The Washington Wizards, who came within one win of the Eastern Conference finals last season, begin their quest to take the next step tonight when they host the Philadelphia 76ers in the season opener for both teams (7 p.m. ET on ESPN). While the Wizards are trying to state their case as one of the NBA's elite teams, the 76ers hoping to finally have the pieces in place to hit a turning point in "The Process."
The Wall-Beal connection
Last season John Wall and Bradley Beal, who each averaged 23.1 points per game, became the first set of Washington guards to both average 20-plus points per game in the same season since Gilbert Arenas (25.5) and Larry Hughes (22.0) did it in the 2004-05 season.
Wall passing to Beal was the most prolific combo in the NBA last season. No single player had more assists to another player than Wall did to Beal.
The two guards have also done some damage against the 76ers on their own. Wall has dominated the Sixers over the last two seasons, averaging 25 points and nearly 10 assists per game against Philly. Beal recorded one memorable game against Philadelphia last season, scoring 40 points on 15-for-25 shooting on Feb. 24. It is one of four 40-point games Beal has registered in his NBA career.
Trust the Process?
While the 76ers have lost their last three season openers, they won two of their three matchups with the Wizards last season, with their only loss coming in Washington. Philadelphia won the other two games without Joel Embiid in the lineup. In fact, the Wizards are one of three Eastern Conference teams (the Bulls and Pistons are the other two) that Embiid has never played.
Embiid, who missed the final 37 games of last season with a left knee injury, will be playing limited minutes to start the season.
No. 1 picks on display
Embiid isn’t the only reason to be excited about Philadelphia. The season opener will also feature the NBA debuts of the past two No. 1 overall draft picks, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, who are set to become the first No. 1 picks in the common draft era (since 1966) to make their debut in the same game.
According to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Simmons has the best odds to win Rookie of the Year. Fultz has the fourth-best odds.