Opening Statements: Wizards at Bucks, Preseason Game 5 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards at Bucks, Preseason Game 5

Updated: October 17, 2015


Let’s cut to the chase. What’s left of the preseason now is Kelly Oubre’s opportunity. And maybe/hopefully allowing guys who’ve been hurt to get their feet wet (Jared Dudley is the only one in sight), and further solidifying Kris Humphries’ place as the team’s starting 4, to start the season at least. Otherwise, stay safe, my dudes.

The Wizards scheduled themselves a back-to-back road preseason set—Friday night in Philadelphia, Saturday night in Milwaukee—to give players a small taste of what’s to come. They didn’t play back-to-back preseason games last year, but ended their preseason in 2013 with a back-to-back set.

The NBA has cut down on total back-to-back sets this season, but Washington’s number from 2014-15 (19) has decreased by just one (18). They’ll get one of those out of the way in the 2015-16 season’s first three games, at these very same Milwaukee Bucks on Friday, October 30, and the home opener versus the Knicks in D.C. on Saturday, October 31.

On to the matter at hand. Joining me today is Mitch Vomhof (@mitchvomhof), writer at ESPN Truehoop’s Milwaukee Bucks blog, Bucksketball. Let us go…

Teams: Wizards vs Bucks
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Venue: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
Television: None in D.C.
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: No lines in the preseason.

Q #1: Khris Middleton’s #NBArank made the leap from underrated (at 300-some) to, well, overrated (at 45). Where does he have to improve and what does he need to achieve to justify this high ranking?

@mitchvomhof: Middleton’s last few years have sketched an outline of a pretty exceptional player—he’s hit over 40 percent from 3-point range while improving his defensive effort (held opposing shooters to 4.3% below their average field goal percentage in 2014-15), and he’s developing into a clutch player in end-of-game scenarios. Justifying that high rating and the five-year, $70 million deal he signed in the offseason really boils down to maintaining that performance while dealing with an expanded role. If you look at the Bucks’ current penciled-in starting lineup, Middleton is the lone true deep threat. He’s a known quantity to the rest of the league now, so if he can become a go-to scorer for the team while maintaining his efficiency with increased usage, it’ll go a long way toward validating the accolades he’s received.

Q #2: When Wizards fans expressed a desire for Greg Monroe in the past I would respond with a hard ‘no’—I never thought the cost would be worth it for someone who, in my opinion, was such a negative on defense.

(Plus, the Wizards were never going to commit a bunch of money before the 2016 Durant Summer, anyway.) Can you convince me otherwise about Monroe?

@mitchvomhof: While the team certainly didn’t hesitate in its offer to him, there has been a fair amount of discussion about Monroe being worthy of that maximum contract. I can’t necessarily speak to the makeup of the Wizards, but one of the things that convinces me of his fit with the Bucks is the way he slots into the overall defensive scheme that Jason Kidd and assistant Sean Sweeny have implemented. Milwaukee’s defense is predicated on a lot of movement and doubling of ballhandlers to create pressure and force turnovers. Monroe, who generated 1.75 steals per 48 minutes last year (7th among NBA centers), plays into that scheme despite his general lack of rim protection.

The Bucks actually had a very similar situation last year with the earthbound Zaza Pachulia holding down the center position for most of the season and still managed to be an exceptional defensive team. While Monroe isn’t a great defender in the traditional sense, his active hands and mobility for a big man play into the team’s defensive strength, and they’re likely anticipating the length and help defense of his teammates to offset his shortcomings. Furthermore, it’ll be interesting to see how he handles guarding more traditional centers at that position instead of forwards, as he did in Detroit when paired with Andre Drummond.

I think that I agree with you that Monroe wouldn’t be a great fit for the Wizards. But the need to establish some kind of low post presence and add another veteran scoring threat makes Monroe’s defensive shortcomings easier to stomach for this Bucks squad.

Q #3: Who is your sleeper pick to make a major impact on the Bucks this season?

@mitchvomhof: A lot of people have talked a fair amount about this team’s breakout candidates—Jabari Parker returning from ACL surgery, Giannis Antetokounmpo taking another leap and becoming a star, Monroe emerging as a post threat to balance the offense—but to find a true sleeper pick I’d have to turn to the team’s youngest, newest member: rookie shooting guard Rashad Vaughn. He just turned 19 and is coming off of an injury-plagued freshman year at UNLV, but the early impressions of his work in the NBA have been, well, impressive. With the obvious caveat that this is preseason basketball, he’s shown an affinity for getting baskets, shooting over 50 percent on almost 14 shots per game, with an eye-popping 43 percent on over five 3-pointers per game.

While his defense leaves much to be desired (as is the case with most rookies), and he’s currently No. 3 on the team’s depth chart behind Middleton and O.J. Mayo, Vaughn could quickly work his way into a significant role off the bench for a team that could use all the shooters it can find. My initial instinct is that he’ll be brought along slowly because the team has been willing to take that approach with many of its young players, but it’s not difficult to see Vaughn earning playing time as the year goes on and pleasantly surprising us earlier than expected.

BONUS: If you were us, how would you thank you for paying for some of Drew Gooden’s services last year, and do you miss his since-expired Milwaukee contract?

@mitchvomhof: Well, there is documented proof of me loving Drew Gooden from as far back as that time the Bucks amnestied him. I actually loved him far before that, and the fact that he has two career triple doubles—coming almost exactly a year apart—is one of my favorite pieces of NBA trivia. Anyways, because we were so generous as to amnesty him and allow the Wizards to pick up such a key cog of a successful NBA team, I would thank us by at least listening to my trade pitch of John Wall for Michael Carter-Williams, John Henson, and a first round pick.

No. Seriously. Wait, why are you laughing? No, just hear me out. Please, I…

No! Wait! Please! Don’t close that door on me! Look at John Henson’s advanced met— *door slams*


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.