The Washington Wizards were completely hopeless defensively in two of their three games this season, with their only decent performance coming against the short-handed, winless Memphis Grizzlies. They need to show that they are capable of putting together a solid defensive effort against a good team as they take on the Hawks in Atlanta at 7.30 p.m. EST.
The Wizards’ defensive struggles were made worse by the absence of Daniel Gafford against the Boston Celtics. Gafford’s injury forced coach Wes Unseld Jr. to play an extremely small lineup without a traditional center. These groups weren’t able to put up any resistance against the Celtics offense. If Gafford (day-to-day) is out tonight, whether Unseld Jr. elects to go small again or uses Mike Muscala to provide more size will be worth keeping an eye on.
Regardless of the rotational choices, the Wizards need to compete harder. That starts with their leaders Kyle Kuzma and Jordan Poole. The only way Washington can overcome their talent disparity in these games is to outwork its opponents night in and night out.
The Atlanta Hawks are generally a great offensive team led by All-Star point guard Trae Young. However, Young is dealing with an Achilles injury and is questionable to play tonight. This might offer an opportunity for the Wizards as Atlanta is a more predictable and less dynamic team without their superstar on the court.
Yet, they still have plenty of athleticism and size. They play a traditional, rim-rolling center the entire game between Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu. They have young, dynamic wings in Jalen Johnson, Deandre Hunter, AJ Griffin, and Saddiq Bey. The Wizards need to outwork them on the boards and hustle plays to give themselves a chance.
Regardless of what the scoreline ends up being tonight, the Wizards have to play with better effort, energy, and discipline against the Atlanta Hawks. Let’s hope it’s a more competitive game, as the Wizards fans would love to see how Jordan Poole and Kyle Kuzma do in the clutch time of a close game.
Hawks: Trae Young – questionable, Wes Matthews – is out,
Wizards: Daniel Gafford – questionable
Projected Wizards rotation
Tyus Jones, Jordan Poole, Deni Avdija, and Kyle Kuzma should continue to start. If Gafford is ready to go, he will get the nod to start. Otherwise, Bilal Coulibaly should move to the starting five again.
Delon Wright, Johnny Davis, Corey Kispert, and Danilo Gallinari should be coming off the bench, with Mike Muscala or Eugene Omoruyi potentially getting minutes if Gafford is out.
Projected Hawks rotation
Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Deandre Hunter, Jalen Johnson, and Clint Capela will likely start for Atlanta.
Saddiq Bey, Bogdan Bogdanovic, AJ Griffin, and Onyeka Okongwu will round out the rest of the rotation. If Trae Young is unavailable to play, rookie Kobe Bufkin and veteran Patty Mills will likely get some minutes off the bench.
The Hawks are favored -8.5 over the Washington Wizards.