Washington Wizards Must Take Advantage of Weak Schedule Ahead

Nov 7, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks gestures from the bench against the Houston Rockets in the fourth quarter at Verizon Center. The Rockets won 114-106. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks gestures from the bench against the Houston Rockets in the fourth quarter at Verizon Center. The Rockets won 114-106. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Wizards must transform their season in the coming weeks as they face five straight teams with losing records.

Coming into Tuesday’s games, the Washington Wizards next five opponents have a combined record of 14 wins and 37 losses. In order of the Wizards schedule, these five teams are the one-win Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, and the Orlando Magic, who already beat the Wizards this season. With three of the next five games at Verizon Center, the Wizards must take advantage and win all three games at home if they intend to turn their season around. However, at 2-7, the Wizards are in the NBA’s bottom tier of teams, just like their next five opponents.

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall missed Saturday’s game against the Chicago Bulls as head coach Scott Brooks continues to be cautious with his star player as he recovers from surgery on both knees. The Wizards next two games features another back-to-back set as they visit the 76ers then host the Knicks at Verizon Center. According to NBA Insider for CSN Mid-Atlantic J. Michael, Brooks will have Wall sit one of those two games then re-evaluate Wall’s game plan moving forward.

With Wall out, rookie Sheldon McClellan got the start in Saturday night’s 106-95 loss to the Bulls and was outstanding. The undrafted rookie out of the University of Miami made a wide-open three-pointer to begin the game finished with 15 points in 35 minutes of play. Starting alongside McClellan was fellow rookie Tomas Satoransky in 31 minutes of play was just shy of his first career double-double with 12 points and nine points.

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The injury-prone Bradley Beal has missed the last two games due to tightness in his hamstring. Fortunately for the Wizards, an MRI last week revealed no damage to Beal’s right leg. Beal went down awkwardly in the second half of a 118-93 win against the Boston Celtics.

If Beal is unable to go this week, the Wizards will once again be without their two stars for the second straight. Rookies McClellan and Satoransky would likely fill the starting roles in the Wizards backcourt against the 76ers or Knicks, depending on which game Brooks’ decides to rest Wall.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the Wizards all-important next five games:

November 16: Washington Wizards @ (1-8) Philadelphia 76ers

A loss in their next game against the 76ers would be devastating, and the Wizards would find themselves with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

The 76ers third overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft and rookie Joel Embiid helped lift the 76ers past the Indiana Pacers in overtime for the team’s first win of the young NBA season. In his first six NBA games, Embiid is averaging 18.8 points per game along with 6.8 rebounds as he plays under a 24-minute restriction.

The 76ers have an array of young talent including the sixth pick in the 2013 draft Nerlens Noel, third overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft Jahlil Okafor and first overall pick of the 2016 NBA draft, Ben Simmons. Due to injuries, both Noel and Simmons have yet to play this season. The Wizards, however, will see Okafor when the two teams play each other on Wednesday along with veteran Gerald Henderson.

November 17: (3-6) New York Knicks vs. Washington Wizards

In the second game of a back-to-back, Brooks will likely choose to rest Wall for this contest and expect Wizards rookie McClellan to earn his second career start.

The New York Knicks offseason featured the addition of three-time All-Star Derrick Rose and his former Chicago Bulls teammate, Joakim Noah. Despite Rose and Noah joining forces with 11-time All-Star and NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks are off to a disappointing 3-6 start.

With the hopes of Beal returning, the Wizards should find a way to win at home against the Knicks, with or without Wall.

November 19: (2-6) Miami Heat vs. Washington Wizards

Losers of six of their last seven games, the slumping Miami Heat just aren’t the same without superstar Dwayne Wade.

With the departure of Wade, the Miami Heat turn their focus to rebuilding a team around seven-foot center Hassan Whiteside. The fourth-year player out of Marshall University has seven double-doubles in eight games. Whiteside will create issues for the Wizards, especially when Wizards center Marcin Gortat isn’t on the floor leaving the struggling Jason Smith to guard Whiteside.

It’ll be interesting to see if Goran Dragic will be healthy enough to play after suffering a sprained left ankle last week. Regardless, John Wall should have his way against the Heat and help the Wizards earn a win at home against the Heat.

November 21 (3-8) Phoenix Suns vs. Washington Wizards

Despite averaging 108.4 points per game, the 3-8 Phoenix Suns are the NBA’s worst defensive team allowing opponents to average 115.6 points per game.

The Phoenix Suns selected Devin Booker with the 13th pick of the 2015 NBA draft. Booker has shown flashes of greatness this season, scoring 38 and 39 points in back-to-back games. The Suns also feature two prominent big men in veteran Tyson Chandler and former Maryland Terrapin Alex Len that will create problems once again for the Wizards with Jason Smith as the team’s current backup center.

Wizards will continue to struggle against the league’s big men until Ian Mahinmi returns from a partially torn medial meniscus in his left knee. According to Washington Post’s Candace Buckner, Mahinmi is participating in on-court basketball activities, but there’s no timetable for his return.

November 25 Washington Wizards @ (4-6) Orlando Magic

The Wizards have yet to win a game on the road this season and will travel once again to Orlando on November 25 to seek revenge from a loss earlier this season.

When the two teams played on November 5, the Wizards were without John Wall and was a Markieff Morris three-pointer away from securing a win in Orlando. Before November fifth’s loss on the road against the Magic, the Wizards had won six straight at Amway Center dating back to the 2013-2014 season.

Orlando signed Jeff Green, Bismack Biyombo, and D.J. Augustin this offseason to join forces with Serge Ibaka.

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The Wizards need to win at least all three of their upcoming home games if they want any chance of postseason play or they could find themselves in too deep of a hole. It’s also important that Scott Brooks moves away from their game plan of resting John Wall is back-to-back games as the Wizards need all the Wall they can get.