— ACB Jornada Virtual (@ACBJV) February 4, 2016
From a broader perspective, it’s easy to see how these two teams can appear different. Through their first 10 games of the season, the Warriors went a solid 8-2, while the Wizards went a disappointing 2-8. The Warriors are sitting pretty at the top of the Western Conference (and the NBA as a whole), while the Wizards have battled their way up to a thin hold on the 4th seed in the East.
Despite the obvious differences between the two teams, there are some clear similarities, even going back to before the season started. Both teams entered the season with some pretty lofty expectations. The Warriors were fresh off signing superstar sharpshooter Kevin Durant (coincidentally a Washington, D.C. native), who would join the already lethal shooting combination of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors were expected to be a lock for the top seed in the West, and most fans had already penciled them in to return to the Finals in June.
The Wizards also entered the season with expectations of a sort. Bradley Beal had signed a huge $128 million max contract and was expected to produce like a max player. John Wall was also fresh off surgeries to both knees that would cure the previous ailments he had been playing through, and he was projected to be the fastest and most athletic that he has ever been throughout his career. Washington was also expected to bounce back from a disappointing 41-41 season to be a clear playoff team, even possibly capturing a top-4 seed, with a new head coach in Scott Brooks, as well as a newly overhauled bench filled mostly with younger, more athletic guys than previous seasons.
Interestingly enough, both teams actually got blown out in their first games of the season. Golden State suffered a 129-100 loss at home to the San Antonio Spurs on opening night. Meanwhile, the Wizards fell to the Atlanta Hawks 114-99 in Atlanta. Not a good look for either team right out of the gate. The Warriors got it together pretty quickly as expected. The Wizards took a bit longer to gel, but they have become one of the hottest teams in the NBA since December.
A much closer look at the makeup of each team reveals even more similarities. Let’s take a look at the respective matchups at each position.
Point Guard: Stephen Curry (Warriors) vs. John Wall (Wizards)
Stephen Curry’s primary identity is as a a shooter. John Wall is primarily a pass-first point guard. However, the two are still more alike than people give either one credit for. Curry may primarily be an outstanding shooter, especially from behind the arc, but he has proven that he has great court vision and can absolutely make plays and set up his teammates, especially when they’re hot. John Wall’s shot has also come along nicely, and at 22.7 points per game, he is still the team’s leading scorer.
Also, both guards are pretty athletic. That definitely makes for an exciting matchup.
Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson (Warriors) vs. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
“Shooting” guard is an incredibly appropriate title when describing both Klay Thompson and Bradley Beal. Both are highly competitive knockdown shooters, capable of exploding at any given time, especially from three-point range. They both also have fantastic chemistry with their point guard running mates in Curry and Wall, respectively. Each backcourt is able to make a strong case for why they are the best backcourt in the NBA.
— 📝 (@TrueBballfan) December 15, 2016
Small Forward: Kevin Durant (Warriors) vs. Otto Porter, Jr. (Wizards)
Otto Porter, Jr. is basically the Kevin Durant prototype. Porter currently leads the NBA in three-point field goal percentage, while Durant is the leading scorer for his team. Both player have similar frames, being tall, long, and somewhat lanky. What they lack in physical muscle, however, they make up for with strong hustle, solid defense, and great shooting. Durant is essentially what Scott Brooks, who was also Durant’s former Oklahoma City Thunder coach, hopes to develop Porter into, and Otto’s progression so far seems to be headed in that direction.
the only wings (PG,SG,SF) shooting 50% are:
-Kevin Durant (53.7%)
-Giannis Antetokounmpo (53.5%)
-Otto Porter (53.3%)
-Lebron James (51.2%)
— NBA Talk (@aroundtheNBA30) January 18, 2017
Power Forward: Draymond Green (Warriors) vs. Markieff Morris (Wizards)
Two very gritty defenders, two nightly personal/flagrant/technical foul magnets: Draymond Green and Markieff Morris are the strong, physical guys of each starting lineup. They’re also largely the glue guys on each team. When either team goes small, both Green and Morris are often the guys who end up at the 5, as well.
Worth noting for anyone hoping to knock off the Warriors somehow: Markieff Morris plays VERY well against Draymond Green…
— Gerald Bourguet (@GeraldBourguet) February 11, 2016
Center: Zaza Pachulia (Warriors) vs. Marcin Gortat (Wizards)
Statistically speaking, there’s admittedly not a whole lot to compare regarding Zaza Pachulia and Marcin Gortat. However, both eastern European centers are quietly having solid seasons for their respective teams. Most of what both players do primarily involves just being a strong inside presence to support what the other players are doing on the court. Pachulia and Gortat are the defensive anchors in the paint. They are also physically very similar, with both being 6’11, and at 32 years old, both are the oldest players in their respective starting lineups (with Gortat also being the oldest player on the Wizards team).
Not sure why, but I want to see Zaza Pachulia and Marcin Gortat enter a boxing ring.
— Andy Wolf (@FlowyDNA) May 4, 2013
When looking at depth behind the starting lineup, neither team has an especially impressive bench that would turn heads. The bench was one of the biggest question marks early in the Wizards’ season, as they just could not seem to get it together. For the Warriors, they still have their reliable veterans in Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala. But both teams overhauled their benches somewhat following big signings, and both struggled out of the gate to find a consistent sixth man to deliver while the starters are resting.
News Flash: The Golden State Warriors, to me, are not as good as last year’s team because of their defense and their bench.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) October 26, 2016
Washington Wizards’ Marcin Gortat describes team’s bench as one of league’s worst. #NBA
— Kingsley Oyero (@koyero) November 14, 2016
For Golden State, they are finally getting some solid, albeit inconsistent, production out of guys like guard Ian Clark and center JaVale McGee. On Washington’s side, forward Kelly Oubre, Jr., and forward/center Jason Smith have emerged as leaders and the two more consistent producers off the bench. However, both Steve Kerr and Scott Brooks have found efficient ways to mix in starters with their bench players, as neither shows total trust in having five bench players on the floor at a time outside of emptying the bench during garbage time in a blowout. For the Wizards, that mix usually involves Markieff Morris playing the 5 or Bradley Beal playing either the 2 or the 3 spot, while for the Warriors, the one starter playing with the bench is often either Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant.
The Coaches: Steve Kerr (Warriors) vs. Scott Brooks (Wizards)
Both Steve Kerr and Scott Brooks are relatively younger head coaches, and both were initially hired to replace older coaches that did not necessarily always see eye-to-eye with their respective organization. Both are known as “player’s coaches,” coaches that really understand the guys who are playing for them, and coaches who are known to really develop the talent in younger players. Kerr definitely has the edge here, as he has already coached his Warriors to a championship in 2015, but Brooks has been doing a great job coaching his Wizards to a successful run following their disappointing start.
Both coaches encountered growing pains this year, getting a new group of players to gel and adapt to the system. But players have clearly bought into the systems of both coaches, and the two teams are both currently playing their best basketball of the season right now.
When all is said and done, it’s still far too early to make any Finals predictions. And the Golden State Warriors are certainly further ahead in their progress and development than the Washington Wizards could hope to be at this point. However, should the stars align correctly and these two teams manage to meet in the Finals, then a best-of-seven series between the Wizards and the Warriors could be a really exciting series to watch.
The Warriors and the Wizards will have their first meeting in Washington, D.C. on February 28th. Following that, they will wrap up the series in Oakland on April 2nd. Be sure to circle these two games on the calendar, as NBA fans could be in for a real treat when these two teams finally go head-to-head this season. The Warriors took the previous NBA Finals meeting between the two when they swept the Washington Bullets back in 1975. Could the modern-day Wizards possibly be in line for a shot at revenge this year?