The Miami Heat are about to play a home and home with the Washington Wizards on Wednesday and Friday. Washington is sitting a 8-6 in the East and Miami is at 6-7. I took some time to talk with Jake Whitacre of Bullets Forever about this matchup and get his prediction.
Take a look at our exchange.
1. What are the Wizards expectations this year?
There's an expectation to get back to the second round of the playoffs and give whoever they face there a run for their money. If they fall short of that, the season is a major disappointment. Getting to the Eastern Conference Finals would be the hope, but it's a little hard to say how realistic that is without a better sense of what the top of the East looks like, especially once Cleveland gets healthy.
2. What Wizard has surprised you most so far this season?
The biggest surprise this season has been Kelly Oubre. We all expected him to develop and take another step forward this season, but I don't think anyone saw him shooting 41 percent from deep and developing his handle to the point where he can actually make some plays off-the-dribble now. He still has his erratic moments, but on the whole, he's become a much more dependable player this season, which is a critical development for a team with such little depth.
3. What's the biggest advantage the Wizards will have against the Heat?
The Wizards' biggest advantage should be their backcourt. As good as Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters are, John Wall and Bradley Beal are both playing at an All-Star level this season. That said, Goran Dragic has always played John Wall well and Dion Waiters always has a chip on his shoulder when he goes up against Beal, since he was taken one spot ahead of him in the 2012 Draft. So while I think the backcourt should be an advantage, I also wouldn't be shocked if it's closer to a push.
4. Which Heat player will cause the biggest problems for the Wizards?
Hassan Whiteside is going to be a big problem for the Wizards. Washington's biggest weakness has always been shot-blocking centers, because they can neutralize the John Wall - Marcin Gortat pick & roll, and in turn, it makes it easier for the rest of the team to stay home on Bradley Beal and Otto Porter to prevent them from getting open looks. Plus, he's so good at punishing Washington on the offensive end because he's just bigger and stronger than Gortat, so he can really have his way in the paint, especially if the team's pick-and-roll coverage is off.
5. What's your prediction for these two games?
Typically, whenever two teams face each other in back-to-back games, I just assume it's going to be a split unless there's a major talent discrepancy between the two teams. It's really hard to beat a team twice in a row in this league, especially one that presents as many matchup challenges as Miami does. As long as Washington can pick up the split and look competitive in the game they lose, I'll be happy.
For more on the Washington Wizards, visit Bullets Forever.