Confirming what has been discussed here and elsewhere for several days, the Washington Wizards have signed free agent swingman Martell Webster, President Ernie Grunfeld announcedon Wednesday.The No. 6 overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft averaged 8.4 points over his seven-year career. A career 37-percent 3-point shooter, Webster averaged 6.9 points per game last season with Minnesota while recovering from preseason back surgery.Last week when the initial reports of a deal emerged, I wrote about the addition of the 25-year-old Webster, from the Wizards need for another long range threat to the logjam the team now has upfront and, as Grunfeld also notes, the additional roster flexibilityafforded Wizards coach Randy Wittman."Martell brings a combination of versatility and shooting in addition to his experience," Grunfeld said. Adding him to the roster provides us with another solid veteran presence and gives us flexibility with our lineups at both the shooting guard and small forward positions."Certainly a low risk maneuver -- per team policy, terms of the deal were not released, but it's believed to be a one-year deal for slightly above the league minimum salary -- and adds to what should be a fierce battle for minutes on the wings.The Wizards roster now stands at 14 players with one spot available. It would be surprising if the team chose to fillit before training camp. Then again, the addiition of Webster kind of came out left field.
The Wizards experienced a wild ride before the All-Star break, but came out of it on solid ground, fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 33-24 record. With 27 games still remaining until the postseason, here is a look at the biggest storylines moving forward...
Who will they sign?
The Wizards are close to signing a new player as they were left with open roster spots following the trade deadline when they dealt guard Sheldon Mac to Atlanta for a second round pick. The Wizards have keyed in on the backup point guard position and are likely to go in that direction with the move. But they could still be in the market for other players, possibly someone at the backup wing position, even if they sign a point guard.
The Wizards only have a few days left to make a move because they need to get their roster to 14 players within 14 days of the Mac trade on Feb. 8. Their next game is on Thursday against the Cavaliers, so they could have someone in the building in time to play in that game.
When will Wall return?
Wall had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Jan. 31 and was prescribed a recovery timeline of six-to-eight weeks, meaning he still has about another three weeks to go before a return is possible. It could be another five weeks before he's back on the court. That puts him in the range of missing another 10-to-17 games.
The Wizards have played nine games since he went down and have won seven of them, but they aren't even halfway there yet. They have a long way to go. Because it's Wall and his return will have a domino effect, this is the most important storyline to watch for the Wizards moving forward.
How will Wall fit back in?
Wall's return will of course be a big deal for the Wizards. They will be adding an All-Star back into their lineup with just weeks before the start of the playoffs. But at the moment, they have a good thing going and are playing much better than they were in the last week or two before he was shut down. That, of course, had a lot to do with Wall playing injured.
It will be interesting if the Wizards are still winning at anything close to their current rate when Wall comes back. That would be the ideal scenario because they could ease him back into the lineup and take their time getting him up to speed. But it will also create a complex situation for head coach Scott Brooks, who will need to make adjustments to his rotation. The alternative would be if the Wizards aren't playing well when Wall returns and the concern there would be the urge to rush him back in any capacity.
The Wizards have fared quite well for themselves so far with a 33-24 record despite injuries to Wall, Markieff Morris and Otto Porter to varying degrees. But they have done so while enjoying the easiest schedule in the NBA, 30th out of 30 teams. It is about to get a lot tougher coming out of the All-Star break.
All in the next five weeks the Wizards will see the Cavs, Bucks, Warriors, Raptors, Pacers (twice), Timberwolves, Celtics, Spurs (twice) and the Nuggets. Of their next 17 games, 15 will be against teams currently in the playoff picture. They could be without Wall for all of them. That won't be easy.
Can Oubre get back on track?
While Wall has been out, just about everyone on the Wizards has stepped their games up to compensate. Though he still impacts games in other ways, Kelly Oubre, Jr. has been one exception on offense. In his last 11 games, Oubre has averaged 9.4 points and shot just 31.2 percent from the field and 23.2 percent from three. In his previous 46 games, he averaged 12.4 points while shooting 44.9 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from three.
That is a major difference and the Wizards certainly want to get the early-season version of Oubre back. At his best he is one of their most consistent scorers and an excellent three-point shooter. When he's contributing on both ends of the floor, the Wizards are tough to beat.
RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS
The 2017-18 NBA season has reached the halfway point with the 2018 NBA All-Star Game taking place in Los Angeles, Calif., this weekend.
But as the season shifts toward the second half NBC Sports Washington is taking at the major NBA awards and which players are positioned to bring home the hardware at the end of the 2018 season.
The season is far from over the second half is where the awards are won. Will Ben Simmons hold on to his lead in the Rookie of the Year running? Will LeBron James surpass James Harden for the MVP award?
Below are the detailed results of the NBC Sports Washington NBA midseason awards.
The voting panel consists of NBC Sports Washington's Steve Buckhantz, Kara Lawson, Chris Miles, Travis Thomas, Adam Wise, Chase Hughes, Nick Ashooh and Troy Machir.
2017-2018 NBA Midseason Awards
Rookie of the Year:
Nick Ashooh: Donovan Mitchell, Jazz. While Simmons gets to work with another franchise player in Joel Embiid, Mitchell saw Utah's second-leading scorer traded at the deadline (Rodney Hood), and has had center Rudy Gobert miss tons of games with injuries. The Sixers are 3-8 without Embiid, but still Simmons in the lineup. Mitchell is the first rookie to lead his team in scoring during a winning streak of at least 11 games and he leads all rookies in scoring, on a team that could make the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.
Steve Buckhantz: Ben Simmons, 76ers. Rookie of the year would be Ben Simmons, and while there are more than one outstanding young players in the game, he seems to be the most unstoppable and the one with the greatest upside, especially if he hones his shooting skills.
Chase Hughes: Ben Simmons, 76ers. Simmons has returned from injury to be a rookie sensation, consistently flirting with or recording triple-doubles. He is going to be an All-Star for a long time.
Kara Lawson: Ben Simmons, 76ers.
Troy Machir: Ben Simmons, 76ers. This is tough because Simmons 1) isn't really a rookie 2) Doesn't have any range on his jump shot, and 3) gets to play with Joel Embiid. Donovan Mitchell is the best player on his team and is doing it all without Rodney Hood (trade) and Rudy Gobert (injury). I still lean toward Simmons, but Mitchell will probably steal from him in the second half.
Chris Miles: Donovan Mitchell, Jazz. As Damian Lillard put it, he’s actually leading his team. Secondly he isn’t a “red-shirt rookie” like his top competitor Ben Simmons. This is a two horse race if anyone picks someone else that’s a failed drug test.
Travis Thomas: Ben Simmons, 76ers. He’s the second best player on a team destined for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. His combination of size and court vision reminds me of a young Magic Johnson.
Adam Wise: Ben Simmons, 76ers. I don't like the rule that he's technically a rookie (ahem, Blake Griffin winning over John Wall in 2010-11) but he's a triple-double threat every night and you can't ignore that. Donovan Mitchell is a close second.
Most Improved Player:
Nick Ashooh: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. It’s always tough to pick the MIP, because sometimes it’s more about just getting a larger role that showcases the game a player already has.
Steve Buckhantz: Jaylen Brown, Celtics. Every time I see him play, the results are amazing. A very close second would be Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks.
Chase Hughes: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. Oladipo went from decent to stardom seemingly overnight and has made the Pacers look very smart for trading for him.
Kara Lawson: Victor Oladipo, Pacers.
Troy Machir: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. We've always known Oladipo has elite athleticism and talent, but the change in scenery meant more opportunities to lead and develop. He's gone from a solid start to a bona fide perennial All-Star in less than half a season.
Chris Miles: Victor Oladipo, Pacers. He’s running away with this award. I taught him how to shoot over the summer so I can’t wait to get my residuals.
Travis Thomas: Victor Oladipo. The local product is an All-Star now and he’s the only bright light on a team that’s overachieving, proving he’s also a leader. It’s hard to imagine the Pacers being in the Playoff picture without Oladipo.
Adam Wise: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks. Should Tim Hardaway Jr. have a say in this? Giannis has upped his "wow" factor this season and it was already among to tops in the league. He's can't-miss viewing when he's on the floor.
Sixth Man of the Year:
Nick Ashooh: Lou Williams, Clippers. No brainer here. "Lou-Will" is one of the top scorers in the NBA despite playing just 32 minutes per game.
Steve Buckhantz: Lou Williams, Clippers. He's making shots of the bench like Jamal Crawford and has had numerous game winners. I also like Terry Rozier of Boston. He's an excellent player with a huge upside.
Chase Hughes: Lou Williams, Clippers. could have been an All-Star this year, he has been that good off the Clippers' bench. The guy is putting up career numbers and got a well-deserved contract extension along the way.
Kara Lawson: Lou Williams, Clippers.
Troy Machir: Lou Williams, Clippers. There are several good candidates, but this is Lou Williams' award ... again. He's averaging over 20 ppg and coming off the bench AND nearly made the All-Star Game. When has that ever happened before?
Chris Miles: Kelly Oubre, Wizards. Yep, I went full homer on this one. Dude is legit and this summer the “should Oubre start” camp is going to revolt if he keeps this up.
Travis Thomas: Lou Williams, Clippers. He should be every year. In fact they should rename the award, Lou Williams Of The Year. He’s averaging 23 points a game coming off the bench for a team going nowhere fast.
Adam Wise: Lou Williams, Clippers. He should've been an All-Star ... and he doesn't even start!
Coach of the Year:
Nick Ashooh: Mike D'Antoni, Rockets. D’Antoni has kept the Rockets in contention for the top spot in the west, which means a true competitor to the Warriors. They’ve already had two double-digit win streaks, and now that he finally has a roster that fits his system, it’s not just Golden State that can run teams off the floor.
Steve Buckhantz: Eric Spoelstra, Heat. Just when you think they really don't have a lot going on in South Florida, he consistently keeps his squad in the game and has them poised to make a run in the post season. Brett Brown of the Sixers and Brad Steven of the Celtics would also get consideration.
Chase Hughes: Gregh Popovich, Spurs. The Spurs are third in the stacked Western Conference despite missing Kawhi Leonard.
Kara Lawson: Dwane Casey, Raptors.
Troy Machir: Dwane Casey, Raptors. The Cavs and Celtics are the talk of the East, but the Raptors are the most consistent team this side of the Mississippi River. Casey doesn't get enough credit, which is why I'm writing about him here.
Chris Miles: Brad Stevens, Celtics. I hate Boston, everything about it. Just being forced to pick this guy means I don’t have to write an explanation.
Travis Thomas: Brad Stevens, Celtics. Boston has continually overachieved under Stevens tutelage. Despite the devastating injury to Gordon Hayward, Stevens still has the Celtics primed for a run at the NBA Finals.
Adam Wise: Dwane Casey, Raptors. Toronto seemed to be an afterthought in the East after everyone got all excited about the new faces in Boston and Cleveland. He's figured out how to use a deeper bench, while also giving ample minutes to his stars in DeRozan & Lowry. The Raptors are very well in the hunt for the top seed for that reason.
NBA Most Valuable Player:
Nick Ashooh: James Harden, Rockets. He leads the NBA in scoring, second in assists, and has Houston poised to give a legit push to the Warriors out West.
Steve Buckhantz: James Harden, Rockets. You can always make a case for the great players and how they elevate the athletes around them, and this is an award that's best suited to someone AFTER the season ends, but right now I'd go with Harden, who continues to play at a high level for his squad. Lebron will be there in the end, as will Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.
Chase Hughes: James Harden, Rockets. He is the NBA's leading scorer, is second in assists and is leading the charge for the Rockets, who have the league's best record.
Kara Lawson: James Harden, Rockets.
Troy Machir: James Harden, Rockets. LeBron James is still the best basketball player on the planet, but James Harden is the NBA MVP at the midway point. He's still the elite volume scorer he always was, but he's evolved into a player that makes his teammates around him better. Also, he scored a 60-point triple-double.
Chris Miles: James Harden, Rockets. His 60-point triple-double should say enough. His team is also 26-1 when he has Chris Paul and Clint Capella. They also gave it to the Warriors and are in contention for the top seed in the West. Lebron James is second and could supplant Harden depending on how the season ends.
Travis Thomas: James Harden, Rockets. You could have made the case for him the past three seasons but other guys balled out of control and earned the award. This season it’s undeniable, he’s averaging over 30 point per game and leading one of the best teams in the league.
Adam Wise: James Harden, Rockets. He's used the runner-up to the award as motivation this year. While the rebounding numbers are down (Clint Capella has gobbled them up), he's still near the top of the league in assists and he's leading the NBA in scoring. Oh yeah, and his play has elevated the Rockets into the "Could they really beat the Warriors in the playoffs?" discussion.