Wizards (6-10, 1-5 road) vs. Thunder (11-8, 7-4 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 7:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 103.2 (17th), Wizards – 101.9 (19th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.6 (14th), Wizards – 104.7 (19th)
This game will be billed as Washington Wizards’ head coach Scott Brooks versus Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. But aside from comparing winning percentages while with the Oklahoma City franchise, the Thunder teams these two men coached could not be anymore different. While Brooks built a winner from the ground up over several seasons, Donovan inherited an instant title contender that was eventually brought down a rung by the departure of a superstar.
The comparisons between the two coaches will undoubtedly come. But just about the only thing that you could compare between these two coaches is this season and the 2014-15 season, where Russell Westbrook was the featured player and Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka were most absent. Style of play was one of the things that many thought would be different between the two coaches. Many thought that Donovan would introduce more ball movement into the offense, which in turn would increase 3-point attempts and possibly pace. Here are some averages of stats between the last two seasons Brooks coached the Thunder and this current season and a half that Donovan has coached the Thunder:
- Brooks – 98.13
- Donovan – 100.43
- Brooks – 22.6
- Donovan – 24.6
Passes per game
- Brooks – 274
- Donovan – 265.9
Assists per game
- Brooks – 21.2
- Donovan – 22.6
Here’s the thing with coaching: sometimes players dictate the style of play, and sometimes the coaches do. The happy median is to find a style that melds both entities. While the Thunder aren’t necessarily a higher passing outfit under Donovan, their passes, and therefore, their offense, is now slightly more efficient. Defensively, the change in personnel has dictated a shift more towards perimeter switching and less towards rim protection. Overall, there have been subtle differences in the coaching schema between the two men. The most noticeable differences between the two coaches have been in their abilities to think on the fly and make changes either in-game or in-between games. As the team transitions more towards a roster built around the strengths of Westbrook, the differences in coaching styles between the two men may start to be more evident.
Season Series Preview
This is the first of two meetings between the Thunder and Wizards. The Thunder swept the season series last year, winning each game by an average of 20 points.
The Wizards come into the game with a surprising 6-10 record. Many thought the team, with much of its core returning, would pick up where it left off two seasons ago when it was healthy, and be a tough, defensive unit with the ability to put up points. Instead the Wizards have been below average both defensively and offensively, and have had to deal with possible chemistry issues between their two best players.
Point guard John Wall has been great this season, scoring 23.1 points per game on a true shooting percentage of 54.6 (both of which would be career-highs if they held). Unfortunately, for the Wizards, his assists are down a little (8.9), while his turnovers are at an all-time high (4.7). Joining Wall in the backcourt is Bradley Beal, who appears to be as healthy as he has been in a while. Beal has been on a tear these last 5 games, averaging 29.2 points per game on 50% shooting from the field. Otto Porter Jr. appears to be making the vaunted 3rd year leap from young player with potential to bonafide quality starter this year. Over the last 10 games, he’s averaged 15.2 points and 8.6 rebounds. Up front, Markieff Morris has been plagued this season by inconsistency, while center Marcin Gortat has been a little too consistent. If you are looking for someone to give you an exact double-double (10 points, 10 boards), Gortat is your man. Their bench is one of the weaker ones in the league.
- Cameron Payne (foot)
3 Big Things1. Offensive Rebounding
The Wizards are the 5th worst team in the league at collecting defensive boards, allowing opponents to grab 25% of the offensive boards available to them. Once you get past Marcin Gortat, the Wizards lack true post presence that can collect rebounds. Ian Mahinmi has only played in one game this season and Markieff Morris and Otto Porter are a little on size to match up with the likes of Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Domantas Sabonis. A lot like the Knicks’ game, Kanter should probably play upwards of 25 minutes tonight, while dominating the offensive glass.2. Perimeter Defense
John Wall and Bradley Beal are constantly in the mix for the completely made-up “best backcourt in the league” award. The caveat with them has always been health. But now that backcourt has another component to it: Otto Porter Jr. This backcourt trio has the ability to be something special if Wall and Beal can put their pride aside and get their act together. All three are shooting at or over 38% from 3, and comprise the top 3 scorers for the Wizards. Usually, the assignment for defending the opponent’s best wing falls on Andre Roberson. But in this game, both Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo are going to have to be disciplined in their defensive approach to combat the trio from Washington D.C.3. Turnovers
The Wizards do a good job of creating turnovers, forcing opponents to cough it up 15.8 times per game (which is 4th best in the league). With the Thunder’s tendency to sometimes get lackadaisical with the ball, this could become an issue.