New York at Washington
Time: 6 PM CT (NBA TV)
Spread: WAS -7
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
Don’t look now, but the Washington Wizards are hot: red hot. As winners of 8 of its past 10, the Wizards will host the struggling 21-28 New York Knicks as 7-point favorites according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes. The Wizards have won 14 straight at home and will look to extend that streak against a Knicks team still sitting 2.5 games behind No. 8 seeded Charlotte.
Washington has propelled itself firmly into the playoff race and is currently seeded No. 5, trailing No. 4 Atlanta by just half a game. The Wizards have been doing it largely with an unproductive bench, a team lacking depth in the worst kind of way. But that has not negated the overall brilliance of John Wall, who is (quietly?) having a spectacular season.
Along with Wall has been the hot shooting of 2-guard Bradley Beal, leading many to proclaim the Wizards as possessors of one of the NBA’s best backcourts. The issue is that the brilliance does not extend to its frontcourt, despite the occasionally great play of Markieff Morris.
Beyond Morris and starting center Marcin Gortat, Washington struggles immensely in the second unit when Jason Smith takes the floor. Depth, ultimately, limits the feel good notions of the Wizards making a deep playoff run, but perhaps just advancing into the second round could be constituted as its own type of success.
The Wizards can then seek to add the necessary bench pieces this offseason. There certainly is no need to scrap and rebuild, but advancing Washington requires adding some scorers and reliable second unit players, players which are simply currently not on the Wiz’ roster.
Notable for tonight’s game is that the Knicks will be without starting point guard Derrick Rose. Rose is in a walking boot and has a sprained ankle, and given New York’s overall lack of depth that will mean a lot of the inconsistent shooting of Brandon Jennings. The Knicks certainly had higher hopes for Jennings, and its entire roster, but the talent largely has led to nothing but mediocrity in the Big Apple.
Kristaps Porzingis is still not the featured centerpiece he should be, and Carmelo Anthony’s name is continuing to pop up in trade rumors (which are probably just that, rumors). The Knicks are in a luxurous position with Porzingis to build its roster around, but it largely has not happened with Rose and Anthony still commanding high usage rates and taking a lot of bad shots.
There is no sense pretending things are fully-functional in New York, and a lot of that stems from GM Phil Jackson’s insistence on running a triangle offense on a team it does not fit that well. Joakim Noah has declined as a player, and his once-useful high post passing has evaporated in a sea of stumbling over his own feet. Kyle O’Quinn is an inconsistent misery.
One bright spot, though, has been the emergence of second-year small forward Mindaugas Kuzminzkas, a crafty small forward with length who could eventually complement Porzingis brilliantly in the frontcourt. But that is going to require a shift in strategy and culture, and for that to occur it may require the Knicks parting with Anthony or Rose, or both, because they are declining talents mostly inhibiting the growth of the young Knicks which are more integral towards the team’s future.