The Wizards (22-39) return home Friday night after a tough 1-3 road trip out West. They dropped games to Utah, Sacramento, and Portland, but beat lowly Golden State. They are 4-6 over their last 10, and currently sit 4.5 games back of the final playoff spot in the East with only 21 games remaining. Washington currently has a 10 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThiryEight’s model. This team will continue to try to win every night. However, it may be in their best interest to protect their lottery odds at this point.
All of the hype surrounding Trae Young’s stellar season has distracted from what has been a pathetic season for the Atlanta Hawks (19-44). Many, including myself, believed this would be a playoff team this season. They’ve been everything but. John Collins has quietly had a strong season since returning from suspension, averaging 21.1 points, 10 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. However, they haven’t been able to find consistent production in other places.
Key Matchup: John Collins vs Rui Hachimura
This will be a tough matchup for Hachimura, as John Collins is one of the better young defenders in the NBA. Hachimura had a tough outing against Portland, but had strong showings in his previous four games.
Collins is a force on both sides of the ball. He attacks the basket with Russell Westbrook-esque aggression, and is a solid rim protector for his size. Carmelo Anthony gave Rui fits with his mid range game last time out. Collins will challenge him in a much different way. This is a match up that fans of both teams may be seeing for many years to come, as both teams are young and in the same division.
- Bradley Beal over his last 10 games: 38.0 points, 44 percent from three, 9.5 free throw attempts, and 2.3 steals per game. After missing out on the All-Star game, Beal is now starting to generate All-NBA buzz for himself with this recent stretch. It’s very difficult for a player to not be named an All-Star and still make an All-NBA team, especially for a scorer. That usually only happens for defense-first players, recently Rudy Gobert and Deandre Jordan. He also has a chance to extend his franchise record streak of 20 straight games scoring 25+.
- Thomas Bryant was recently singled out by Scott Brooks for not bringing the proper intensity to games. This is fair criticism, as Bryant has been in poor form. But Bryant is not the player that fans would expect to have intensity issues. In his time in Washington, Bryant has been used as an instant spark plug, and his energetic play is infectious. However, he now finds himself under scrutiny at a very inopportune time. In this final stretch of the season, Tommy Sheppard and Brooks will likely be looking long and hard at each of these players to determine who has a place here moving forward. Bryant is on what I would consider a team friendly deal ($25 mil/3 years), but is making enough that he could become a vital piece in future trade packages.
- Scott Brooks’ rotation have come under fire recently due to the lack of playing time afforded to Troy Brown Jr. Most of the minutes Brown Jr. was getting pre-trade deadline have been handed to Jerome Robinson. Robinson has been hit and miss in his time here. It’s too early for the jury to be out on him just yet. However, it’s discouraging to see Brown Jr. lose an opportunity during what has been a pretty strong campaign for him overall.
Points spread: Washington -3 (-110)
Money lines: Washington -150; Atlanta +130
Total points: O/U 247