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How does Vegas view the Wizards' chances next year?


How does Vegas view the Wizards' chances next year?

Now that the NBA season is over, it's time to look ahead to the offseason and see which team will take steps toward hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy this time next year.  

And as you'd expect, oddsmakers have already put out their thoughts as who they think will win it all in 2016. And to the surprise of some, it's not the newly-crowned Golden State Warriors. 

Instead, the sharps in Las Vegas believe that the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that fell in the NBA Finals to the Warriors, have the best chance to go all the way next season at 3/1. Perhaps the thinking is that if LeBron James returns along with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, there's a better chance for Cleveland to end its long championship drought.  

But it's not like Vegas is disrespecting the Warriors completely; Golden State is listed as a close second behind the Cavs at a respectable 5/1.

As for the Wizards, a strong postseason performance wasn't enough to sway those out west. Washington is listed at 40/1 to win the title in 2016 -- tied for 14th best with the Toronto Raptors and Portland Trailblazers. We'll have to see if a strong offseason changes things. 

Here's the full list of odds, courtesy of Bovada: 

Odds to win 2016 NBA Championship

Cleveland Cavaliers                               3/1

Golden State Warriors                           5/1

Oklahoma City Thunder                          7/1

Chicago Bulls                                        10/1

Los Angeles Clippers                            10/1

San Antonio Spurs                                10/1

Houston Rockets                                  18/1

Atlanta Hawks                                       25/1

Memphis Grizzlies                                 25/1

Dallas Mavericks                                   33/1

Indiana Pacers                                      33/1

Miami Heat                                            33/1

New Orleans Pelicans                            33/1

Portland Trailblazers                              40/1

Toronto Raptors                                    40/1

Washington Wizards                              40/1

Boston Celtics                                      50/1

Los Angeles Lakers                               66/1

Denver Nuggets                                    100/1

Detroit Pistons                                      100/1

Milwaukee Bucks                                   100/1

Brooklyn Nets                                       100/1

New York Knicks                                   100/1

Phoenix Suns                                        100/1

Sacramento Kings                                 100/1

Utah Jazz                                             100/1

Minnesota Timberwolves                        150/1

Charlotte Hornets                                  250/1

Orlando Magic                                      250/1

Philadelphia 76ers                                 250/1

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How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

How the Wizards have taken Raptors big man Serge Ibaka out of the series on offense

The Wizards-Raptors first round playoff series has evolved to feature the emergence of several players who started off slowly including Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Kelly Oubre, Jr. The opposite has happened for Toronto big man Serge Ibaka.

After Ibaka lit up the Wizards for 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in Game 1, there has been a disappearance. His scoring has gone missing and it's a big reason why the Wizards have won two straight games and earned a 2-2 series split.

Head coach Scott Brooks knows Ibaka well from their days in Oklahoma City. He helped develop Ibaka and has since watched from afar as his game has changed to include a consistent outside game.

Brooks has on several occasions referred to Ibaka as one of the best three-point shooting big men in the league. The numbers back that up. Last season, he shot 39.1 percent from three on 4.0 attempts per game, excellent for a 6-foot-10 power forward.

This season that number dipped to 36 percent, but he hit 41 percent of his threes in his final 16 games of the regular season. That carried over into the playoffs when he went 3-for-4 in Game 1 as part of an 8-for-11 shooting night overall.

The Wizards made a point to take away those outside shots following their series-opening defeat. The way they are doing that is by crowding him when he gets the ball, even if it means him getting past the initial defender.

"You want to make sure you meet him on the catch. You want to take away his shot," Brooks said. "When he gets open shots, they are money. He's going to knock them down... We did a good job of meeting him on his catch and making him put the ball on the floor with his left hand. You can live with the results."

After his 23-point outburst in Game 1, Ibaka has scored just 20 points total in the last three games. He has gone 2-for-6 from three.

The Wizards are taking away his shot attempts in general. He took 11 shots in each of the first two games of this series, but just four in Game 3 and five in Game 4. In Game 3 he had three points and three turnovers and on Sunday he had seven points and four turnovers.

Here are two examples of the Wizards' defense on Ibaka. On this first play, Markieff Morris meets Ibaka as soon as he catches the ball and the result is a turnover:

On this next play, Morris follows Ibaka all the way to the rim and even though he goes up on a pump fake, Morris recovers to alter Ibaka's shot and force a miss:

The Wizards, however, did get away with one against Ibaka. He was left wide open for a three in the final minute, but the shot rimmed out:

As the first two plays demonstrate, Morris deserves a lot of credit for the Wizards' success against Ibaka. He has the size and mobility to keep up with him and is willing to use contact to his advantage.

"Just playing the tendencies," Morris said. "We're making them do things they are uncomfortable with and are getting better results."

Ibaka was fourth on the Raptors this season in points per game and third in shot attempts. He is their third option behind All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. If the Wizards can continue to lock up Ibaka, it will be difficult for the Raptors to beat them.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Death Row D.C. and the Wizards are back

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller were joined by Julie Donaldson to break down the Wizards' wins in Games 3 and 4.

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat are back and the Wizards are a different team because of it. Plus, how regaining their Death Row D.C. mentality has changed this series.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!