Earlier this month we learned the Wizards entire slate of games for the upcoming 2013-14 season and highlighted a few of the schedule's notable matchups. Now we go a bit deeper by counting down the 10 most interesting contests.
Game No. 10: Wizards at Bobcats, January 7
Game No. 9: Wizards vs. Kings, February 9
Game No. 8: Wizards vs. Knicks, November 23
Game No. 7: Wizards vs. Warriors, January 5
Game No. 6: Wizards vs. Magic, December 2
Game No. 5: Wizards vs. Thunder, February 1
Game No. 4: Wizards vs. Bulls, January 13
GAME No. 3: Wizards vs. Cavaliers, November 16
The interest: The Wizards made John Wall the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. One year later, the Cavaliers selected Kyrie Irving first overall, indirectly setting up a comparison between the two point guards. Here's the problem: since both entered the league, they've rarely been on the court at the same time. Only twice in two seasons have Wall and Irving gone head-to-head. None of those matchups came last year in three possible meetings - all won by Cleveland - as injuries kept at least one sidelined at all times. Even though both have the obvious talent and physical skills set required for NBA stardom, Irving is the one upon basketball pundit's heap praise. Thanks to his complete offensive game - the playmaker is a career 39 percent 3-point shooter -, the former Dukie is mentioned just outside the level occupied by Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and a healthy Derrick Rose. Meanwhile critics hammered Wall for chunks of his pro career though a shift began after his return from a knee injury during the second half of last season. If all goes well, the pair will meet four times this season (five if you count a preseason game, which for this narrative we won't).
The Cavaliers: Like the Wizards, Cleveland has had enough of being in the lottery. After three straight seasons of no playoff basketball, the Cavaliers aggressively moved toward a postseason push this offseason. Fine, lucking into the No. 1 overall pick, again and drafting UNLV forward Anthony Bennett certainly helps. The big move, however, was landing injury-prone and fashion-disaster big man Andrew Bynum. If the ex-Laker and 76er recovers from the knee injuries that kept him for the entire 2012-13 season and joins forces with current bigs Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson, Cleveland won't simply be thinking playoff berth but a playoff run. The Cavs also added a point guard insurance policy in Jarrett Jack, signed versatile forward Earl Clark and drafted Russian small forward Sergey Karasev. For now, the Cavs join Washington, Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Toronto and others battling for the final three Eastern Conference playoff slots.
The stat: In two career meetings, Wall dominated Irving statistically, averaging 22.5 points (vs. 12.5) and 9.0 assists (vs. 3.5) with Washington winning both games.
The matchup: Wall-Irving is the matchup, but Bennett against Otto Porter makes for a juicy undercard. Right up until Cleveland stunned the draft world by taking the UNLV stud first overall, the debate raged locally about which of the two forwards Washington should tab. Bennett's scoring potential and power-packed physique is thought to offer more upside. His girth, out of shape ways and lack of interest on the defensive end also makes him the riskier option. Porter, last year's Big East Player of the Year, brings a headier, fundamentally sounder game. For some, his lack of highlight-level athleticism removes him from future All-Star level consideration. Ultimately the Wizards didn't have this specific choice to make. That doesn't mean fans won't compare and wonder what if.