the ball. It’s imperative that the Wizards keep Vucevic off the glass, he’s had several 12 plus rebound games over the last two seasons.
Defend. It’s great that the Wizards are moving to running more on offense, but they can’t forget about the other end of the floor. With everyone having to be in better shape to run on the offensive end, there is literally no excuses for anyone failing to get back on the defensive end of the floor.