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Final Wizards questions - and answers - before season tips

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Final Wizards questions - and answers - before season tips

Tonight's the night when John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards officially tip off the 2015-16 season. The Wizards are in Orlando to face the Magic with 81 regular season games and probably the playoffs to follow. Before the journey begins, a look at the questions that will hover over the season plus season, playoff and award predictions.

Will Wizards miss Paul Pierce?

This is more about those clutch shots in the playoffs than dealing with the grind of 82 games. The Wizards have an entire campaign (or at least a good chunk of it) to figure out their best end-game options -- and for Wall and Beal to work out a plan when the clock is ticking down. One thing is already clear: There is no way the way the 38-year old Pierce would last playing in this hyper-speed offensive attack. Losing him to the Clippers probably ends up becoming a blessing in disguise. (Not for the media, however. Pierce's quote game PER broke records during the playoffs.)

Will all the upcoming free agents stay with the team approach?

Barring a last second deal, Bradley Beal becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Nene, Jared Dudley, Alan Anderson, Ramon Sessions, Gary Neal and Garrett Temple are entering the final year of their respective contracts. The Wizards have team options for Drew Gooden, DeJuan Blair and Martell Webster. Just about every name listed plays with a team-first vibe so in theory this won't be an issue. Of course, we've seen other teams over the years in similar spots ruined with me-first basketball. Avoid lengthy losing stretches and this shouldn't be an issue.

"I always tell player, doesn't matter who it is...winning solves all that," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said at the start of training camp when asked about potential chemistry concerns for teams with numerous free agents. "Very seldom unless you're an established star, numbers aren't going to get you were winning does. ...The golden rainbow is out there with the way the money is going to be escalating. ...You better focus on winning if you're worried about that."

Can the Wizards avoid another mid-season swoon?

During a discussion with John Wall about the games he's looking forward to this season, the All-Star point guard shifted the conversation to games toward the middle-ish part of the season. 

"The key for us is going into the All-Star break winning games and then coming out winning games. That's when teams get over the hump and get 50 wins, finish in second or third place. Every year we [a lot] in a row, go into the All-Star break and then lose four more," he said.

The Wizards entered last year's break losing six of eight and then dropped five in a row on the other side. During the 2013-14 season, Washington lost four of five games before the All-Star break.

How does Wittman divvy up the power forward minutes?

Even if we deem Nene as center Marcin Gortat's backup, some interesting math remains. Kris Humphries evolution from mid-range shooter to stretch-4 appears surprisingly easy. Whether he can hang defensively on the perimeter is perhaps the bigger question. That's where Jared Dudley comes in. Or at least he does once the 6-foot-7 forward coming off back surgery can play full minutes. As for Drew Gooden, when he plays, he produces. Now that his 3-point shooting isn't so rare among Washington's bigs, Gooden is probably the odd man out barring injury or Wittman using consistent 11-12 man rotations (Which he might at first considering the up-tempo approach). By the way, this doesn't even factor in the potential of truly small lineups with Otto Porter at the four. 

Can Wizards rebound effectively playing small ball?

Glass work was one of the underrated issues in the Eastern Conference playoff series against the Hawks. The final rebounding numbers were essentially a push, but that meant a loss for Washington based on regular season numbers. The good thing is Wall and Beal aren't afraid to board and Otto Porter has magnets in his hands. Humphries kept up his strong work during the preseason despite spending much more time around the 3-point arc. Gortat desired more space inside offensively. Now he'll need to man the paint for defensive rebounds even more this season.

Will Randy Wittman stick with the pace and space plan?

The doubters say no way the old school coach is truly comfortable playing this modern style even though "Playoff Randy" essentially did just that in the 2015 postseason. Now, let's not take preseason games as anything definitive, but with younger legs, the Wizards are running more. With more 3-point shooters on the roster, the Wizards are taking more shots from beyond the arc. By the way, this is essentially what Wittman previously said would happen if the roster had the proper personnel. I totally get the argument that the Wizards were slow to change relative to the league, but I'd argue part of that was personnel. Go back and look at their top-8 last year before the Andre Miller-Ramon Sessions trade. Lots of age and non-deep shooters. Running lots with Nene, Marcin Gortat and Pierce in the lineup didn't make sense. No argument more 3-pointers from Bradley Beal would have been nice, but three-fifths of the starting lineup were essentially non-threats from deep. Anyway, this "new" plan is here to stay. Now, if the defense starts looking like the Paul Westhead era Denver Nuggets, all bets are off.

While we're here...I made a few predictions earlier this week, but not the heavy duty kind like the CSN Insiders. Here goes...

Eastern Conference: 1) Cavaliers 2) Bulls) 3) Heat 4) Wizards [49-33] 5) Hawks 6) Celtics 7) Raptors 8) Bucks

Western Conference: 1) Rockets 2) Thunder 3) Warriors 4) Spurs 5) Clippers 6) Grizzlies 7) Jazz 8) Pelicans

Wizards run: Lose 4-3 to Cavaliers in ECSF

East finals: Heat over Cavaliers 4-2

West finals: Rockets over Warriors 4-3

NBA finals: Rockets over Heat 4-2

Regular season MVP: 1) James Harden 2) Kevin Durant 3) LeBron James 4) Stephen Curry 5) Anthony Davis

Rookie of the Year: 1) Emmanuel Mudiay 2) Jahlil Okafor 3) Karl-Anthony Towns 4) R.J. Hunter 5) Mario Hezonja

Coach of the Year: 1) Billy Donovan 2) Kevin McHale 3) Scott Skiles

Most Improved Player: 1) Otto Porter 2) Rudy Gobert 3) Giannis Antetokounmpo 4) C.J. McCollum 5) Aaron Gordon

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' blowout loss to Hornets, including Bradley Beal's buzzer-beater

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 122-105 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night...

1. This was a tough one for the Wizards. For the third time this season, they got beaten by the Hornets and for the second straight time it was in a blowout.

They still had their moments, though, including this alley-oop from Tomas Satoransky (11 points) to Markieff Morris (13 points, eight assists, six rebounds). It was the second alley-oop connection for those two in as many games:

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

2. This was a play that encapsulated the Wizards' night. Jodie Meeks drew a flagrant foul on Michael Carter-Williams, but took a hard shot to the head:

3. Kelly Oubre, Jr. had a solid game with 11 points, including this big dunk:

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4. Speaking of Oubre, he helped the Wizards close the first half with a late surge. The real highlight was Bradley Beal stealing the ball and hitting a corner three at the buzzer:

5. Beal ended up with 33 points, six assists and six rebounds. Here's an and-1 he got to go down in the second half:

All in all, it was an ugly performance for the Wizards. To cheer you up, we'll leave you with this young fan who had a great time at Capital One Arena despite the result:

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

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Wizards suffer lopsided loss against Hornets, who have had their number this season

The Washington Wizards lost to the Charlotte Hornets 122-105 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Bad matchup: Despite their poor record, there is something about this Charlotte Hornets team that gives the Wizards trouble. The Wizards lost to the Hornets (26-33) for the third time in three tries this season on Friday night and, aside from a push in the third quarter, they were never really in it.

All in all, it was a dud of a game for the Wizards who were probably due for one. They had won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall got injured. They were also coming off a huge road win the night before in Cleveland, a game that started an hour later than usual.

It was a tough turnaround and the Wizards sure looked like it. It was evident in their defense and unforced errors. They did, however, have a decent shooting night. They shot 49.4 percent from the field 16-for-17 from the free throw line.

The Wizards' second unit didn't provide a lift outside of Kelly Oubre, Jr. (11 points). Mike Scott, one of their best bench options, was held scoreless.

PODCAST: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR SATORANSKY

Ugly first half: The Wizards only trailed by 12 points at halftime, but that score was skewed by a five-point push in the final seconds. The Hornets dominated for much of the first two quarters and did so by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. Those mistakes dug the Wizards a hole they never recovered from.

The Wizards had 10 turnovers in the first half, the same amount they had in their entire game the night before. Limiting mistakes was a big reason they beat the Cavaliers, yet the script was flipped by Charlotte.

The Hornets capitalized with 23 points off those 10 first-half turnovers. The Wizards had 14 giveaways for the games that led to 28 total points. 

Charlotte was 7-for-11 from three at one point in the first half and finished 17-for-39 (43.6%) for the game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Wizards, who entered the night second in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage.

Again, though, the first half ended well as Oubre and Bradley Beal gave the Wizards a jolt in the final seconds:

RELATED: 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT RAMON SESSIONS

Bad defense: The Wizards have played some great defense in recent weeks, but they just didn't have it on Friday night. Most surprising were the guys that hurt them most.

Dwight Howard was limited to 11 points and six rebounds and Kemba Walker didn't score his first points until the final minute of the first half. But others like Frank Kaminsky (23 points), Marvin Williams (15 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points) got pretty much anything they wanted.

For Walker, it was a tale of two halves. He was held in check by Tomas Satoransky in the first half, but broke out in the third quarter and finished with 24 points and seven rebounds. Maybe it was tired legs on the Wizards' part, but Walker just kept dribbling until he got space and once he did, he knocked down shots.

Much like Kyle Lowry did a few weeks ago, Walker made adjustments to find success against Satoransky. We haven't seen that happen much since Wall went out, but those two have given him some trouble. Both guys are considerably smaller than Satoransky and very quick. Maybe there's something to that.

Add it all up and this was one of the worst defensive games of the season for the Wizards. They allowed their most points in a game since Jan. 17 against, you guessed it, the Hornets. Only three times this year have they given up more than what they allowed on Friday.

No Sessions: The Wizards did not debut their newest player on Friday night, which was probably to be expected given Ramon Sessions has not had any practice time yet. That is part of why he didn't play, but it's also another indication that he is unlikely to play much with the Wizards. Sessions is on a 10-day contract and is not expected to supplant either Satoransky or Tim Frazier at point guard. Frazier would seem to be the guy in danger of losing minutes, but it was business as usual for him against the Hornets.

Up next: The Wizards are off Saturday before returning to action at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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