The Washington Wizards will not enter the 2019-20 season with the high expectations they had a year ago. It could end up more of a bridge year as they build towards what they hope will be a stronger future.
The one guy who could make them a heck of a lot more interesting is Rui Hachimura, whom the Wizards took ninth overall in June, their highest draft pick in six years. Hachimura has star potential both on and off the floor, already with an international following and marketing ability rarely seen for a player his age.
With all of that in mind, here are the six most interesting games to watch for Hachimura, now that the Wizards' 2019-20 schedule has been released...
10/23 at Mavs - NBA debut
Hachimura will experience NBA regular season action for the first time in Dallas and against a rising Mavs team that includes Luka Doncic, the 2018-19 rookie of the year, and Kristaps Porzingis, who could be making his anticipated return after 20 months sidelined due to an ACL tear. Hachimura may not guard either of them, but could see a raucous crowd in Dallas. Despite being one of the worst teams in the NBA last season, the Mavs ranked No. 3 in total attendance and first in percentage of seats filled.
12/1 at Clippers - vs. the Klaw and PG-13
Hachimura is a forward and no team will present a tougher defensive match-up for him than the Clippers who now have both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to deploy. Chances are one of those guys could be assigned to Hachimura and when that happens he will experience a level of defense he has never seen before. Leonard also happens to be a player several have compared to Hachimura and this will be the first time they share a court in the pro ranks.
12/14 at Grizzlies - his college teammate
Hachimura was a top-10 pick, so going up against Ja Morant, the No. 2 selection, will be something to watch. But perhaps more noteworthy is the fact the Grizzlies have Hachimura's college teammate, Brandon Clarke. The two played a similar position at Gonzaga and there were some spirited debates in the pre-draft process over which will be the better pro. Hachimura was taken ninth, while Clarke slipped to the 21st pick. Both, though, turned heads at the Las Vegas Summer League and it will be interesting to see them go at it as opponents on the NBA stage.
1/10 vs. Hawks - vs. Hunter and Reddish
The Hawks have two players who have a similar skillset to Hachimura. One is De'Andre Hunter, who was taken with the No. 4 pick. The other is Cam Reddish, who went one pick later at 10th and who many Wizards fans wanted them to take. Neither Hunter or Reddish played when the Wizards and Hawks met in Vegas. And, unfortunately, we won't get to see them square off until the second week of January.
4/1 vs. Pelicans - vs. Zion and the team that passed on him
Much like with the Hawks, the Pelicans have two lottery picks that did not play when the Wizards saw them in the Summer League. New Orleans has the first overall pick, Zion Williamson, as well as Jaxson Hayes, who was taken eighth, right before Hachimura. Williamson and Hachimura will probably see some time guarding each other. Hayes plays a different position entirely, but going up against him will give Hachimura the opportunity to show the Pelicans what they passed on.
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