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Dissecting the Wizards' strangest offseason move

Dissecting the Wizards' strangest offseason move

If we're being honest, most and perhaps all of the Wizards' offseason moves lack pizzazz. That's no biggie outside of box office concerns. Individually, the new additions are largely justifiable. All but one.

Apologies for singling out Marcus Thornton, though this discussion is less about the player and more about the decision to re-sign the veteran guard so early in free agency. It's also over a back-of-the-bench type, which is to say the season won't rise or fall on this single call, even one this hmmm inducing.

Other than actual talent, the most valuable commodities for NBA teams during free agency are salary cap space and roster spots. After three signings (Ian Mahinmi, Andrew Nicholson, Jason Smith), one trade (Trey Burke) and two yet-to-be-signed agreements (Bradley Beal, Tomas Satoransky), the Wizards are essentially out of cap space.

Yet flexibility remains. There's the $2.9 million "room" exception. Another trade perhaps. The Las Vegas Summer League is about unearthing (cost-effective) talent and the Wizards' roster alone includes a few intriguing prospects.  Most of all, there are roster spots. With the new guys plus the six returnees, Washington had 11 of its potential 15 slots filled by July 5. That left room for:

* Veteran wing capable of sliding in should Beal's injury history resurface or the unproven options (Kelly Oubre Jr., Satoransky) aren't immediately ready for large roles.

* More perimeter shooting beyond Beal.

* Young prospects to help fill in the gap from having no 2016 draft picks.

MORE WIZARDS: WASHINGTON BOUNCED IN SUMMER LEAGUE

Two days later, they re-signed Thornton to a one-year deal. The cost, a veteran's minimum, is negligible. Giving up the roster spot before Summer League tipped and with free agency still flowing is not.

There is nothing wrong with having a player like Thornton, if not the actual Thornton on a roster. Signed by Washington late last season following his release from Houston, the volume shooter helped stabilize the backcourt by providing scoring punch, though he only sank a third of his 3-point attempts. Since the 6-foot-4 Thornton, 29, offers little in the way of athleticism or ball handling or defense, we're looking at a non-rotational fifth guard.

Teams need fifth guards. They just don't need one with scant upside (again, sorry, Marcus) seven days into free agency. Players with Thornton's general skill set and journeyman résumé (seven teams in seven seasons) are available in August after other options fade or October when training camp starts, if not January or February.

 If Beal misses 19 or more games for the fourth time in five seasons, Thornton isn't the day-to-day answer. Alan Anderson, if the docs say he's good to go following an injury-plagued season, could be. Bringing back the swingman or another experienced option would make the Thornton add even odder.

Jarell Eddie ended up buried on Randy Wittman's bench last season, but his quick shot release can bury bombs.  The Wizards delayed any decision on the 24-year-old's contract for next season. The franchise handed out partially guaranteed contracts to three undrafted rookies: guard Sheldon McClellan, forward Danuel House, and center Daniel Ochefu. Those deals are about allowing Washington a longer look into training camp without any major long-term commitment. Aaron White, the Wizards' 2015 second-round pick, is with team in Vegas. Israeli product Shawn Dawson might dribble-drive his way into a camp invite while Nate Wolters could impress with his floor game,

These are the type of players, all 25 and under, that ideally fill the final 2-3 roster spots especially for a team:

* Looking to get younger after going the AARP route in recent seasons

* That should take flyers on potential seeing as that over the last three NBA Drafts (six rounds) they made only two picks.

If the kids flame out during Summer League (which they didn't) or land better offers elsewhere, should Anderson talks stall, that's when Thornton's number is dialed. He's useful. Teams need bench scoring. They also ideally aim for more with precious roster spots one week into free agency.

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After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

After getting little rest during All-Star break, Bradley Beal aims to be smart in second half

If anyone on the Wizards deserves some time off to rest it's Bradley Beal, who currently ranks fifth in the NBA in total minutes played. While his teammates were off on vacation, many of them at relaxing beaches far away, Beal was making appearance after appearance in Los Angeles as part of All-Star weekend.

The one drawback of Beal being selected as an All-Star and a contestant in the three-point contest was that he got little rest in the past week. He only made it one round in the three-point contest and played 16 minutes in the All-Star Game, but all of it was enough to soak up much of the free time he's used to getting this time of the year.

"Not as much as I needed to," Beal said when asked if he got any rest over the break. "I guess that's one of the downfalls of being an All-Star."

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The workload has really added up for Beal. He leads the Wizards in minutes (36.4/g) and is one of two players on the team who hasn't missed a game all season.

Beal did have Monday and Tuesday off, but that was after a crosscountry flight and a whirlwind of a weekend. He called the media and sponsorship appearances "overwhelming." Many All-Stars have been there before and know what to expect, but Beal was a first-time participant.

Beal and the Wizards will be given no breaks with their upcoming schedule. They have four back-to-back sets in the next three weeks and begin with a stretch of five games in seven days. Those games will feature the Cavs, Warriors, Bucks, Sixers and the Hornets. Charlotte is the only team of that bunch currently out of the playoff picture, but they have already beaten the Wizards twice this season.

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For Beal, it will be extra important to get any rest that he can.

"I will definitely be smart," he said. "I just gotta take care of my body. Listen to my body."

Beal says getting treatment from the Wizards' training staff in between games will be crucial. He also hopes to not over-exert himself in games by trusting his teammates and not trying to carry the load with John Wall out.

Though Beal may be tired from the weekend, he came out of it feeling pretty good about how he represented himself and the Wizards on the All-Star stage. He scored 14 points in 16 minutes in a game featuring the best players on the planet.

Beal now wants to make it an annual thing.

"I defintiely think it can push you more down the line. For me, it's just motivation to continue geting better," he said.

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

 

 

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

The Wizards entered the All-Star break having won seven of their previous nine games since John Wall went down with an injury, so a natural question to head coach Scott Brooks looking ahead to their first game back on Thursday was how he and his team can keep that momentum going in the second half.

Brooks immediately pointed to the Wizards' schedule, which gets notably more difficult in the coming weeks. They have a stretch of games over the next month-plus that features the best teams in basketball and Brooks knows that will be a big factor in whether they can sustain what they have going.

"Definitely the schedule gets tougher," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of good teams coming up starting with the first one in Cleveland. It's five games in seven nights against really good teams."

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In the next five weeks, the Wizards will play 15 of 17 games against teams currently holding playoff spots. That includes the Cavaliers, Warriors, Celtics, Spurs (twice), Raptors and Timberwolves. 

That will represent a marked shift for the Wizards, who to this point have the weakest strength of schedule. Though they boast impressive wins over the Celtics, Rockets, Raptors and Timberwolves, they are about to play teams of that caliber more frequently with few nights off to rest. They have four back-to-back sets all in the next three weeks.

The upcoming stretch has been on the Wizards' minds for a while. Several players referenced their tough schedule before the All-Star break, knowing those wins leading up to the time off could prove extra important in hindsight.

The Wizards return to action on Thursday night against the Cavaliers, a team that has already beaten them twice. Both of those games were against the old version of the Cavs before they traded much of their roster at the deadline.

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Gone are Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Channing Frye. But they still have that guy LeBron James.

"Shoot, they looked good the other time, right? They beat us twice with the other group," Brooks noted. "LeBron is going to go down as one of the best ever. They are younger and more athletic. They're a good team and they still have an All-Star in [Kevin] Love who hasn't played because he's hurt."

The Cavs haven't lost in three games since the All-Star break and that includes road wins over the Celtics and Thunder. They look rejuvenated and, at least so far, improved from the aging, incongruent roster they had just weeks ago.

The Wizards have also been playing better lately, of course, and this upcoming stretch will be a major test for them. Wall has been out three weeks since he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He is likely to miss another three-to-five weeks. The Wizards will have to get through this without him.

If they can remain competitive and even beat some of these elite teams, they will only gain more confidence in their potential. That's the way Brooks plans to approach the schedule.

"We still want to be a better team when John comes back," Brooks said. "But the schedule definitely gets a lot tougher."

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