The Heat have had several days off before facing the Washington Wizards for the first time this season. I caught up with Bullets Forever and chatted with Thomas Pruitt (@TheRealTPruitt) about the Wizards and their match-up with Miami. Check out what he had to say.
HERE is my exchange with Bullets Forever.
Washington hasn't made the playoffs since 2008, and have only been out of the first round once in the last 30 years. Yet, they find themselves in the midst of the East playoff race so far this season. Do they have what it takes to make the playoffs and do you think they can make some noise when there?
Yes and no. I think the Wizards are about as good as their record and expect them to finish with 35 or 40 wins. That's good enough to make the playoffs but it's highly doubtful they make much of a run. With homecourt advantage, sure, they could make it to the second round. Unfortunately (for them, not so much for Miami or Indiana), they're just not good enough to pull of an upset against one of the East's top two teams and they would be lucky to pick off even one game. John Wall is great and there are some solid players surrounding him but unless someone like Bradley Beal or Otto Porter can make the leap out of nowhere, they're one or two elite players away from putting a scare into anyone.
John Wall is the expectant leader of the Wizards. Is he progressing how you'd like? What's the next step for his game?
He actually is progressing exactly the way we were hoping he would. Wall is extremely competitive - he's a vocal leader and even keeps a photo of the Larry O'Brien trophy in his locker - and his skill game has started to catch up with his physical gifts. He's been trying harder on defense lately and the only point guard who seems to be able to consistently outplay him any more is Chris Paul. He's probably going to make the All-Star team this year and it's well-deserved. Once he improves his pick and roll game and shot selection, he could start making All-NBA teams.
Glen Rice Jr. was born when his dad played for the Heat in 1991. He hasn't gotten much run this season, what are the expectations for the young guy?
GRJR was a second round pick so there wasn't much in the way of expectations for him, at least not initially. Now that we've seen him play, he's actually become something of a cult favorite among the fans. He's the only player on the roster with the possible exception of Wall and Martell Webster who appears comfortable creating shots off the dribble so there's definitely a role for him on the team if he can get healthy and find his rhythm. While he came into the league known as a shooter and athlete, what's really impressed me about him has been his defense. In his limited minutes, he's been extremely energetic and pulled off or almost pulled off numerous jaw-dropping plays. He's also been a better rebounder than expected and has no issue whatsoever with taking a big shot late in a game.
A lot of people compare Bradley Beal to a young Dwyane Wade. How do you see their games similarly and what do you think the ceiling is for Beal?
Man, I wish Beal was more like a young Wade. Unfortunately, he's just not that quick with the ball and isn't a freak athlete like a young (or even old and mildly broken down) Flash. Beal does remind me of another player on the Heat, though: Jesus Shuttlesworth himself, Ray Allen. While Beal can't consistently get into the paint or make things happen off the dribble, he's an excellent shooter off the catch and has had some success coming off of screens. He's making almost 45% of his three pointers this year and taking a lot of them, and he's had a couple of games where it seemed like he couldn't miss from 18-20 feet no matter how much pressure the defense put on him. The problem, and he's young enough that this might not be the case for long, is that it's hard for him to be an efficient scorer when the overwhelming majority of his shots have a high degree of difficulty. Beal rarely gets to the line and only takes shots in the paint in transition or when the Knicks are imploding in late game situations. With all that said, he's a very promising player and despite his weaknesses, I wouldn't be surprised if he joins Wall on an All-Star team in two or three years.
What's going to be the biggest challenge the Wizards give the Heat in this match-up?
Nene and/or Marcin Gortat should be the X-factor for the Wizards tonight. Wall is their best player and Wade has always seemed to have trouble guarding guys who run around a lot of screens but Miami's talent advantage can more than make up for this.The Heat could struggle with Washington's big men though due to how physical they are. Nene in particular is still a bruising player who's all elbows, shoulders and aggression around the basket and Chris Bosh seems to struggle against players like that. Even if neither player has a huge scoring night, I wouldn't be surprised to see them get tons of offensive rebounds and prevent Bosh from getting anything easy.