Washington Wizards Southeast Division Preview: Breaking Down The Match Up Against Orlando Magic


For the Washington Wizards, Summer League has now come to an end. There will not be basketball for months, but that won’t stop us writers from analyzing and evaluating the season ahead of us. Speaking of, here’s a breakdown on how the Wizards match up with one of their worst division rivals, the Orlando Magic.

The Magic aren’t expected to be great next year, but with all of their young talent, they should be close to playoff contention in the weak East. With a new head coach and skill at every position, the team should be great in the future. But, for Washington Wizards fans, the question is: how do the Magic match up with DC’s squad next season?

At the one, the Wizards have John Wall, an All-Star who is — to most — a top five point guard in the league.

To counter Wall, the Magic will play Elfrid Payton. Payton is a second-year player with similar strengths and weaknesses as a young Rajon Rondo — he has a knack for passing and can rebound well for his position. The Louisiana Lafayette product struggles with his outside shot and is improving as a finisher, but can provide great defense on the perimeter.

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Wall is obviously a better player. Though Payton is a good defender, Wall is too quick on the perimeter for almost anyone to contain. And defensively, Wall would feast on Payton due to his inexperience and inconsistent outside shot. The Washington Wizards hold a major advantage in this matchup.

At shooting guard, the Magic boast Victor Oladipo, another young, athletic guard with ball-handling capabilities. Lining up against Oladipo in this matchup would be fourth-year player Bradley Beal, a knockdown shooter who is working to improve his playmaking abilities this summer.

This matchup is closer than many would think.

Oladipo actually has the edge in nearly every major statistic (points, assists, rebounds, etc.) while shooting a higher field goal percentage in more games. In the regular season, the Magic two guard was clearly better. But in the playoffs was where Beal owned the spotlight.

Washington’s third overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft led the team in points per game (23.4), showing why he is considered an elite two guard in this league.

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Both can defend well and score in their own ways.

Oladipo, like Payton, attacks the basket because he lacks a steady jumper.

Beal, on the other hand, is a knock down shooter that provides spacing to the offense and allows Wall to distribute amongst the team.

In terms of overall playing abilities, this matchup is a wash, but Beal is a better team fit due to his perimeter shot.

The Wizards, once again, hold an advantage at the second guard spot.

The starting small forward spot for the Washington Wizards is not set in stone, but many assume Otto Porter will step into the role as Wittman’s three.

Opposing him would be forward Tobias Harris, who is coming off of a free agency where he netted $64 million over four years. Harris will make nearly four times the amount Porter will, but with his recent play, it is well-deserved.

Both players can play both forward spots, allowing the team to go big or small depending on the position. Harris is an athletic wing who can score efficiently (17.1 PPG on 46.6% shooting) and can rebound at a high clip as well (top six amongst small forwards in rebounds per game last season).

Porter, on the other hand, is also athletic, but isn’t the scorer Harris is. And although the Washington Wizards’ forward rebounded well at an impressive rate during the playoffs, he didn’t do it as consistently as Harris. (Porter didn’t get a lot of minutes in the regular season, but his Per 36 rebounding numbers aren’t special.)

Head to head, Porter could contain Harris due to Porter’s size and length, and vice versa. However, due to Harris’ scoring ability,  will end up scoring more points and grabbing more boards. Being the more mature and developed player, the Magic forward holds the advantage in this matchup.

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The power forward spot for both teams is uncertain.

The Wizards could play Porter, Jared Dudley, or last year’s starter, Nene Hilario, at the four spot.

The Magic could also entertain the idea of having Harris start at the four, but their most viable option would be to start second-year player Aaron Gordon (who just had jaw surgery).

Since Gordon is a 6’9″ athletic freak, Randy Wittman and the Washington Wizards may feel the need to go small, meaning Dudley and Porter would both see more minutes at the four than normal.

Nene would not be able to keep up well with the youthful Gordan in transition and on the perimeter, and though he is two inches taller and thirty pounds heavier, he had lower rebounding numbers (per 36 minutes) last year than the highflyer.

Nene would really struggle guarding Gordon, especially on the perimeter.

During Orlando’s Summer League (yes, I know it’s just Summer League), the Magic forward showed off his increased range and improved handle. If he can translate what he did to the big leagues, this would be a tough cover for anyone, especially the older Nene.

Most likely, the Washington Wizards would need to start Dudley or Porter at the four spot and have Nene come off the bench as the backup center for the night. Gordon is good, but he’s no Anthony Davis, and both Dudley and Porter could do a better job of keeping up with the uber-athlete.

If Wittman can use the capabilities of those two at the power forward position, I give this matchup a wash. If not, Gordon would have the advantage over a slower Nene.

The Orlando Magic are arguably the strongest at the center position, with star Nikola Vucevic manning the middle. To match up with the big man, the Wizards will start a foreigner of their own. Marcin Gortat (of Poland) will bang down low with Vucevic among others.

Vucevic is an offensive-minded guy that can score the basketball and rebound at a high rate. Vucevic was a top ten rebounder in the league over the past season, averaging over ten a game. In fact, his boards per game actually decreased from two seasons ago, meaning that he’s an even better rebounder than he showed last season.

Gortat, on the other hand, is average on the glass. The “Polish Hammer” just found himself in the top twenty in rebounds per game (sitting at eighteenth) while averaging 8.7 in each contest. Gortat will need to work to keep Vucevic off the boards in this matchup.

One of Vucevic’s glaring weaknesses is his defense.

Gortat will need to make the most out of his touches offensively, because Vucevic isn’t much of an on-ball defender (or even a rim protector, for that matter). On the opposite end, he’s a great post scorer, and will receive many touches down low, but Gortat’s defensive abilities should help limit Vucevic’s production.

The bench is where the Washington Wizards have a major advantage.

Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld added wing depth and shooters (Gary Neal, Alan Anderson, rookie Kelly Oubre, and Dudley) to a team that lacked both last season. The front office also retained Drew Gooden, a forward that will provide post minutes off the bench as the four or even the five man.

Other notables on the Wizards bench are Ramon Sessions and Kris Humphries.

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The Magic don’t have quite the luxury on the wing as the Wizards do.

Orlando did draft Mario Hezonja, a guard/forward, but Evan Fournier, Devin Marble, CJ Watson, and Hezonja aren’t going to get it done on the perimeter. As for their frontcourt, Jason Smith is a decent backup option, but Channing Frye, Dewayne Dedmon, and Andrew Nicholson aren’t.

Both benches provide spacing on the perimeter with their shooters, but unlike the Magic, Washington’s bench allows them to go small by sticking Dudley at the four spot. This could be problematic for Orlando’s big, slow bench to guard. The Wizards hold the upper hand once again.

Overall, the Washington Wizards are clearly the better team.

While the Magic have young talent, the Wizards have that as well as star power and veteran leadership. According to Jared Dudley (who was recently interviewed on ESPN Radio 980), the Wizards veterans are “vets who don’t care about numbers; care about winning.”

That is going to be the difference between the two teams this season.

Next: How the Wizards Can Replace Dudley's Production

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