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Kevin Durant aside, Wizards have another decision for 2016


Kevin Durant aside, Wizards have another decision for 2016

At this time next year, the Wizards will look significantly different when the roster overhauls because of expiring contracts and team options on other players. What happens with coach Randy Wittman also will be a hot topic.

Two summers ago, owner Ted Leonsis gave a playoffs-or-else edict to his front office and coaching staff, and they've responded with two advancements to the conference semifinals despite lacking home-court advantage in the first rounds. 

So far there haven't been any public declarations such as conference finals-or-else -- and it's hard to imagine that scenario playing out again -- but Wittman is entering the second of a three-year contract that pays him $9 million. The 2016-17 season, however, only is a partial guarantee, CSNmidatlantic.com confirmed when the deal was signed. 

If not for John Wall's broken left hand and wrist, the Wizards likely would've made the East finals. They lost in six games to the No. 1 seed Atlanta Hawks. In 2013-14, they lost in six games to No. 1 seed Indiana Pacers. 

Nene, Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley and Gary Neal will be unrestricted free agents. The Wizards hold options on Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair. The second year of Drew Gooden's deal is non-guaranteed.

The Wizards have stuck with their plan, and stability has played an important role for a team that had won just 29 games three years ago. They've been intent on not committing long-term to any deals with free agents, and won't consider pricey trade acquisitions, to keep them a player for Kevin Durant in 2016 while staying a competitive playoff team. And with a directive for the front office keep them below the luxury tax, they've toed that line, too (Currently, the Wizards are over the salary cap of $70 million but under the $84 million tax line).

Wittman has persevered ever since he took over for Flip Saunders in 2011. He had been hired to be fired most of the time, taking over abysmal rosters, and had never led a team to the playoffs. But ownership here wanted a no-nonsense presence who'd instill better work habits, discipline and order in the locker room. The last three seasons, the Wizards have been a top 10 defensive team.

There have been rumblings, with Leonsis criticizing the team's offense and late-game execution in blogs and Wittman being criticized for walking off the court before the final shot of a frustrating home loss to create national headlines. Players criticized each other publicly. 

The Wizards went 2-11 in a crucial stretch of their 46-win campaign last season that included an unspeakable low of consecutive losses to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers. Wittman's job security -- despite speculation to the contrary -- never was in jeopardy. They still were in the running for a top 4 seed and based on what players actually were saying there was no hint of him ever "losing the locker room."

Wittman was given a young core with Wall and Bradley Beal and they won 44 games in 2013-14 and met expectations. He was given a veteran in Paul Pierce and they made strides last year, though in the regular season there wasn't much improvement, and fell just shy of expectations since the East finals were the logical next step. 

With the likelihood that the Wizards will go with more flexible lineups this season with the ability to play big and small, and with better personnel to fit, will determine if they stick with Wittman beyond his current deal. And, of course, Durant's willingness to play for him (if he were to consider coming) could impact that decision.

Though most outside of D.C. will opine that Wittman won't be enough, Wall, Pierce, Andre Miller, Trevor Ariza, Al Harrington -- All-Stars and respected veterans who are no longer on the roster and prone to giving honest assessments -- will disagree. Still, it'll be results that ultimately determines the final answer.

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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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