Which Players Will Decide the Series? — Mythical vs. Extinct NBA Playoff Roundtable Part 3 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Which Players Will Decide the Series? — Mythical vs. Extinct NBA Playoff Roundtable Part 3

Updated: April 18, 2015


Oh, hi, NBA Playoffs. This, our relationship, is still new and odd. Cast aside and strewn across history’s floor are an assortment of pop culture wall calendars with one date each year circled in red and highlighted: when the NBA Draft Lottery happened.

Now, the Wizards aren’t yet playoff perennials, but to get to any type of streak one appearance has to come before another one. So now, this year, today, the Washington Wizards are at ‘two’. Such a circumstance calls for questions, and answers. So, part of the TAI collective assembled to pixel out those answers—for you, dear reader; for ourselves; for each other.

Sean Fagan (@McCarrick), Bryan Frantz (@BFrantz202), Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur), Adam McGinnis (@adammcginnis), and John Converse Townsend (@JohnCTownsend) are here to reveal their soul in part one of a three-part series.

Previously…which Raptor scares you the most? and how real is Paul Pierce at the 4?

And finally…

Which players will decide the series?

A.) Wall, Beal, or Gortat.
B.) Humphries, Sessions, or Otto/Rasual.
D.) Lowry, Valanciunas, or Lou Williams
C.) Vasquez/Ross, Patterson, or DeRozan.


The answer would be Lou Williams again, but let’s twist the question a tad and rephrase it so the outcome is in favor of the Wizards. In order for the Wizards to triumph, Bradley Beal needs to shake off his semi-lost season and become the second superstar that seemed bound for ascendancy this time last year. If the 2014 Playoffs were a referendum on John Wall, than this year is when one begins to call into question Beal’s development and whether rather Randy Wittman is the right coach to shepherd the young star. If Beal and the Wizards flame out on a series of missed 16-foot jump shots, then it might be time to question whether Wittman is actually shackling Beal’s game to a regressive offensive philosophy rather than letting it continue to evolve and making adjustments to allow for that evolution to benefit Washington.


A) Wall. Sure, it’s a boring answer, but it’s true. Not only is he the team’s best player, he’s the team’s point guard. Everything runs through him, and if he has a bad series, the team doesn’t stand a chance without a miracle. If Beal doesn’t have a good series, Porter, Pierce, Butler, Sessions, Webster, Temple, Bynum, etc. all have a chance to get hot and make a few shots. If Gortat struggles, Humphries and Seraphin have taken his minutes before and would happily do it again. Nobody, especially not on this squad, can replace John Wall.

B) Humphries. His presence was missed dearly when he was out recently, and considering Randy Wittman’s hesitation to go small, I don’t like the chances of Nene, Gortat, Seraphin and Blair making up for Hump if he goes down with injury. If he plays poorly, so be it, but he at least needs to be on the floor to take minutes away from Blair and Seraphin.

D (you been drinkin’?)) I’m going Lou Williams on this one, mostly for the reasons above. Also, you expect Kyle Lowry to do at least a little ridiculous shit. Valanciunas is a good player, but the Wizards prefer letting guards tear them apart. It’s rarely a big guy who comes out of nowhere for a 30-point game.

C) DeRozan. In the first game between these teams this season, he led Toronto with 25 points and the Raptors won. In the second game, he fell three assists shy of a triple-double and the Raptors won. In the third game, he scored 23 points and hit the game-winner. To recap, he put up 63 points and a game-winner in three games against the Wizards this year. Easy choice on this one.


The outcome of this series depends mostly upon keeping Jonas Valanciunas’ production at center below league average. On the surface, that may seem like an easy task, since he was almost rendered useless in the regular season series against the Wizards (7 ppg and 5.3 rpg). But the Wiz give up a PER of 17.8 to opposing centers, the highest for any position. Valanciunas is in the midst of his best season as a pro, ranking 13th in the entire association in win shares per 48 minutes (.189). It is a must that the Wizards not allow him to have his signature breakout performance in this opening-round series.


Because of past traumatic experiences, Lou Williams terrifies me. The Sixth Man of the Year candidate has been feasting on Washington throughout his nine-year career. In 34 career games against the Wizards, Williams has averaged 13.6 points per game and shot 42 percent on 3-pointers. Only versus Golden State (43%) has Lou shot better on 3s, but in 19 fewer games.

In the Raptors’ regular season sweep of the Wiz, Williams averaged nearly 20 points a game and would have likely had more if he hadn’t played only 16 minutes during Toronto’s blowout victory in November.

The stats prove that Williams is a legit Wizards-killer, but it is his remarkable scoring style that creates such emotional torment. Some prime examples of Williams killing a Wizard or two can be found below.


A.) Wall, Beal, or Gortat.

John Wall. The Wizards go as he goes, which has been true since he was a rookie. Beal and Gortat pull disappearing acts, but the Wizards have survived with Wall spoon-feeding the talent around him—at the rim, in the corners, etc. Everyone connected to the franchise, from top to bottom, needs No. 2 to transform into Optimus Dime during primetime. And given the All-Star’s less than stellar play in last year’s postseason, I’d bet on him to show up and show out.

B.) Humphries, Sessions, or Otto/Rasual.

Otto (and Rasual). The Wizards desperately need his energy in transition and on the glass, but more than anything else, they need him to hit shots—especially because he so often finds himself wide-open behind the arc. Porter is shooting a hair under 37 percent from above the break and the corners, but that’s more than good enough as a third, fourth or fifth option.

D.) Lowry, Valanciunas, or Lou Williams
Valanciunas. Lowry and Lou are must-haves and will-dos, but the Raptors need Jonas to show that he can answer the tough questions asked by the Wizards’ veteran frontline of Nene and Gortat. He has the tools: Valanciunas led the team in double-doubles, grabbed a team-high rebounds in nearly 60 percent of Toronto’s games, and finished second in the NBA in FG% (.572). Whether the dinos are better with Valanciunas on the floor is still TBD.
C.) Vasquez/Ross, Patterson, or DeRozan.
DeRozan (because I mentioned him at the top of my preview). Toronto’s third-place scorer all-time has put up 17.2 points per game against Washington in his six-year career, but that might not be enough in this first-round matchup. On the other side of the ball, DeRozan must put the clamps on hungry Bradley Beal, who’s gotten loose in April: it’s his highest-scoring month this season (19.9 points per game with four 20-plus-point game).