The 11-6 Washington Wizards have been one of the surprising, delightful teams of the 2021-22 season thus far. They found a way to turn Russell Westbrook into numerous veteran cogs that fit around All-Star Bradley Beal like a glove.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans Pelicans are 3-16, fans are clamoring for an injury update about Zion Williamson, and our returns from the offseason are less than inspiring. Tomas Satoransky, really? Garrett Temple, despite being from Louisiana, remains a combination of unknown and unwanted. Youngsters like Kira Lewis Jr. and Jaxson Hayes are getting minutes, but to what end? Will (or SHOULD) any of the above names be on the roster next year?
The more questions that arise bring disappointing answers, and that’s what Washington has in spades: known, valued NBA players at multiple positions. They don’t really have any questions about their guys.
Just recapping who they got in return for Westbrook back in July: Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell. That, plus the addition of a healthy Spencer Dinwiddie has shot this team up the standings. Beal hasn’t shot as well as he did last year, but he’s gotta be glad just to see more W’s than L’s again.
Recent draft pick Deni Avdija is also helpful in a somewhat limited role as a defender — plus, he’s actually two years younger than last year’s selection, Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert (he hasn’t done much, but just WATCH him blow up against the Pellies). The Wizards rank 4th in the league in defensive rating, while the Pelicans are the 5th worst offense in the league. This could be a low-scoring affair.
Ever since the loss of skilled bruiser Thomas Bryant in early 2021, the Wizards have needed a big ... and they found a super athletic vertical threat in Daniel Gafford, who proved himself as a backup with Chicago last year.
Ah, but a source of hope for Pelicans fans: the Wizards most commonly used 5-man unit is actually in the red, revealing a -8.6 net rating in 125 minutes. Washington makes up for this by using a ton of different combinations, something you can do with Beal, Dinwiddie, and even Raul Neto as playmakers, and Harrell as a dynamic scoring and rebounding big off the bench.
The last Wizards game, a 109-103 loss to the Charlotte Hornets showed what makes this team so solid. Even though they shot terribly from the field, they at least gave themselves a chance before losing a close one. That’s what good teams do when they’re not winning: remain competitive and keep the margin close, even in losses.
The Pelicans have shown they don’t know anything about that of late, we know. But maybe, just maybe, they’ll get up for tonight’s matchup after giving away a 17-point halftime lead in a loss to these Wizards not two weeks ago.
When: November 24, 2021, 7:00 pm
Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass
Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM