With improvements are Wizards a playoff team?
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
The interest: Even though Washington and Charlotte are in the same division, it's a stretch to consider this a rivalry. Over the previous two seasons, the Bobcats posted a combined 28-120 and likely lands in the division basement this upcoming campaign. Their only marquee figure sits in the owner's box. So why highlight this seemingly uninteresting game? Because for the Wizards it will be No. 32 on the season, meaning direct comparisons to last season's low point record of 4-28 are inevitable. If they are even in the ballpark of a similar mark, something went horribly, horribly wrong. In addition, the matchup is one a playoff-thinking team like the Wizards should take. Last season Washington compiled several victories against notable foes, yet often struggled against the league's lightweights, including losing three of four to Charlotte. The contest opens a three-game road trip for the Wizards and is the first of four games versus the Bobcats on the season. Washington opposes Charlotte three times over the final 19 games of the season.
The Bobcats: Charlotte made a relatively splashy move in free agency by signing former Jazz power forward Al Jefferson. The low post threat gives the Bobcats a needed go-to scorer - and a black hole inside who will not promote ball movement. Combined with 7-foot rookie Cody Zeller, Jefferson's presence helps one balance out one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA, but evening the team's overall record remains a ways off. Lead guard Kemba Walker averaged 19.0 points, 5.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds against the Wizards last season.
The stat: In three games versus Charlotte last season, Nene averaged 19.7 points, the most against team. The Brazilian big man, whose health is perhaps the Wizards biggest question mark entering the season, sank a staggering 63.9 percent (23 of 36) of his field goal attempts.
The matchup: We could easily point to John Wall versus Walker in a battle of Team USA members. Jefferson and Nene squared off on a regular basis when both played in the Western Conference. Instead, the last two NBA drafts prove most interesting seeing as the franchises picked back-to-back in consecutive years. In 2012, Charlotte selected energy small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist one spot before Washington snagged Bradley Beal with the third overall pick. This year, the Wizards selected Georgetown small forward Otto Porter Jr. in front Cody Zeller, who the Bobcats drafted fourth overall. Beal shot a dismal 19.4 percent from the field in three games against the Bobcats, but overall had a superior season compared to MKG, whose shooting form remains a potential hindrance. Porter (15 points) and Zeller (17) met last season when then No. 1 Indiana defeated Georgetown in overtime. It's far too early in their careers to gauge winners and losers, but we'll be thinking such thoughts during the series opener - and beyond.