WASHINGTON WIZARDS at ATLANTA HAWKS
Where: Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga.
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m.
TV: CSN (coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.)
Live stream: CSNmidatlantic.com
Radio: 1500 AM
The Wizards begin their 2016-17 campaign on Thursday night in Atlanta with a matchup against the Hawks. Here are three things to watch…
John Wall's minutes
The All-Star point guard has no problem moving around and playing at full-speed, despite the fact he had surgery on both knees back in May and was limited early on in training camp. But that doesn't necessarily mean he's ready to go a full 48 on Thursday night. Wall and head coach Scott Brooks have indicated that 32 minutes is a solid goal for Wall in the opener. That's not far off from the 36.2 minutes Wall averaged last season, good for fifth in the NBA.
More important than Wall's nightly total could be how long he can play at a given time. Wall said this week the next step for him is to go full bore for eight to 10 minutes and not have it affect his energy particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
Changes for Atlanta
The Hawks have been a perennial playoff team in the Eastern Conference with an impressive nine straight postseason appearances. This year, though, they will look much different with Al Horford now playing in Boston and Jeff Teague having moved on to Indiana. That's two All-Stars gone from a team that won 48 games last year and 60 the season before.
The two players replacing them in the Hawks' lineup aren't half-bad themselves. In comes former first round pick Dennis Schroder and eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard. They could again lead the Hawks to the playoffs, but it may take time for the team to gel after making significant changes to their personnel.
How will Brooks use his bench?
As Insider J. Michael detailed on Wednesday, Brooks has a lot of options on his bench, but it may take some time to sort out his rotation. At backup point guard, he has Trey Burke and Tomas Satoransky. At shooting guard, Marcus Thornton will be a fixture. Kelly Oubre will back up Otto Porter at small forward and certainly hopes for more minutes than he got as a rookie. And behind Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat down low will be Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith. Further down the bench, they have three undrafted rookies in Danuel House, Sheldon McClellan and Daniel Ochefu.
Can Satoransky push Burke for more minutes behind Wall? Can Oubre earn Brooks' trust and take minutes away from Porter? Will any of the rookies earn meaningful minutes early in the season? Thursday night will provide the first answers to those questions. It will also be interesting to see how Brooks decides to mix-and-match his lineups, particularly at the guard position with Satoransky presenting a wild card with his size.
[RELATED: What to expect from Wizards' bench]