The Washington Wizards will have their chance Friday to back Bradley Beal's contention that Washington is at the top of the class in the East -- at least for a night.
Beal, speaking in an interview with ESPN's The Jump alongside backcourt teammate and superstar point guard John Wall, said he "firmly" believed Washington was the team to beat in the Eastern Conference and that, already, the Wizards controlled their own fate.
"I feel like we're the best team. That's just the way I feel," Beal said Friday before the Wizards hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). "I always stand by it because I mean, why would I sit here and say another team's better than my team? I'm not going to sit here and do that. I've got confidence in myself and my teammates and what we can bring to our team and what we can accomplish."
Wall said that two years after breaking his hand in the beginning of the playoffs and a year after being ousted in a Game 7 of the second round by the East's regular-season champion Boston Celtics, the Wizards feel like they can "match up with anybody in the East."
"We feel like we're their biggest threat," Wall told ESPN's Rachel Nichols and Paul Pierce, referring to Cleveland. "We just got to find a way to get over that hump and beat them and go to the Finals."
The Wizards and Cavs are both facing tougher-than-anticipated questions less than three weeks into the season. Washington (4-3) will look to hand Cleveland (3-5) its fifth straight loss -- and avoid its fourth loss in five games.
LeBron James -- off to the worst eight-game start since his rookie season -- has put the onus on the Cavs' defensive efforts.
Wall said the Wizards will be faced with a similar challenge.
"It's going to be basically me and Brad leading, not even offensively -- we can do that," Wall said. "But it's going to be on the defensive end. Whenever we have lapses against those teams we should beat, it's because we don't get off to a great start. And us being the leaders, we take that defensive approach to the next level, we'll get everybody else to follow our lead."
The offenses for both teams tell a different story.
The Cavaliers and Wizards are the two most efficient teams when driving to the hoop this season. Cleveland leads the NBA with points on 68 percent on its drives, while Washington ranks second at 63 percent.
"It's playoff style," Beal said of Friday night's game. "That's one of the best teams to be assembled. You've got LeBron, been in the Finals the last seven times. You know, so there's always hype behind it. And you always bring your A game when you're playing against the best. So that's kind of how we go back and forth. We know we can challenge them, and they know they challenge us. It's always a good matchup. We love it. We embrace it."
Wall said the Wizards have the Cavs' respect and that they gave them "the best matchup."
"Even if we win or lose or it's a great game, I think they understand what we can bring to the table," Wall said. "And I think if you look at last year, people might say they did or didn't. But I think they didn't want to see us, period, because we would have seen them in the second round.
"I think they wanted to see us in the Eastern Conference finals, and we fell one game short of it."
Beal countered the Wizards have to "be on our P's and Q's to the T."
"Each and every night," Beal said. "We're a targeted team now. So teams are really coming after us and giving us their A game."
Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this report.