The day has finally arrived. The Washington Wizards play today. In their regular-season opener, the Wizards take on the Pacers in Indiana at 7 pm EST. This will be the first opportunity to watch the new-look Wizards in full strength against NBA competition. Going against a high-powered Pacers offense, led by the budding superstar Tyrese Haliburton will be a challenge for the young Wizards.
The Indiana Pacers made intriguing offseason moves as they splashed in free agency to acquire Bruce Brown from the Denver Nuggets, as well as Obi Toppin from the New York Knicks. Both players fit the Pacers’ high-tempo style of play.
Transition defense will be a key factor for the Wizards
The Wizards will have their work cut out for them on the defensive end, especially in transition. Tyrese Haliburton is one of the best transition playmakers in the league, and the Pacers like to push the pace. The Wizards not only have to get back on defense, but they also have to take care of the ball to prevent easy fast break opportunities. Tyus Jones’ steadying hand will be key in controlling the game for Washington.
In the half-court, Haliburton poses a different set of challenges. He is an excellent pick-and-roll operator with the ability to pull up off the dribble, needle a pass to the roll man, or find open shooters on the wing.
How well Bilal Coulibaly does defending Haliburton is worth watching
Presumably, it will be Deni Avdija and Bilal Coulibaly who will be tasked with guarding Haliburton all game. Avdija and Coulibaly are the two best perimeter defenders on the team, and how well they do against an All-Star guard will be noteworthy. This likely means that Tyus Jones and Jordan Poole have to defend bigger players, potentially creating matchup problems for the Wizards.
Not only will this be Coulibaly’s first real test in the NBA, it will also be a great chance to evaluate the Wizards defense in general.
As good as the Pacers offense is, they are not among NBA’s elite. The Wiz will regularly face better and more dynamic offenses, and if they struggle to slow Indiana down, it can be a sign of what’s to come for the rest of the season.
Projected Wizards rotation
Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Kyle Kuzma, and Daniel Gafford are guaranteed to start for the Wizards. Whether the fifth starter will be Bilal Coulibaly or Deni Avdija remains to be seen, but both players should play extended minutes. Considering Coulibaly started every single preseason game, it may be his starting spot to lose.
Tyus Jones – Jordan Poole – Bilal Coulibaly – Kyle Kuzma – Daniel Gafford should be the starting five with Delon Wright, Corey Kispert, Deni Avdija, Danilo Gallinari, and Mike Muscala playing rotation minutes off the bench.
Projected Pacers rotation
Tyrese Haliburton – Bruce Brown – Bennedict Mathurin – Obi Toppin – Myles Turner is the likely starting five for the Pacers with TJ McConnell, Andrew Nembhard, Buddy Hield, Jarace Walker, and Jalen Smith playing minutes off the bench.
Wizards: Johnny Davis – out, Anthony Gill – out, Landry Shamet – out
The Indiana Pacers are favored -5.5 against Washington.