Hawks vs. Wizards Preview and Q&A with Mike Prada

Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Robby Kalland

Washington Wizards v Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks (11-11) will take on the Wizards (9-11) at Philips Arena on Friday night. The Wizards defeated the Hawks in their first meeting two weeks ago in Washington, 108-101. The Hawks will be looking to even up the season series with their division rival, but to do so they will have to contain John Wall, who had 26 points, 12 assists, six boards, and five steals in the first meeting between the teams. The Hawks also struggled to defend the three-point line, allowing the Wizards to shoot 12-of-24 from deep. I sent some questions to Mike Prada of SB Nation and Bullets Forever to get a better idea of what to expect from the Wizards in this matchup.

The Wizards have had an up and down season, but one of the brightest spots has been the play of John Wall, who seems to be living up to his new contract. What has he done so well this season and what has he improved on from his first few years that has led to his success?

He’s slowed down quite a bit, and that’s allowed him to start taking advantage of his vision instead of only using his speed.  He has always possessed the capability of seeing several plays ahead, but now he actually executes it.  He’s also become a much better passer to rollers, which has been helped by the addition of Marcin Gortat.  While his jumper comes and goes, it has also improved this year, particularly from the three-point line.

Wall has always seemed to play well against Teague. What do you see coming out of that match-up?

Wall won this matchup when the two teams played in D.C., though I think Teague missed a lot of plays he normally makes.  Wall has a tendency of gambling for steals defensively, which should open up things for Teague.  But since it’s such a different style of defense, perhaps Teague plays like he did in D.C., where he seemed lost once he got by Wall.  Meanwhile, when the Wizards have the ball, Teague will need help from his team’s back line to contain Wall in transition.

Bradley Beal was off to a great start before going down with injury. What does the new SG rotation look like and how have they played in his absence?

When Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza are healthy together, the Wizards are able to compensate because both guys are solid vets who can hit perimeter shots.  (Webster turned an ankle against Milwaukee, but he should play Friday).  As promising as Beal is, he has only really shined when spotting up off Wall this year.  When he’s had to create his own offense, he’s struggled and launched a lot of contested long two-point jumpers.  In the short term, that makes him a less important player than Wall and even Nene.  We may also get to see some Glen Rice Jr. after the former Georgia Tech star played well Monday against the Nuggets.

The Gortat trade was a big move right before the season. How would you assess his play so far?

Marcin’s been really good for the Wizards offensively, particularly in helping Wall become more controlled in half-court situations.  His soft hands gobble up even the worst pocket passes, making Wall and others look better.  Defensively, he’s been OK after a really rough start.  Given expectations, he’s done about as much as can be reasonably hoped.

The Wizards’ frontcourt has been suspect on defense at times this season. How will they try to match-up with the Hawks strong frontcourt of Horford and Millsap?

Atlanta’s frontcourt poses problems because the Wizards don’t defend perimeter-oriented big men well.  Nene struggles at this, and he’s injured anyway.  Trevor Booker has played well recently, but he’s at his worst when he has to chase a perimeter big around through multiple screens and other off-ball action.  Jan Vesely played OK in November, but is slowly returning to his foul-prone ways.  Washington would benefit from having a legitimate small-ball 4 to contend with players like Millsap, who is obviously playing really well right now.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/NBAE/Getty Images

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