Jan 17, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) fouls Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal (3) in the fourth quarter at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 96-93. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
3) What advantages do the Wizards have over the Bulls and vice versa? I don’t want you guys to make a prediction, but how well do you think the Wizards could perform against one of the league’s premier defensive teams?
The Bulls might have the best overall player in this series, Joakim Noah, but the Wizards have the best perimeter player in John Wall. Wall has the ball in his hands at all times and has the ability to be a one-man fast break and beat the vaunted Bulls defense down the court. Noah relies on his own hustle plays and someone to pass him the ball; but he anchors the leagues best scoring defense and brings energy that is unmatched across the league to his teammates and the Chicago crowd. The Bulls play great help defense, but I believe the fact that nobody on their team can guard Wall alone will create some opportunities for the Wizards to shoot open three pointers. Wall will need to be the best player on the floor for the Wizards to be successful and he is definitely capable of doing so.
The Wizards have the advantage in terms of three point shooting and backcourt athleticism. John Wall has more talent than any backcourt player in this series. If he’s engaged and attacking, there’s not much Chicago can do to counteract that. If Chicago moves Jimmy Butler to Wall, then Brad Beal should get some opportunities. With Nene healthy, Washington also has the size to bother Chicago. Chicago’s advantages are coaching, toughness, and experience. Chicago’s coaches and players have been through postseason wars and they know what it takes to have playoff success. We have no idea how Washington’s young backcourt is going to respond to playoff pressure. Chicago has one more advantage; D.J. Augustin. Anyone who watches the Wizards knows about Wall’s struggles versus smaller point guards. Will John be up to the task now that it’s the Playoffs and he can’t look past him or will Randy Wittman have to make an adjustment? (I hope Randy Wittman counters that with a steady dose of Professor Miller post ups, but we’ll see).
One advantage is obviously the point guard position. It may not matter too much because the Bulls defense is team oriented, but John Wall is easily able to beat Hinrich off the dribble, and it creates a lot of interesting possibilities to isolate Wall against Hinrich. Another advantage is the bench. While DJ Augustin and Taj Gibson have been spark-plugs for the Bulls all year, the Wizards have fun offensive lineups that can exploit the Bulls bench. Andre Miller, a post up savant, will have no problem backing down Augustin and initiating offense from the post. If Wittman chooses to use it, the AARP unit could provide some pivotal spacing that will make the Bulls job a lot harder. Al Harrington, in particular, could potentially be a contributor in this series, as he will be able to the Chicago big men out of the paint, giving Miller room to operate. It is important to remember that the Wizards are facing a bad offensive team, so even if they are slumping, they should have a shot to win most of the games.
As mentioned above, the Wizards main advantage lies in the backcourt. If they keep the pressure on the Bulls guards, both offensive and defensively by way of forced turnovers, Washington will have a chance to get out and run in the fastbreak. With a blazing point guard and several athletes on the wings, the Wizards would benefit by getting some easy points before Chicago’s vaunted defense has a chance to get position. From the Bulls’ perspective, the suffocating nature of their man to man defense can cause even the best offenses to falter. For one as mediocre as Washington’s (finished 18th in offensive efficiency), early pressure could demoralize and derail any attempt to get into half court sets. The Bulls also bring into the series a very productive and consistent front court, starting with All-NBA and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Joakim Noah. Marcin Gortat is not used to guarding the high post so that inexperience could lead to Noah controlling Chicago’s offense from his customary high-post position. These teams match up pretty evenly and of all possibly first round matchups, this is probably the preferred one for Washington. I see the series going either 6 or 7 games and ultimately hopeful that it’ll be John Wall and Co. left standing on top.
Offensively, the Wizards’ main advantage will be Nene. Despite Noah having a stellar season and being a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Nene should find success against him due to his large frame and quick post moves. The other advantage will be the point guard play, as Wall and Miller are capable of picking this defense apart with their pinpoint passing.