This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the much improved Washington Wizards who a host of “experts” believe are playoff bound this season.
After the jump, I’ll look a Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into the Wizards team the Sixers face tonight from our man Abdullah Sharif at HoopDistrict.net as Abdullah will answer Fo’ questions on the Heat from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight from the Sixers end…
1) The Hangover – Miami: After the Sixers shocking win over the Heat in front of Allen Iverson, a packed WFC and numerous Sixers alums, Hinkie & Co. could have floated down Broad Street. So playing the Wiz, in DC in front of a sparse crowd is bound to produce a let down. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wiz jump on the Sixers right away and grab an early double digit lead. I’ll be interested to see how Brown and the Sixers respond if that happens.
2) MCW in 1-on-1 Defense: We knew he could score. We learned on Wednesday night that he excels at slicing through the passing lanes for steals or picking someone’s pocket from the help side, but I want to watch how MCW defends an elite lead guard like John Wall 1-on-1. Can he stay in front of smaller, quicker guards?
3) The Gortat Effect: Gortat has traditionally killed Hawes, Lavoy and any other Sixers big who attempt to guard him. With a new coach, a new system and new teammates, can #00 and Lavoy provide any resistance to the Polish powerhouse.
4) Dunks; Lay-ups; FTs & 3PAs: Brett Brown planned an offense that avoids inefficient 14-20 footers and the Sixers executed it well vs. Miami. Can they do it again tonight vs. the Wizards?
Q&A with Abdullah Sharif at HoopDistrict.net…
Philadunkia: Now that the team is healthy, what are your expectations in 2013-14 for the seemingly much improved Wizards?
Abdullah Sharif at HoopDistrict.net: Nothing short of the postseason. The Wizards have been building for this season for the past 4 years and they feel their time for serious playoff contention has finally come. They have secured their franchise point guard in John Wall, along with a pure scorer in Bradley Beal and a pretty effective front court. If the team can manage to stay out of the nurses office and remain healthy, they should be a 7th or 8th seed at worst.
Philadunkia: What do you think was the best move the Wizards made this offseason?
Abdullah Sharif at HoopDistrict.net: While many will tell you that securing John Wall to a max deal was the Wizards’ prized move this offseason, I’m going to say it was the Emeka Okafor trade to Phoenix for Marcin Gortat. We all knew Wall’s contract extension was inevitable and had to be done to. It was the last minute trade for Gortat which may have saved the Wizards season. With Okafor’s neck injury shelving him for an indefinite period of time, GM Ernie Grunfeld had to replace him, and in a hurry. He traded for what I believe is a healthy, true center who can fit well into Washington’s half court scheme, especially when running the pick and roll with John Wall.
Philadunkia: At one point last year, I thought Randy Wittman was going to get fired. But he and the Wiz players turned it around late last season and closed out 2012-13 on a decent note. What’s your feeling on his job security?
Abdullah Sharif at HoopDistrict.net: The greatest virtue for an NBA head coach is maintaining the respect and support of your front office and more importantly, your players. Randy Wittman has ensured that from the moment he stepped into his role after Flip Saunders got fired in 2011. Last year, Wittman was forced to make due with a sorely depleted roster, yet still managed to coach his squad to a top 5 defensive unit. However, with a full running unit this season, if team still happens to fall short, everyone’s paycheck will be in jeopardy, including Wittmans.
Philadunkia: It seems like the Wizards want to push the pace this year. Can Nene and Gortat fit in with an up-tempo system?
Abdullah Sharif at HoopDistrict.net: The Wizards love to run in transition with Wall at the helm and his wings spreading to the corners. That is where Washington thrives in the open floor. While Nene and Gortat are obviously not as quick and mobile as the smaller guys, they’re not expected to be. The Wizards love to push the tempo off of outlet passes and turnovers, but also run enough half court sets that involve their bigs. Gortat is the center John Wall has been yearning for: a healthy big body who can either roll to the rim or pop a jumper off screens, and also pick up some of the defensive slack left behind in Okafor’s absence.
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