After a successful playoff run which saw them upset the Chicago Bulls to win their first playoff series since 2005, the Wizards will enter the 2014-2015 season with an unprecedented amount of momentum and national attention. This means that they’ll be in the spotlight more than usual this season, a welcome change that could translate into the formation of some solid rivalries. As a young playoff contender, the Wizards will now be playing meaningful and scrutinized games on a regular basis, factors that can make even routine games feel like high-stakes affairs. Here are a few potential opponents who should emerge as long-term rivals as the Wizards continue their climb in the East.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The most obvious name on this list, the idea of a renewed Wizards-Cavs rivalry has received plenty of attention lately, and for good reason. Unlike their previous feud revolving around off the court nonsense, this has the makings of a legitimate basketball rivalry marked by competitive and exciting on-court play. With LeBron James and Kevin Love joining Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, the Cavs are now the title favorites, and the Wizards are poised to be a serious thorn in their sides. The teams boast an impressive amount of combined star power between James, Love, Irving, John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Paul Pierce. In addition, individual rivalries such as Wall and Irving’s point guard duals and James and Pierce’s history of personal battles can help elevate the rivalry on an emotional level. Just like 2006-2008, these two teams could be battling it out in the playoffs for years to come, only this time in conference semifinals or finals. The added star power, personal rivalries, and higher stakes will make the new and improved version of the Wizards-Cavs rivalry one of the most entertaining and hotly-contested matchups in the entire league.
Chicago Bulls: The premise behind this rivalry isn’t that complicated; the Wizards beat the Bulls in the playoffs last year, and the Bulls are gonna want revenge. The return of Derrick Rose will take this rivalry to the next level, as Wall vs. Rose should evolve into one of the premier point guard battles in the league. In addition, both teams spent the offseason adding bigs to their rosters; the skill of Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic versus the physicality of Marcin Gortat, Nene, DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries should lead to some enjoyable front court battles. Much like Wizards-Cavs, these are two teams that have the potential to be battling late into the playoffs for years to come. Throw in their recent history and some preexisting bad blood, and this has the makings of an intense and fiercely competitive new rivalry.
Charlotte Hornets: This one isn’t much of a rivalry at this point, but all the pieces are in place. Both teams play in the Southeast division. Both teams have similar rosters comprised of exciting young backcourts (Wall and Beal vs. Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson), veterans with name recognition (Paul Pierce, Al Jefferson), and untested youngsters (Otto Porter, Glen Rice, Cody Zeller, Noah Vonleh). And both teams are among the East’s most talented young contenders. While the two don’t have much of a playoff history, Wizards-Hornets could easily be a 4-5 or 3-6 first round matchup this season, and as both teams continue to grow and improve alongside each other, they could become frequent playoff foes.
Who do you think the Wizard’s biggest rival will be next season? Drop a comment and get the conversation started!
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