Here to provide the DC Council Opening Statements for Washington’s 18th game of the season against the Hornets in New Orleans are TAI’s Kyle Weidie (@Truth_About_It) and guest James Grayson (@jsgrayson), who writes about the Hornets for the ESPN TrueHoop blog Hornets 24/7.
Wizards Starters (2-15):
Jordan Crawford?/Shaun Livingston?, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Chris Singleton, Emeka Okafor
Hornets Starters (5-14):
Roger Mason, Xavier Henry, Austin Rivers, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopex
Q #1: What have you done for me lately?
(What’s the status of the Hornets over the past week?)
@jsgrayson: The Hornets rank dead last in the league in steals, and they rank in the bottom five in defensive and total rebounds. They also rank 26th in points per game and are the slowest team in the NBA. Individually there is one clear, stand-out player: Ryan Anderson. In mine, and many Hornets reporters’ opinions, Anderson was the best free agency signing in the entire league last summer (yes, New Orleans traded for him, but sign-and-trade). Anderson is shooting a blistering 44 percent from 3, averaging 18 points per game (3.5 made 3′s per-game). His True Shooting Percentage (TS%) is a ridiculous .610, as he’s clearly this year’s team leader.
In terms of poor performances, the talk of the town is how Austin Rivers has entered the league. While he has a quick first step and has shown an ability to get to the basket, he’s failed to convert time and time again. He’s shooting just 31 percent from the field and has a terrible PER of 5.8.
Q #2: Who threw out my alarm clock?
(Which player(s) are we sleeping on?)
@jsgrayson: The player many around the league are sleeping on (outside of Ryan Anderson; seriously, he needs to be mentioned as an All-Star) is Robin Lopez. While he has some limitations (you’ll see some post-ups that’ll make you cringe), he’s a good offensive rebounder, converts around the basket and blocks quite a few shots. This has led to Lopez posting a career best PER of 19.8 on 11.8 points-per-game.
Q #3: What game-within-the-game counts most?
(What matchup between two players or between each team in a particular statistical category is most important.)
@jsgrayson: Who can shoot and cover 3-pointers for both teams? The Hornets are the fourth best 3-point shooting team in the league (39.5%) thanks in part to Ryan Anderson, but they are the worst team in the league in defending the 3 (41.5%). While the Wizards rank 29th in shooting 3-pointers in the league, if the coaching staff is smart, they’ll try and get Bradley Beal going (who I believe hasn’t had the best start to his career like Austin Rivers—we have a mutual problem).
As well, Washington needs to try and cover Ryan Anderson. If the Wizards attempt to put someone too big on Anderson, he’ll run them out of the play and get open. Put someone too small on him and he’ll post them down, or even just shoot over them with his quick release. Washington needs to find a player who’s capable of running with Ryan, but also physical enough to put him off his game.
3-pointers will be a telling factor for this game.
Q #4: How it’s going down?
(TAI’s general key to the game.)
@Truth_About_It: This game is just screaming for Chris Singleton to make his mark on it, mostly because James Grayson poses the big question above: who’s going to guard Ryan Anderson? Singleton would be perfect—he’s got the height, quickness and size to match up. If Singleton can make things tough for LaMarcus Aldridge in the post, he can do a similar job against Anderson. But here’s the thing, guarding the 3-point line will be a team issue.
New Orleans’ current starting unit—Vasquez, Mason, Henry, Anderson, and Lopez—is one of their better long-distance shooting lineups, averaging 11.4 3-point makes to 21.2 attempts per 48 minutes (53.8%). The five has spent 29 total minutes on the court this season (over four games) and is a plus-9.8 in plus/minus per 48 minutes. Something is clearly meshing here.
Washington, especially with A.J. Price out 4-to-6 weeks due to a broken hand, might have to turn to this lineup for success: Jordan Crawford, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Chris Singleton, and Nene. That crew has played a limited 18 minutes together over two games this season, and they don’t shoot a high percentage from the field (40.7%), but they beat opponents on the boards (31.3 Off Reb% to 26.7 Opp Off Reb%), they limit their turnovers while forcing turnovers (9.1 TOV% to 14.5 Opp TOV%), they draw fouls (.667 FT Rate to .240 Opp FT Rate), and they play solid defense with decent offense (42.0 Opp eFG% 42.0 to 48.2 eFG%).
If I had to guess, Randy Wittman will insert Crawford into the starting lineup instead of Shaun Livingston, but Okafor will certainly continue to start in order to keep Nene’s minutes monitored. For the Wizards to win this one, Wittman will need to find a consistent five, which I get the feeling is the aforementioned unit, and get very solid nights from three players off the bench in supporting roles: Cartier Martin and Kevin Seraphin as scorers, and Livingston running the offense. Asking for all of this to come together sounds like a lot.
The Hornets are favored by 5.5 points and the over/under is 187.5 points (via USA Today).
@jsgrayson: I would say the Hornets win this one, 92-88, which means I am therefore taking the under of 18.57. The Hornets will win because Anthony Davis is back in the lineup. If he’s not, this score can easily be reversed.
@Truth_About_It: I have a funny feeling that something comes together from Wittman’s lineup roulette. Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking in hoping that what I previously wrote turns out to be right. Worth noting that Nene has struggled the past couple of games, especially in finishing at the rim (although he’s good for a dunk here or there). Having his teammates move the ball quickly and not just stand around on offense will help Nene find a better comfort zone, having Anthony Davis back on the court for New Orleans won’t. Funny feelings about the Wizards haven’t done much for me in the past, but I’m sill going with it… Wizards beat Hornets, 94-90.
[stats source: NBA.com/stats]