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Wizards vs. Bucks Preview: John Wall And Brandon Jennings Face Off In Milwaukee

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2011/2012 NBA Season

1-1 (1-0 home) 0-2 (0-1 road)
December 30, 2011
Bradley Center
7:30 PM CT
Radio: 620 WTMJ TV: FSN Wisconsin
Probable starters:
Brandon Jennings
John Wall
Stephen Jackson SG Jordan Crawford*
Mike Dunleavy SF Rashard Lewis
Ersan Ilyasova PF Andray Blatche
Andrew Bogut C JaVale McGee

(19th) 100.6 - OFFENSE - 90.8 (29th)
(9th) 99.5 - DEFENSE - 103.9 (16th)
(5th) 96.0 - PACE - 92.0 (13th)

On the Wizards: Bullets Forever / Truth About It / Washington Post / DC Sports Bog

The Milwaukee Bucks look to improve to 2-0 at home when they host John Wall and the winless Washington Wizards at the Bradley Center.

Young Guns. John Wall's sophomore campaign has gotten off to a bit of a rough start, but there's little debate that the 2010 #1 overall pick is one of the potential breakout stars of the 11/12 season. The bad news: Wall has made just 9/28 shots with almost as many turnovers as assists (10 vs. 11) in Washington's opening two losses of the season, as the Wizards managed just 84 and 83 points against the Nets and Hawks, respectively. The bright side: it's just two games, and Wall's 23 free throw attempts so far provide a reminder of how difficult he is to contain.

Meanwhile, Brandon Jennings might seem like old news compared to Wall, but he's had a solid start to his pivotal third season. Through two games (sample size!), Jennings is averaging 22.0 ppg, 5.5 apg, and just 1.0 turnover per game on .429/.364/.923 shooting (for an above-average 56.5% true shooting). We all love--or at least pay lip service to--the idea of Brandon becoming a more "pure" PG, but realistically the best we can probably hope for is a more refined version of the scoring point we've seen over the past two years. More shooting discretion and an increased assist rate? Yes please. But Jennings also can't be someone he's not.

Bucks getting healthy...ish? Charles Gardner reports that Carlos Delfino (right wrist) made it through a full practice on Thursday and is a good bet to be active on Friday for this first time this season. My guess is that Mike Dunleavy continues to start until further notice; even without his shot going, Dunleavy has shown his passing, off-ball movement and general basketball IQ making him a valuable addition to the Bucks' rotation. Even if Delfino doesn't reclaim his starting spot, he figures to get plenty of opportunity to share time with Dunleavy, Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston at the wing positions.

Luc Mbah a Moute (knee tendonitis) took part only in non-contact drills on Thursday but could also return, while rookie Tobias Harris did some light work after his extended absence due to dehydration. The Bucks will also get Drew Gooden back, providing some additional depth behind Andrew Bogut in the pivot.

Speaking of Harris, kudos to Charles Gardner for digging up some details on the Bucks' first round pick's unusually lengthy spell on the sidelines. It's still not clear when he'll be given clearance for full workouts.

Leuer Alcindor. If you're concerned that Jon Leuer doesn't have enough overly hyperbolic nicknames after his breakout evening on Tuesday, fear not. Henceforth Jon shall be known as Leuer Alcindor. No pressure. And should he convert to islam that's no problem either--then he'll just become Kareem Abdul-Jon-Leuer.

Jokes aside, Leuer's contributions against the Timberwolves (14 pts, 8 rebs, 2 blk) shouldn't be understated: he helped stabilize the Bucks when Kevin Love was living at the foul line in the first quarter, and his three point play with a minute remaining helped clinch the victory. He's shown flashes of the perimeter skill everyone saw at Wisconsin and perhaps more importantly hasn't been bullied on the defensive end or on the boards either. Now he just needs to keep it up. One tidbit from his interview with Sparky on WSSP:

It's hard to just say one or two guys because there's been all of them. The veterans have been great to the rookies, in just showing us how to do things the right way. From Stephen Jackson to Bogut to Brandon...all of them have really helped me out a lot.

Young and the Restless. Nick Young was among the few young players who didn't seem to cash in during free agency, opting to accept his one-year, $3.7 million qualifying offer after the Wizards refused to offer him Marcus Thornton-type money (four years, $33 million). The delay in signing meant Young missed most of camp and lost his usual starting gig (momentarily) to second-year gunner Jordan Crawford, though Young has been up to his old scoring tricks off the bench, averaging 18.5 ppg on 57% shooting in the opening two games. Meanwhile, Crawford scored 15 on 12 shots in the opener against New Jersey before struggling through an 0/6 shooting night against the Hawks. I'm guessing Young won't be on the bench for long, possibly beginning tonight.

Though the Wiz don't figure to make a serious run at the playoffs this year, mercurial players like Young and Crawford are exactly why they can be a scary team. Either of Wall's backcourt mates can drop 30+ on any given night, while players JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche (more on him below) are prone to moments of brilliance and idiocy. The Wiz are probably equally likely to steal this game or lose by 25.

My Dinner With Andray. Andray Blatche is in many ways the archetype for NBA players that drive me nuts: high-usage, low efficiency, motivationally-challenged, self-absorbed, defensively indifferent and quite talented. Kind of like Charlie Villanueva with worse judgment.

The latest case of Blatchelism: after years of being known as frustratingly content to launch wayward jumpers, Andray thought it was a good idea to question his lack of post touches after the Wizards' opening two losses. And he's the Wizards' captain. Leadership, huzzah!

Boards. The single biggest issue in the Bucks' opening night loss and their inability to close out the Wolves on Tuesday? Rebounds. Through two games the Bucks are 29th in defensive rebound rate (65.9%), compared to 7th a season ago (74.8%). In other words, the Bucks won't be this bad for long, but mean reversion can't come quickly enough. The good news is that Washington is also dead last in offensive rebound rate after its first two games (15.9%), though that's not likely to hold up either--they were 9th in ORR a season ago.