Washington Wizards 2019-20 Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks

Washington Wizards Troy Brown Jr. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Troy Brown Jr. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

In the first of our 2019-20 season previews for the Washington Wizards, we take a look at how they match up against another rebuilding team within their division, the Atlanta Hawks.

Washington Wizards record vs Atlanta Hawks last season: 2-2

Hawks Added: Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, Bruno Fernando, Jabari Parker, Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe

Hawks Lost: Kent Bazemore, Miles Plumlee, Jeremy Lin, Dewayne Dedmon

In basketball, there’s this idea that the team with the best player usually wins. And to a large degree, that’s true. When the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks face-off, there will be no disputing that the Wizards will have the best player on the court in Bradley Beal. That won’t be enough to guarantee them any wins against Atlanta, though.

This season for the Atlanta Hawks, much like last season, will be all about growing their young core. They seem to have found something special in Trae Young, (2019 Rookie of the Year runner-up) Kevin Huerter (2019 All-Rookie Second-Team), and John Collins. Plus, they had an impressive haul in this year’s draft, landing Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter, both of whom should be factors from day one. Add a couple of veteran wings in Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe, and Jabari Parker, and the Hawks rebuild seems to be moving in the right direction.

Like the Wizards, the Hawks have had a lot of roster turnover from last season to this season. Only six players from last year’s team still remain on Atlanta’s roster. Despite the new names and faces, the identity should stay the same, though.

Last season, the Hawks played fast. With a rookie running the show down there in Atlanta, they ranked first in the NBA in pace.  They also made a habit of shooting from beyond the arc. The Hawks trailed only the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks in three-pointers attempted last season. They were fourth in three-pointers made, too. The Golden State Warriors snuck ahead of them as the only team to attempt less three’s than the Hawks, but make more. That’s bad news for the Wizards, who struggled to defend the three last season. As a team, the Wizards surrendered the fifth most three-point attempts and allowed opponents to shoot the fourth-best three-point percentage in the NBA last season, per Basketball-Reference.

Now, this Hawks team is even better suited for a pace and space game than they were last year. The question will be, can the Wizards keep up? Young will be a matchup nightmare for Ish Smith, Justin Robinson, and/or Isaiah Thomas. It doesn’t matter which of their point guards they trot out there. They may have to look elsewhere on the defensive end if they want to stop, or even slow down, Young and the Hawks.

Wizards to Watch

Without Wall, the Wizards pace should slow down, although the point guard additions the team has made this summer indicate they’d still like to run even if Wall won’t be leading the pack.  And he won’t be. Neither will Isaiah Thomas if his hand injury lingers. But Bradley Beal can and will have to if the Wizards want to win. Last season, Beal was incredible against just about every team in the NBA. He was at his best, though, against the Hawks. In four games, Beal averaged 29 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. He averaged more points against only two other Eastern Conference teams (Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Hornets). The Wizards will need more performances like that if they want a winning record vs Atlanta this season.

Two other players besides Beal to keep an eye on when the Wizards and the Hawks square off: Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura. Bryant had some ok games against the Hawks last season, but with his role expected to expand this season, he could show out against a Hawks team that is depleted down low. As of now, there is only one true center on the Hawks roster: Alex Len.

Hachimura is also worth keeping an eye on against Atlanta. If Wizards fan remember—and I’m sure they do—Cam Reddish was still available when the Wizards drafted Hachimura ninth overall in this year’s NBA draft. Many fans wanted (and still prefer) Reddish. Many draft experts projected Reddish as a better pro than Hachimura. Nevertheless, the Wizards passed on Reddish and the Hawks took him at 11.

For any of the Hachimura doubters that are still out there, we’ll get to see if the Wizards made the right call when he goes head to head with Reddish.

2019-20 Game Predictions

Friday, January 10 in Washington:

This game is technically a return home for Washington after a road trip. It’s also a return for Jabari Parker, who spent 25 games with the Wizards last season. But it’s a one-game trip to Orlando that’s preceded by a six-game home-stand. There’s nothing like some home cooking. Wizards win this one.

Sunday, January 26 in Atlanta:

Smack in the middle of a four-game trip around the Eastern Conference, the Wizards grab back to back wins against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks. Don’t worry, games vs the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks will bookend the trip with losses.

Friday, March 6 in Washington:

After a tough West Coast trip with battles against the Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, and Portland Trailblazers, the Wizards will look sluggish in their first game back and lose to Atlanta.

dark. Next. Washington Wizards: Young core will be worth watching

Friday, March 20 in Atlanta:

At the end of a road trip that includes stops in Philadelphia and Brooklyn before Atlanta, expect a beaten-down Wizards team to stay down and end the season series with Atlanta 2-2.