Washington Wizards Southeast Division Preview: Breaking Down The Match Up Against Charlotte Hornets


Part 1: Washington Wizards vs. Orlando Magic Breakdown

The Washington Wizards and the Charlotte Hornets have both underwent numerous changes over the past few seasons.

While the Wizards have managed to make the playoffs several years in a row, the Hornets have experienced a couple of setbacks. This upcoming season, Michael Jordan‘s squad will look to redeem themselves following a terrible 2014-2015 campaign.

Last season, the Hornets struggled on offense due to their lack of shooting and spacing, and this year, it looks like they may have the same issue.

While they did acquire Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb via trades, neither of those two are proven shooters  — Batum shot around 32 percent from deep while Lamb converted on 34 percent of his threes.

Add those two to guard-forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (who is in the running for having the NBA’s worst jumpshot), and you’ve got three guards who can’t open up the floor enough for Al Jefferson to operate down low.

The Hornets also added Jeremy Lin and Tyler Hansborough in free agency, but neither of those two are threats to shoot mid- to long-ranged jumpers. In fact, Hansborough has taken just nineteen threes in his career and has made only one of those attempts.

Needless to say, neither player won’t worry the Washington Wizards much when on the perimeter.

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The only two real shooters on Charlotte’s squad this season are Troy Daniels and Frank Kaminsky.

Daniels saw just over twelve minutes per game last season (playing in eleven total games for the Hornets after being traded from the Timberwolves), but when he was on the court, he shot a blistering 47 percent from behind the arc.

When he’s in the game, the Wizards are going to have to pay attention to him, but he won’t stay in very long.

As for Kaminsky, the former Wisconsin Badger was the ninth overall pick for the Hornets in the draft.

Kaminsky projects to be a stretch four or even a stretch five.

The 7’0″ forward-center converted on 42 percent of his looks from three, but will have to adjust to the longer three point line in the NBA. Kaminsky will be a threat outside, but he won’t receive a ton of minutes.

The Wizards should do a good job of defending the Hornets, especially on the perimeter. The Hornets will most likely start Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Nicolas Batum (though with the lack of shooting of that trio, don’t be surprised if they start a shooter in front of Kidd-Gilchrist instead).

John Wall will guard Walker, and due to Batum’s size, Otto Porter — assuming he starts at the small forward — should matchup with the new Hornet.

This leaves Beal, the worst defender of the three (though he’s still adequate on defense) to defend Charlotte’s weakest link on offense: Kidd-Gilchrist.

Wall is, for the second straight matchup, better than the point guard opposing him, and considering he’s the best point guard in the division (and the entire East, for that matter), he’ll have the edge throughout every divisional game (unless Pat Riley can somehow find away to trade for Chris Paul, which, knowing his history, he’s very capable of doing).

The Hornets are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

The Hornets won 96-86. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Walker is anything but reliable.

Charlotte’s assumed franchise point guard wasn’t efficient last season and didn’t put up very impressive assisting and rebounding totals. The fifth-year point guard shot under 40 percent from the field and just over 30 percent from three, showing how ineffective he was as a scorer.

With how bad his shooting numbers were, you can’t expect him to do any worse. But in this matchup, however, he may find a way to do so.

Wall is an incredible perimeter defender who holds the advantage on Walker in size, speed, and quickness, which won’t bode well for the former UConn standout. Wall is superior on that end of the court.

With Wall on offense, expect much of the same dominance.

Kemba, as said earlier, doesn’t have the athleticism or height to matchup effectively with Wall. Wall should blow past his defender every time, getting to the paint and creating more open looks for his teammates and for himself.

Obviously, Wall is the better player at the point guard position, and the Washington Wizards will hold a major advantage there.

At the two spot, it’s close to the same. Though Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a fantastic defensive player, Bradley Beal will test his prowess.

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Beal’s spacing is a big key in the Wizards offense, allowing Wall more freedom to drive into the paint without teams sagging off to help.

If Kidd-Gilchrist does decide to rotate and defend Wall on the drive, Beal should be wide open for an outside jumper, whether that be a long two (which, to our dismay, he says he is going to keep shooting) or a three pointer.

And given Beal’s track record of shooting the long ball, that option could be lethal to the Hornets’ defense.

However, if MKG decides to stick onto Beal in an attempt to keep him from shooting more open jumpshots, expect Wall to feast on the drive.

Kidd-Gilchrist’s offense is where the Wizards hold a major advantage.

The defensive stud doesn’t look comfortable in a half-court set, and his lack of shooting clogs the paint and inside the arc.

He hasn’t played many minutes at all as a shooting guard which may force him to learn an entirely different position.

Though he is and will be listed as a small forward next season, in this matchup, however, he’s going to guard and will be guarded by a two (if he does start).

The small forward isn’t necessarily a strong position for either team, but both have guys that can play.

It’s not clear if Otto Porter Jr. will start at the three for the Washington Wizards yet (we could see him playing a lot of the four in a small ball lineup), but for now, we’ll assume he will, given that he has more upside than any other potential wing starter.

For the Hornets, the choice is easier — newly acquired Nicolas Batum will start at either the two or the three this year, and with his 6’8″ frame, it’s more likely he will start at the small forward.

As mentioned earlier, Batum isn’t much of a three-point threat.

The former Blazer has shown a decent ability to knock down the long ball throughout his days in the NBA, but during last season (a down year), he shot the worst percentage from three out of his seven year career.

Batum also averaged the least amount of points per game since his rookie season.

Porter, on the other hand, is actually worse in terms of shooting the long ball.

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While he did actually shoot a better percentage from three than Batum, he took less than two measly attempts per game.

Both guys are good rebounders and defenders, but Batum is a significantly better scorer and passer than Porter.

In terms of team fit and being the better player, Batum is the better option (for now).

It’s unlikely he has a second straight down year — his shooting percentages and scoring numbers should both rise.

Porter will manage to limit his production in this matchup due to his size and length, but offensively, the third-year guy may struggle given Batum’s frame as well.

The power forward position is up for grabs on each team in this contest.

The Washington Wizards have Nene slotted in as the starting four for now, but don’t be surprised if either Porter or Jared Dudley start there for a small ball look.

Charlotte has Cody Zeller as the presumed starter, although they could put Al Jefferson at the four and put Zeller at the five due to him being the taller player of the two. Zeller started over half of the Hornets’ games last season, and it’s likely that he’ll start more as he comes into his third season.

Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Nene and Zeller both have similar strengths and weaknesses .They’re big — the Wizards big man stands at 6’ll” while Hornets’ big is listed at 7’0″.

Each player showed touch from the free throw line, and (assuming Zeller improves his shooting percentages) they are both efficient from the field. Neither are incredible rebounders or shotblockers, although Zeller’s youth and extra length should help him develop in that area for the future.

In the upcoming season, this matchup is practically a wash, though in the future (say two to three years), Zeller is the obvious choice.

At center are two established big men — Marcin Gortat and Al Jefferson. Gortat, the inferior player of the two, is older — though not by much — and less renown as Jefferson, a year removed of an All-NBA Third Team appearance.

Jefferson is easily the better scorer. Since becoming a full-time starter, Jefferson’s worst scoring average (16.0 PPG) is higher than Gortat’s best scoring year (15.4 PPG).

The Hornets’ big man possesses a wide variety of post moves that is paralleled by few in today’s game. Whether it be a post hook, fadeaway, or drop step, Jefferson can score, and he makes it look easy.

Luckily, Gortat is an above average defender who may be able to limit Jefferson’s production. And one of Jefferson’s major weaknesses is defense — he’s slow, and he’s not a good rim protector. Gortat will need to take advantage of an uninterested defender.

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The bench is, again, where the Washington Wizards hold a big advantage.

Just like with the Magic, the Hornets aren’t a very deep team.

While they did sign a decent backup point guard in Lin, their reserve wings will struggle.

They have sophomore PJ Hairston and Jeremy Lamb (neither received much playing time last year), Troy Daniels, and possibly Marvin Williams.

Hairston isn’t a good shooter, and although he’s getting better, it’s still unclear if he has the skill to play at this level.

Lamb is a decent shooter and scorer who couldn’t find his niche in the Thunder rotation in his first three years in the league.

He should find much more time for the Hornets and their weak wing reserves.

The other two may not find much time on the perimeter.

Daniels is a sharpshooting guard that can space the floor, but that’s all he can do.

He’s a liability defensively and isn’t a great ballhandler, either.

Williams has seen time at both the small forward and power forward, but it’s more likely he plays more four.

The Washington Wizards are much better off in terms of wing depth.

While they lacked in that area a year ago, Ernie Grunfeld & Co. made that a priority in the offseason, signing Gary Neal and Alan Anderson while acquiring Jared Dudley (who will unfortunately just underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk).

Those three guys are good floor spacers that will open up driving lanes for Wall or backup point guard Ramon Sessions.

The frontcourt depth favors the Wizards as well.

While the Hornets just acquired stretch four/five Spencer Hawes, their next best options off the bench are Tyler Hansborough and the aforementioned Williams.

On the other hand, Washington has the capability to go small with Dudley off the bench or play big with Kris Humphries (who had a very productive regular season next year), Drew Gooden III, and Nene, depending on if Wittman chooses to go small early.

The Washington Wizards are definitely the better team now and will be for the future. With better guard play and overall depth, Wall and his team hold the advantage in this Southeastern Division matchup.

Next: Definitive Ranking: Wizards Coaches

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