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Morning tip: Who has edge in Wizards vs. Hawks?

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Morning tip: Who has edge in Wizards vs. Hawks?

ATLANTA -- Throw out what happened in the first round for the Wizards (a surprisingly easy sweep of the Toronto Raptors) and the Atlanta Hawks (a surprisingly difficult six-game series with the Brooklyn Nets).

These are slightly different teams from the regular-season series, won 3-1 by the Hawks, and in a seven-game series it's all about adjustments between games and the more defensive style of play.

Game 1 is today at Phillips Arena (ABC, 1 p.m. ET; Wizards Postgame Live on CSN, approximately 3:30):

  • Frontcourt: In terms of sheer numbers and depth, this isn't much of a contest. The Wizards are superior with Marcin Gortat, Nene, Drew Gooden, Kevin Seraphin, Kris Humphries and Paul Pierce. The Hawks counter with Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Pero Antic, DeMarre Carroll and Mike Scott. Where the Hawks get a leg up, however, is by forcing opponents to adjust to them which makes the Wizards' size (and slower feet) a weakness. But with Pierce playing more at power forward and Gooden's recent emergence, some of that advantage should be neutralized. Advantage, Wizards.

  • Backcourt: Jeff Teague has been better than John Wall head-to-head. Wall, however, is the better player. Kyle Korver is the NBA's best three-point shooter and an underrated defender. Bradley Beal shot good enough from deep to be ninth-best in the regular season. The difference in both backcourts has been consistency for the 82-game season. In the postseason, Wall and Beal have been better. So which duo wins out? Whichever one turns over the ball the least and until the Wizards prove they can be more responsible with it it's difficult to go against the more proven commodity in this key area. Teague will challenge every entry pass, and his wings will support him by denying the ball. Advantage, Hawks. 

  • Reserves: The Hawks have gotten more production because, like with the starters, they fit. The Wizards have more depth and versatility with Otto Porter, Ramon Sessions, Gooden and can resort to Seraphin, Humphries, Rasual Butler and Will Bynum. Having options in a seven-game series when situations change is significant. The Wizards have the pieces. They have to find a way to make it work in concert. Advantage, Wizards

  • Coaches: It's hard to go against Mike Budenholzer of the Hawks. He led the franchise to a record 60 wins in the regular season and was named NBA coach of the year. But Randy Wittman, who won't get anywhere near the respect of the long-time Gregg Popovich disciple, seems to be better in a series. His teams are 7-1 on the road in the postseason including last year despite being the lower seed in each series. Does that experience matter? How can it not? Even

  • Intangibles: Most of the Wizards have been in this situation and have been underdogs. They weren't as happy to get to the second round this year as they were last year. This is a team that tends to play better when it's the underdog vs. the No. 1 seed in the East, which is a good thing.  Plus, they have a swagger with Pierce that wasn't present previously. The Hawks have a perimeter-heavy style that usually has trouble translating the deeper a team like this gets into the postseason. Atlanta is 0-15 in semifinal series. The Wizards haven't been past this round since 1978-79. Advantage, Wizards.

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Chris Paul is reportedly recruiting LeBron James to the Rockets, which would change East dramatically

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Chris Paul is reportedly recruiting LeBron James to the Rockets, which would change East dramatically

Next to actually signing LeBron James himself, there is another scenario involving the NBA's best player that should sound great to Eastern Conference teams. That is if James decides to leave the conference altogether for a team in the West, and it sounds like Chris Paul is trying to make that dream come true.

Paul, according to ESPN, is actively recruiting James to join the Houston Rockets. The Rockets won an NBA-best 65 games in the 2017-18 season and fell one win short of reaching the NBA Finals.

Here is what Adrian Wojnarowski said as transcribed by Pro Basketball Talk:

Chris is going to return there. And listen, right now, Chris Paul’s focus isn’t so much on his own free agency. He’s trying to recruit LeBron James to Houston, and somebody close to him said to me he is as focused on recruiting LeBron as anything he’s done in this league. He wants to find a way.

There's no doubt Houston would give James an opportunity to contend and maybe even win championships. They were up 3-2 on the Warriors in the conference finals before losing the final two games. Paul missed the last two games of the series due to injury.

If the Rockets were that close without James, adding him would likely push them over the hump. Even with the Warriors being as good as they are, the Rockets would be a super team on a level rarely seen in NBA history. James and Rockets guard James Harden are the two frontrunners for MVP. Then there's Paul, a perennial All-NBA guard who is a surefire Hall of Famer once his playing days are over.

If James went West, that would break the streak of his teams winning the Eastern Conference playoff bracket eight years in a row. The conference would be more wide open than it has been in nearly a decade, giving teams like the Sixers, Celtics, Raptors, Wizards and others a better shot at reaching the Finals.

One alternative is James leaving Cleveland to form another titan within the East. That could happen if he goes to Philly or Boston or somewhere else with some pieces already in place. It's conceivable that James stays in the East and does so with a team that is much better than the Cavs squad he led to the Finals this past season.

On the face of it, James would probably be smart to not go to Houston. As good as the Rockets are and as stacked as they would be if he joined them, he would then subject himself to battling the Warriors in the conference finals or earlier. If winning is his No. 1 goal, he is better off continuing to dominate the East and focus on improving his chances of beating the Warriors once he sees them in the Finals.

Still, Paul can dream. And if James does go West, no one in the East will complain.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Full 2018 NBA Draft preview for Wizards fans, including an interview with Robert Williams

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Full 2018 NBA Draft preview for Wizards fans, including an interview with Robert Williams

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller talked all things NBA Draft.

They gave their picks for the best options for the Wizards, the safest and riskiest prospects, plus what they expect the team to do. Texas A&M big man Robert Williams also joined the show in a 1-on-1 interview.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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