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The Teams: Washington Wizards (0-3) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (2-1)

The Time: 7:00 PM

The Place: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.

The History: The Wizards are 77-110 All-Time against the Milwaukee Bucks, going 1-4 last year. The Wizards won their last matchup against them, however, 121-112 at home.


Why you should watch: 
The Wizards could very well get their first win at home!

Since Washington started off terribly against the Boston Celtics at home last Saturday, they lost their home opener as a result. Bradley Beal and the rest of the starters were playing terribly, and were yanked in favor of Kevin Seraphin and Jordan Crawford. The two of them managed (albeit not singlehandedly) to cut a 16 point deficit to tie the game late, but the Wizards couldn’t finish the Celtics off. Now they take on the Milwaukee Bucks, who are a shaky 2-1, and have a very good chance to take this one.

Led by PG Brandon Jennings and SG Monta Ellis, the Bucks are an offensive heavy team that doesn’t really play a whole lot of defense. Their front court is less than daunting, with Samuel Dalambert not necessarily being the most dangerous threat down low, and Larry Sanders just coming into his own in the league. Basically, this means the Wizards are going to have a chance to score a lot of points, and have as good a chance as ever to pick up a win here.

Key Points and Storylines

1.) Bradley Beal vs. Monta Ellis

Bradley Beal finally started to take more than ten shots last game against the Celtics, much to the delight of Wizards fans, and the results were promising. With 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting, Beal wasn’t shooting well but it was a major improvement over his previous game, where he didn’t make a single shot (his only two points coming off free throws). Now he has a chance to go up against a player who plays worse defense than a misplaced traffic cone in Monta Ellis, so he could be primed for a big game.

Monta is a fantastic scorer, to be sure. He takes a lot of shots and defending him is a hassle given his quickness and ability to get the basket on slashes. But at a generous 6’2 (in Strength Shoes), Ellis is far from what one could consider a defensive strap. Other shooting guards routinely have career nights against this guy, and though I’m not suggesting Beal can do that, I do think he can have a pretty monster game.

If the Wizards can run a lot of plays through Beal (including some screens to get open from three), he may win this matchup against Ellis. Or rather, he could have a game that will whet the appetites of impatient Wizards fans who want results now.

2.) Kevin Seraphin’s scoring streak

Seraphin has been nothing short of impressive for the last 16 games, of which he has scored 10 or more points in each of those games. On the year, Seraphin is averaging 17.5 points and 8 rebounds per game, and has clearly benefitted from his experiences during the Olympics this summer. He is playing with a confidence that is making fans forget that the guy he backs up (Nene) hasn’t played a game this year. Tonight he goes up against Larry Sanders, who has just as notably stepped his game up this season, but will be facing a real test tonight against a very hot forward.

Seraphin’s success has come from his newfound jumper, which is clearing up space for him down low to pull off some finesse moves. If he can continue to knock down 15 foot set shots on a consistent basis, the Seraphin will continue to have monster games against forwards that aren’t as athletic as he is. It’s simple math.

Prediction

The Wizards should very well win this game tonight for their first win of the season. They have been playing really good basketball lately, and while they haven’t been able to close games out against the Celtics, they are due for one. Since the Bucks can’t really play defense all that well, I’m going with the Wizards, who have actually played relatively well on defense.

Wizards win, 105-98

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By: Willis

#14. Milwaukee Bucks

Centers: Samuel Dalembert, Drew Gooden

Power Forwards: Ersan Ilyasova, Ekpe Udoh

Small Forwards: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Mike Dunleavy

The Milwaukee Bucks get the distinction of being the second-worst front court in the Eastern Conference, thanks in large part to them being incredibly one-dimensonal. The oft-injury plagued Andrew Bogut era is over, and while the Bucks may have more health up front, they are going to struggle terribly on offense. Sure, with a blocker like Dalembert up front, their defense may still be consistent, but the question of who will score points is going to pop up a lot this season.

Best Case Scenario:

The best case scenario is that this front court becomes one of the most defensively imposing unit in the league. Just a few years ago, Sam Dalembert was considered a very talented center. In ’07-’08, with the Philadelphia 76ers, Dalambert was almost a lock for a double-double every night, averaging 10.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Not only that, but he was an elite swatter, averaging 2.3 blocks per game and ranking in the top 5 among centers. Those were the glory days, as since then Dalembert has never averaged double figures in either rebounding or scoring. Dalembert got a big contract and settled into becoming just an average center, which landed him in the dregs of the NBA aka Sacramento before playing in Houston last season.

Dalembert hasn’t approached anywhere near those career highs since, but Milwaukee hopes he can be serviceable enough to start every game for them and reclaim some of his former glory. Dalembert is really the only true center on the roster, so he is going to have ample opportunity to accomplish that task. Given that, outside of last year, Dalembert has been incredibly healthy for a center, there is a good chance he will follow that trend next year. More games means more opportunity to succeed, right?

Plus, he is going to be playing for a hard nosed coach in Scott Skiles, who can light a fire under anyone’s butt. Skiles is known for having some great defensive units, and Dalembert could become the anchor of that formidable squad in the center. Dalembert still blocks almost 2 shots a game (he averaged 1.7 last year, and 1.9 for his career) and even though he over commits sometimes, which leads to goaltending calls out the wazoo, his pros outweigh his cons. He’s also a solid rebounder, and on a team that will likely need rebounding help, Dalembert could be just the guy for that task.

Perhaps the most critical factor in determining how good the Bucks front court can become is young Ersan Ilyasova’s continuing development. If you haven’t heard of the name yet, you might be wise to get hip to it, as the Turkish Terror aka Turkey’s Michael Jordan aka James Franco/Josh Hartnett had his coming out party last year. Averaging 13.3 points per game, coupled with 8.8 rebounds over 27 minutes of play Ilyasova was one of the top young power forwards in the league, establishing himself as not only a scoring threat but a very good rebounder.

At 6’9 with a lot of length, Ilyasova is incredibly tough to guard not for his athleticism, but because if you give him any space he’s going to score. He’s got such a high release point on his jumper that no one is really capable of blocking it. His quick release was one of the reasons he shot 45% from long range last year. Ersan also benefitted a lot from Andrew Bogut, as the now-Golden State big man always found Ersan cutting backdoor with his great passing. Dalembert, plain and simple, can’t pass, so Ersan is going to have to make up for that. It’s also worth noting that he cleaned up the offensive glass, averaging an awesome 3.3 rebounds per game. If Ersan develops into a premier scorer (which I think he can do), this front court will move up to the top 8 pretty quickly.

Finally, there is Luc Richard Mbah a Moute/Mike Dunleavy manning the small forward spot, and since they’re probably going to split minutes there, I’m going to just lump them together. Having been in the league for 10 seasons, Mike Dunleavy is what he is at this point: a sharp shooter who can’t play any defense. That’s why he has been coupled with Luc Richard, who actually plays relatively decent defense against wing players. Whereas Dunleavy is a cone, Luc Richard is a wall. If you could combine these two, you’d have a darn good basketball players, and I think that’s what Milwaukee is going for here. I think they have the potential to play off one another well and be used in specific situations very well. They’re both specialists, and can be interchanged when necessary. Neither one is going to really stand out and impress, but you can’t leave Dunleavy open and you can’t get open against Luc Richard.

Worst Case Scenario

The worst case scenario for this front court is that they are absolutely horrible on offense and defense. Dalembert and Luc Richard are the only players who can be considered solid defenders at this point in their careers. I’m not including Ekpe Udoh in this entire thing because, aside from killing the Wizards, he has done essentially nothing since entering the NBA. Dunleavy and Drew Gooden are cones on the defensive end, and Ilyasova can, at times, get manhandled down low.

Unless Dalembert can hook up with Steven Hawking in the offseason and create a time machine, he is only going to regress as a basketball player. He hasn’t been very effective since he turned 30, which is a very damning sign for a big ma with a lot of miles on his legs. What’s worse, Dalembert only plays about half the game now, anyway, and with him out Drew Gooden goes in and this front court becomes horrible defensively.

This says nothing about his offense, or lack thereof, as Dalembert couldn’t score on Kim Kardashian if he was the only guy in the room. He doesn’t bring anything to the table on that front, and it’s going to hurt the Bucks, who are used to Bogut (a relatively decent scorer when healthy).

Even though I have high hopes for Ersan Ilyasova, he isn’t exactly a Scott Skiles kind of guy. That is to say, he isn’t incredible on the defensive end of the court. He isn’t bad, but who knows whether or not Skiles is going to want him to split minutes with *ugh* Ekpe Udoh, who happens to be pretty terrible. I don’t see him as being nearly as effective without a lot of minutes, but if the Bucks go down big in a game that might not happen.

Ersan has been pretty darn good from long range up to this point in his career, so that’s unlikely to change, but you always have to be wary about players who linger around the three point line a lot. When they go cold, they become nonfactors in a game. Ersan is that kind of player. If he doesn’t continue to improve, he will still be the best option, but that doesn’t mean the team is going to progress as it should.

The Dunleavy/Luc Richard combination has a recipe for absolute disaster. When Luc Richard is out there, the offense could easily stagnate, and when Dunleavy goes in the defense is horrible. They can’t really play at the same time unless you move Dunleavy to the two, but then you’re looking at Monta Ellis (can’t defend), Mike Dunleavy (can’t defend), Luc Richard (can’t score), Ilyasova (can’t defend) and Sam Dalembert (can’t score). No matter how many points you put up, that lineup will give up a lot more. The issue with those two is that you can’t combine them in real life, and they are two different players who don’t bring a ton to the table.

Do I think all of this will happen? Not under Skiles watch, but it certainly isn’ t out of the question.

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By: Colenda

As we delve into the Eastern Conference the Central division has had a tough offseason. Starting from the top, defending champ Chicago will have a HUGE hole to fill next year as star Derrick Rose recovers from his disappointing playoff knee injury. We all saw what they looked like without Rose in the playoffs as they were knocked out by the 8th seeded Sixers, and it wasn’t pretty. The Pistons drafted this year’s biggest enigma, Andre Drummond, and another bust with a first round pick is the last thing Joe Dumars and the Pistons faithful can afford. The Cavs, which looked to be in a terrific position with multiple picks in this year’s draft, somehow came away with a very underwhelming haul. They even had to see nemesis LeBron win his first title. Young-star Kyrie Irving’s broken hand only adds injury to the insult. As Bill Simmons would say “the lesson as always, God hates Cleveland.” The winners for the offseason in the Central have to be the Pacers and Bucks. The Pacers have added to their youthful core and secured big-man Roy Hibbert after their impressive playoff performance and I fully expect them to be the team to beat in the Central in 2012-2013. The Bucks added the volume-scoring Monta Ellis at last year’s trade deadline, but the early returns from the trade last year were not great. However, I am a Monta-fan and with their few interesting offseason moves, I see the Bucks competing for a playoff spot this year.

Chicago Bulls (1st Place 2011-2012)

Players Added: Marquis Teague, Marco Belinelli, Kirk Hinrich, Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic

Players Lost: Omer Asik, Kyle Korver, John Lucas III, C.J. Watson, Mike James, Ronnie Brewer

The Dime: Basketball is a team game, and an injury to one player shouldn’t completely change the fortunes of a franchise. But in the Bull’s case, when that player is MVP Derrick Rose, this rule gets thrown out the window. Rose does everything for Chicago, he scores most of the points, sets up his teammates, and draws 100% of the opponent’s defensive attention. No one else on their roster (outside of Luol Deng) is capable of creating their own offense or offense for others. Without Rose, they look lost offensively. Yes, the Bulls are a defensive team and a damn good one at that. But in basketball, if you can’t score you can’t win, no matter how well you defend. I expect the Bulls to have a dramatic drop off next year until Rose’s return. If they can keep their head afloat until February/March when Rose is expected to return (IF he returns healthy, but most knee injuries of this magnitude take at least two years to really recover from) they could potentially make a late push for the playoffs. However, I don’t expect this will be the case. It’ll be interesting to see if Tom Thibodeau and Co. proves me wrong.

Indiana Pacers (2nd Place 2011-2012)

Players Added: D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee,

Players Lost: Leandro Barbosa, Louis Amundson, Darren Collison, Jeff Foster, A.J. Price, Dahntay Jones, Larry Legend (GM)

The Dime: When the Pacers went up 2-1 on Miami in the playoffs, talking heads around the league fully expected the young upstarts to pull off the upset. Although they ultimately fell short, they can keep their heads held high and get really excited about the things to come. The Pacers will be the Central’s team to beat next year, and one of the East’s top teams. This offseason they took care of the largest priority, re-signing center Roy Hibbert (who had signed a qualifying offer from Portland). Although GM Larry Bird stepped away this summer, the Pacers still could not resist adding a token white-guy in the draft, selecting Duke big Miles Plumlee. Although the selection was pretty poor (no way Plumlee was a first round pick), it was a fitting way to end the Bird-era in Indiana. The Pacers also added a backup PG to fill in for the departed Darren Collison in D.J. Augustin, and another athletic swingman, Gerald Green, to go alongside Paul George, Danny Granger and Co. If the Pacers youth can continue to improve in 2012-13, expect to see Indiana competing for a top spot in the East. The player I will be watching closely is Paul George. George had a terrific year, but had an underwhelming playoff performance. If George can take a step forward in his overall development as a player, particularly on the offensive end, the Pacers are really in a good position moving forward.

Milwaukee Bucks (3rd Place 2011-2012)

Players Added: Samuel Dalembert, John Henson, Doron Lamb

Players Lost: Shaun Livingston, Jon Brockman, Carlos Delfino, Jon Leuer

The Dime: The Bucks are the team most in a position to benefit from the tough-luck of Derrick Rose. Last year they were a borderline playoff contender, and I believe they are poised to find themselves in the playoffs in 2013. With Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, the Bucks have a backcourt of scorers more than capable of getting them points in bunches, and they added this offseason two inside players, Samuel Dalembert and John Henson, that should bolster their paint defense and make up for the loss of oft-injured Aussie, Andrew Bogut. They also added Kentucky shooter Doron Lamb in the second round, an under-rated late selection. Additionally, they re-signed one of last season’s breakout performers, Ersan Ilyasova, meaning they should boast a more than decent front court. If the at-times selfish duo of Jennings and Ellis can gel together, and the team continues to defend at the level coach Scott Skiles expects, I believe the 2012-2013 Bucks should be a playoff team.

Detroit Pistons (4th Place 2011-2012)

Players Added: Andre Drummond, Kim English, Khris Middleton, Kyle Singler, Corey Maggette

Players Lost: Ben Gordon, Vernon Macklin, Jason Maxiell, Walker Russell, Ben Wallace, Damien Wilkins

The Dime: Joe Dumars took another gamble in the first round this year, selecting UCONN’s highly talented, but under-productive Andre Drummond. If he pans out in the way his talent suggests, this can be one of the biggest draft steals in a long while. But if he ends up as a bust, which his middling performances as a freshman at UCONN suggest is a very real possibility, this will continue to set the franchise back. Remember, Dumars is the same guy who took Darko before Melo, DWade, and Chris Bosh in 2006. I’m not suggesting the players selected around Drummond will be the league’s biggest stars in 3-4 years like that group, but there was plenty of talent in this year’s draft. The Pistons faithful are in desperate need of some good news, but unfortunately for them, this offseason did not produce much of it. The emergence of Greg Monroe last year was the lone bright-spot in another miserable season, but I do not expect the 2012-2013 version of the team to produce many more highlights. It seems like it’s been forever in Detroit since the Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and Rip Hamilton led teams were NBA champs and perennial contenders, and this offseason did not move the proud franchise any closer to returning to that kind of glory.

Cleveland Cavaliers (5th Place 2011-2012)

Players Added: Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, Jeremy Pargo, Jon Leuer

Players Lost: Christian Eyenga, Semeh Erden, Alonzo Gee, Antawn Jamison, DJ Kennedy

The Dime: The Cavs actively looked to put a package together that would entice His Airness to part with the number 2 pick in this year’s draft so they could select the top-rated SG, Bradley Beal. With the number 4, 24, 33, and 34 pick in the draft, the Cavs had a variety of picks and a talented player (Anderson Varejao) they thought would be enough for a deal. However, the trade did not pan out, MJ took MKG at 2 and Beal landed with the Wizards at 3. So with the number 4 selection, the Cavs took Syracuse 6th man Dion Waiters ahead of Harrison Barnes and Thomas Robinson among others. This selection certainly raised some eye brows. They then traded their remaining picks to Dallas for the rights to 17th selection, UNC big Tyler Zeller. So if you’re scoring at home, the Cavs turned 4 top 35 picks in one of the deepest drafts in memory into at best a decent 6th man (Waiters) and a backup center (Zeller). Not exactly the haul the Cleveland faithful were hoping for. On top of it all, enemy of the state numero-uno celebrated his first title in South Beach (what happened with the guarantee the Cavs would win one first, Mr. Gilbert?) and young star Kyrie Irving let out some frustration during the US Olympic team camp and broke his shooting hand. Although he is expected to make a smooth recovery after his surgery, he will miss the entire offseason preparation for next year, and will not be able to star in those awesome Uncle Drew commercials (the real travesty of it all). Overall, in my estimation, it’s been a pretty shitty offseason for Cleveland. I fully expect the Cavs to be in their familiar position in the cellar of the Central Division this season.

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By: Bohlin

Randy Wittman made his first coaching hire today, prying Don Newman away from the post he held as an assistant under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs since 2004. This is the first addition to the Wizards bench since Ted Leonsis decided to keep Wittman as head coach this offseason.

Newman has an impressive athletic background that he will be bringing to the Wizards. Newman was a third round draft pick of the Boston Celtics in 1980 out of the University of Southern Idaho. His NBA dreams never came to fruition as a player as he was the Celtics final cut the year he was drafted. Newman went on to play three seasons in the CBA for the Montana Golden Nuggets where he was coached by George Karl. This is where the story of Newman’s playing days takes a significant left turn.

After a stint in the CBA Newman went on to play for seven seasons in the Canadian Football League, suiting up for the Montreal Alouettes, Ottawa Rough Riders and, interestingly enough, the Saskatchewan Roughriders. If I had to venture a guess, I would imagine he is also a huge DMX fan by default.

Newman broke into coaching in the late 80’s while he was finishing up his BA in Physical Education. During this time he served as a high school basketball and football coach. After obtaining his bachelors Newman went on to Washington State University where for five years he served as an assistant coach on the Cougars men’s basketball team. During this time period Newman also received his master’s in education from WSU.

In 1992, Newman was offered and subsequently accepted the head coaching position at Sacramento State. Newman served as the head coach there for five seasons before eventually moving on to take a position on Bill Frieder’s staff at Arizona State University. After just five months on the job at ASU Frieder was relieved of his duties and Newman was tabbed as the interim coach. While manning the ship for the Sun Devils Newman led the team to an 18-14 record and an appearance in the NIT.

Newman left ASU in 1998 and joined the staff at the University of Oregon as an assistant. He served as an assistant for the Ducks for one season before he made the jump to the NBA coaching ranks. Newman joined the Milwaukee Bucks coaching staff, reuniting with his former CBA head coach George Karl, in the summer of 1999. After spending four seasons on the bench with Karl in Milwaukee Newman was hired by the New Jersey Nets, filling the spot that Eddie Jordan had left vacant when he took the head coaching job with our Washington Wizards.

On June 28, 2004 Newman accepted a position as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs where he has remained an assistant despite multiple opportunities to leave for other coaching opportunities. Known as a defensive specialist, Newman should bring some much needed toughness on that end of the floor for Washington. I’m sure Newman and Andray Blatche, should he still be on this roster, will get to know one another quite well. This hire adds over 20 years of coaching experience to the Wizards bench. Having worked with some of the games brightest coaching minds in Gregg Popovich and George Karl this addition should prove to be a move that pays dividends for the Wizards and their mix of veterans and young players.

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By: Willis

 

Don’t let the results confuse you; the Wizards haven’t been playing terrible basketball. Not after last night’s 112-98 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, and not after going 2-8 the past 10 games. With a young team like the Wizards, it’s the little baby steps that matter at this point. The incredibly tiny details during each game that help create the foundation for the future.

For example, take into account that until last nights game, the Wizards had held opponents to under 100 points during their last nine outings on the court. That includes, and can almost certainly be attributable towards, the departure of Nick Young and JaVale McGee in favor of veterans Nene and Brian Cook. The Wizards didn’t necessarily play bad basketball yesterday, either. They simply looked as if they were a bit too tired, having played 4 games in 5 days with two of them being on the road (Toronto and Indiana).

“I don’t think we had the bounce in our legs tonight that I’ve seen,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said. “We were down on ourselves a couple of times. I felt it in our huddle.”

Such a quote is commonplace for an old team after a string of games like the Wizards have encountered, but it’s also often said for young teams as well. Wittman wasn’t as upset with the effort level as much as he was probably upset that the shortened schedule clearly takes its toll on players old and young. It’s a small step, but it’s a step forward.

Another example of progress? Look no further than the sudden emergence of, amazingly, a bit of depth on the Wizards. Sure, we have no superstars, but we do have players who can fill in for our injured starters in Nene and Trevor Booker. The two were out with Plantar Fasicitis for a second straight game, and starting in their places were Jan Vesely and Kevin Seraphin. What did the two go out and do? Seraphin had 15 points and Vesely, who had previously been a bust of a pick, had 14 points and 7 rebounds in 38 minutes. He looked lost at times on the court, but not “doesn’t belong in the NBA”-level lost. He also got eaten up down low by another former draft disaster in Ekpe Udoh, but it was a result of being a young player. He was only a second to slow in trying to fill the lane, which against Udoh means you’re going to get dunked on.

Seraphin, on the other hand, played much more aggressively down low, looking to try and score as often as he had the ball. He still lacks the necessary ball handling skills to justify trying some of the post moves that he does (he turned the ball over 3 times), but at least he understands what he needs to do to stay in the NBA.

One thing that is certainly noticeable without Nene and Booker is that the Wizards aren’t the best rebounding team. Against the Bucks, they were outrebounded 48-35, and against Toronto the night before it was 43-31. Neither team is very adept at crashing the boards, and it’s almost inexcusable to get beaten up on the boards that badly. As Kevin Love has proven with his play, rebounding has a direct correlation with effort level. While I’m seeing effort out there, perhaps the Wizards aren’t applying some of that effort to the boards. Anytime a team gets outrebounded by more than 8, it’s typically a loss. Which means it doesn’t matter if the Wizards have shot 39% or better from the three in the last four games; it doesn’t matter even more so if the Wizards have been moving the ball better than most teams have the past few games. It really doesn’t matter in the end, because there has to be a concentrated effort on the boards. Getting a healthy Nene and a healthy Booker back will help, but Nene isn’t really a great rebounder, and Booker is undersized. It has to be a team effort.

The loss stunk, but it’s not the worst thing that could’ve happened to the Wizards. It was a sign of growing pains and baby steps, and it points to a bright future for the remainder of this season and the upcoming one as well.

 

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