Redskins

First-place Hawks are winning without Joe Johnson

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First-place Hawks are winning without Joe Johnson

ATLANTA (AP) The widely held assumption was the Hawks would take a step back this season after first-year general manager Danny Ferry cleared salary space for the future by trading Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams.

Look again.

With one quarter of the season gone, the Hawks rank as one of the NBA's biggest surprises.

Atlanta has won 11 of 13 games to move into a first-place tie with defending NBA champion Miami in the Southeast Division.

Al Horford said he isn't about to rebuke those who predicted the team would wilt without Johnson, a six-time All-Star. The Hawks' center said even Atlanta players had concerns a streak of five straight playoff seasons would be in jeopardy.

``That was one of the questions that even people in here, we were questioning ourselves,'' Horford said, looking around the Hawks' locker room. ``What was it going to be like? We didn't know what was going to happen.''

Coach Larry Drew's undersized Hawks are winning with defense and improved passing.

Undersized? Devin Harris, acquired for Marvin Williams, and free-agent signee Lou Williams joined point guard Jeff Teague in the backcourt.

Instead of having the 6-foot-7 Johnson at shooting guard and 6-foot-9 Marvin Williams at small forward, the Hawks often have two or even three players on the perimeter who are 6-foot-2 or shorter.

Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap noted the three guards give Drew's Hawks unusually strong direction and ball movement.

``He's loaded with quarterbacks,'' Dunlap said. ``And now he can play them at the wings. So that ball's going to move because they know how to move it and they know how to play the pick and roll.

``Their personnel department made a decision to go in and get some really good quarterbacks and that's rare in this league. You need two to back each other up at (point guard). But he's using them in a diverse way, so that's what makes it hard to play Atlanta.''

Ferry said he's not surprised to see three small point guards working together so well.

``I felt like it would work, that part of it, that offensively we would be able to do things off the dribble and spread the ball around because of having those three guys,'' Ferry said. ``Defensively, collectively the group has done a good job and that obviously has given us a better chance of getting off to the kind of start we've had. Now we have to sustain it and we have to keep getting better.''

Atlanta ranks fifth in the league with 22.8 assists and third with 9.3 steals per game. Defense is another strength as the Hawks rank fifth with 93.1 points allowed per game.

``We feel very excited where we're at as a team right now,'' Horford said. ``I think we've come together faster than we all expected. I just think there's an understanding we have a lot of work ahead and we can still get better.''

The Hawks beat Dunlap's Bobcats 113-90 on Thursday night as Harris scored a season-high 20 points. Lou Williams ranks third on the team with 13.8 points per game. Teague is averaging 13.3 points and a team-leading 6.3 assists.

Horford and Josh Smith are the new scoring leaders. Smith leads the team with 17.3 points. Horford is averaging a double-double with 16.3 points and 10 rebounds.

``I think we complement each other real well,'' Horford said. ``I think Josh is an unselfish player. I'm an unselfish player as well. I think we just want to win. I really want to win in the worst way and we're making it work with the team.''

Smith can be a free agent after the season. Ferry would not say if he hoped to negotiate with Smith before the end of the season.

``As I've said, we value Josh,'' Ferry said. ``Having players in your program like Josh is a positive thing. I'm not going to talk about negotiations.''

Johnson had four years and $90 million remaining on his contract when he was traded to the Nets for five players - none with long-term contracts - and a draft pick in July. Ferry then traded Marvin Williams to the Jazz for Harris, freeing another $15.7 million over two years.

Ferry also acquired 3-point specialist Kyle Korver from the Chicago Bulls for a trade exception and cash.

Atlanta waived two of the players it received for Johnson - forward Jordan Williams and Jordan Farmar- before training camp. The Hawks also obtained guards Anthony Morrow and DeShawn Stevenson and center Johan Petro, who has played only 11 minutes, in the trade.

Stevenson, 31, has started 11 games. At 6-5, he provides needed size and has been one of team's best 3-point shooters.

``Wins and losses, I'm very happy with where we are,'' Drew said. ``I thought this first quarter of the season we came together pretty well.''

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Need to Know: Who will be left for the Redskins to draft at No. 13?

Need to Know: Who will be left for the Redskins to draft at No. 13?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, April 26, one day before the second and third rounds of the 2018 NFL draft.  

The players the Redskins will have to choose from at No. 13

As the 2018 NFL draft unfolds tonight, the Redskins are going to look to be able to pick from a group of players when their pick comes on the board. “You’ve got about six or seven guys on that board that you’re hoping is there when you get there,” Doug Williams said on Tuesday. “If you lose one, you put another one up.”

So, who is likely to be in that group? Based on a bevy of mock drafts and big boards plus my own analysis guessing, here are the seven players I think will wind up in that group that will be under discussion when the Redskins pick, in no particular order. 

  • QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville 
  • DL Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
  • Edge Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio
  • LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
  • LB Leighton Vander Esch, Vanderbilt
  • S Derwin James, Florida State
  • CB Joshua Jackson, Iowa

Right off the top, did I forget RB Derrius Guice? No. While the Redskins like him I don’t think he is in consideration for the 13thpick. 

If Jackson is there, the move is to wait for the phones to ring. There is talk that the Ravens, who pick 16th, would like to add him. Moving back to Baltimore’s spot could potentially add a third-round pick and still have at least four of these seven players still available. The Redskins are intrigued by Jackson but with Alex Smith under contract, they aren’t going to draft a quarterback.  

Payne has been a popular pick to the Redskins in mock drafts (such as the one I posted yesterday). He could be a bit of a reach at 13 and perhaps he is a better candidate to be taken after a trade back. I think that Vita Vea will be gone, probably to the Raiders with the 10thpick. 

If Vea does go to Oakland and there is a top-10 surprise like Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey, a hot name lately, then there is a good chance that both Edmunds and James will be available. Let’s do the count as the Redskins would as the first 12 picks unfold. If four quarterbacks go plus Vea, McGlinchey, guard Quinton Nelson cornerback Denzel Ward, running back Saquon Barkley, and edge rusher Bradley Chubb, that leaves two other picks in front of the Redskins. I think those will be cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick and inside linebacker Roquan Smith. That would leave James and Edmunds. Of course, one or both of them could go earlier, leaving Fitzpatrick and/or Smith for inclusion on the Redskins’ list. 

Any one of those four players should give the Redskins pause when it comes to trading down or taking Payne. They need impact players and all of those prospects have potential to be just that. 

Their interest in Davenport may tell us how confident the Redskins are in their ability to retain Preston Smith beyond this year and their confidence in the development of Ryan Anderson. And if they select Joshua Jackson could be a signal that Josh Norman will become a 2019 salary cap casualty. The Redskins reportedly like Vander Esch but he’s a notch below the special talents like Edmunds and Smith. 

If I was presented with this scenario, I’d probably take James. Yes, the Redskins like D.J. Swearinger and Montae Nicholson but they could take James, move him around the defense and figure out some neat name for his position. He would make the defense better immediately. Other needs like the defensive line could be handled later on in the draft.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Timeline  

Today’s schedule: 8:00 NFL Draft, first round, AT&T Stadium, Arlington TX

Days until:

—Rookie minicamp (5/11) 15
—OTAs start (5/22) 26
—Training camp starts (7/26) 91

The Redskins last played a game 116 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 136 days. 

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Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

The Toronto Raptors' best player has become a serious problem for the Washington Wizards, as they now face a 3-2 series deficit in their 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series and the bleak reality that one more loss means their season is over.

DeMar DeRozan, who began this first round series with a modest 17 points in Game 1, has since raised his game to a new level to beyond even what we have seen in the past. In Games 2-5, DeRozan has averaged 31.8 points, including his 32-game outburst in Game 5 that tilted the series in Toronto's favor.

DeRozan is averaging 28.8 points through five games against the Raptors. That's up considerably from his 22.5-point career playoff average.

DeRozan scored his 32 points in Game 5 with efficiency. He shot 12-for-24 from the field and even made three of his four shots from three.

He didn't even need the free throw line like he normally does. DeRozan shot six free throws, less than his regular season average.

The Wizards are having trouble with DeRozan particularly in the first half. DeRozan is averaging 14.8 first-half points during the playoffs, second only to LeBron James. 

DeRozan had 20 points by halftime in Game 5.

"DeMar was in his element tonight," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He got it going early. It was kind of hard to shut him off."

The Wizards are paying for disrespecting DeRozan's three-point shot. He made just 31.2 percent from long range in the regular season, but is shooting threes at a 45.5 percent clip in the playoffs.

If DeRozan is knocking down shots from outside, his offensive game is as complete as just about anyone in the NBA. He has shown in this series an impressive ability to not only get to the rim, but finish through contact or draw fouls.

DeRozan does a good job of maintaining body and ball control going straight up against Wizards' big men and is often rewarded by the referees. He shot a playoff career-high 18 free throws in Game 4.

The Wizards are actually doing a decent job of taking away his midrange shots, which usually account for much of his points. Though DeRozan is hitting an impressive 66.7 percent from 5-to-9 feet, up from his season clip of 47.6, his numbers are down from further out.

DeRozan is shooting 40 percent from 10-to-14 feet out, down from 41.5 percent in the regular season, and just 28.6 percent from 15-to-19 feet, down from 43.7.

DeRozan is hurting the Wizards from long range and within nine feet of the rim. He is taking what the Wizards are giving him and Washington has to adjust.

"We’ve gotta pretty much get it out of [his] hands. Make sure we take care of everybody else," Oubre said.

The Wizards should look to how the defended him in Game 4 as a good example of how to limit his impact. DeRozan had 35 points, but required 29 shots from the field and 18 free throws to get there. 

Washington forced DeRozan into an inefficient night and forced others to try to beat them. The result was the Wizards' best defensive game overall, as the Raptors scored a series-low 98 points.

DeRozan isn't the only defensive concern for the Wizards as they look ahead to Game 6 on Friday. Backup point guard Delon Wright scored 18 points for the second time this series and Toronto hit 11 threes in the game.

The Wizards held the Raptors to just seven threes in Game 4 and it was no coincidence they won that game. They have to lock down the perimeter and, as this series has shown, that includes DeRozan even though he isn't known for making threes.

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