What to watch for in the Wizards’ opener against the Atlanta Hawks

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The NBA regular season is finally upon us! Things kicked off last night with the Cleveland Cavaliers derailing the New York Knicks after receiving their championship rings, Damian Lillard making an early MVP statement, and the San Antonio Spurs dismantling the Golden State Warriors in Kevin Durant’s debut.

Now the other 24 teams look forward to kicking their season off as well. For the Washington Wizards, the journey begins on Oct. 27 at 7:30pm ET in Atlanta to take on the Hawks.

Both teams will look drastically different from last season. The Wizards will feature the same starting five, but new head coach Scott Brooks will depend on a youthful bench rotation to fill valuable minutes throughout the game. Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Nicholson, and Tomas Satoransky will be crucial in the overall production off the bench.

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The Hawks said farewell to two cornerstone players this summer in Al Horford (Boston Celtics) and Jeff Teague (Indiana Pacers). In what can be described as a transitioning year into a new identity, head coach Mike Budenholzer hands the keys of the offense to Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard will make his debut for his hometown team.

The two teams have quite the history being that they are divisional opponents. In 2014-15, the two faced off in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in which the Hawks won 4-2.

Let’s take a look at a few things to watch throughout the season opener for the Wizards

  • Once again, this team will only go as far as John Wall takes them. After battling through a plethora of lingering injuries last season, the three-time NBA All-Star have procedures done on each of his knees this summer. He wasn’t initially expected to come back until a few games into the regular season, but managed to suit up for five preseason games. He averaged 12 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.6 rebounds but most importantly, his knees looked to be perfectly fine.

  • Brooks plans on instilling a defensive mentality back into this team. After all, the Wizards witnessed most of their success in past seasons when they were more focused on that end of the floor. There were a few games that caused concern in the preseason like Sacramento and Philadelphia scoring 124 and 119 agains the Wizards respectively. There were however strong defensive showings such as only allowing 82 points to Toronto and 79 in another game against Philadelphia. The Wizards need to count on their defense creating opportunities for their offense. That’s what they did in 2014-15 and for the most part, they were one of the most feared opponents in the Eastern Conference.
  • Kelly Oubre Jr. will be counted on as the perimeter scorer off the bench. In preseason, he showed massive growth since his rookie season. He led the Wizards in the first two games with 16 points against Miami and 24 against Philadelphia. The two-year man out of Kansas University has the potential to be a productive NBA wing. He’ll continue to grow and the game will keep slowing down as he gets more experience. Brooks is extremely high on Oubre’s potential, so it’ll be interesting to see how many minutes he gets right off the bat in the opener.

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