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Morning tip: Wizards' dilemma vs. stretch 4s and spread 5s


Morning tip: Wizards' dilemma vs. stretch 4s and spread 5s

Basketball isn't all about offense, though ultimately it comes down to a team's ability to get buckets. The Wizards scored 106 points in Tuesday's loss to the Indiana Pacers, but it boiled down to their inability to defend the perimeter against stretch fours and in previous losses spread fives.

In other words, power forwards and centers -- some traditionally big with their size and others not so much -- with three-point range:

  • C.J. Miles had his season high at halftime with 22 for the Pacers, and he finished with 32 on 8 of 9 on threes. That's more than double his season average (On paper, Paul George was the starting four but he was defended by Otto Porter and scored a season-high 40 on 7 of 8 threes).

  • Carmelo Anthony, a career small forward who plays his best at the four spot, put in a season-high 37 points with 4 of 5 shooting on threes, 15 above his season average.

  • Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk of the Boston Celtics combined to make 6 of 9 threes. Sullinger scored his season high (21) as did Olynyk (19). That's more than double Sullinger's season average and almost triple for Olynyk. 

  • Serge Ibaka's 23 points is his season high for the Oklahoma City Thunder -- almost double his average, too, -- as he made all of his three three-point attempts. It's the most made threes he has in any game.

That the Wizards (6-5) had a three-game winning streak ended isn't of great concern because games like Tuesday's happen. They contested a lot of shots as the Pacers (9-5) made 19 of 26 threes overall for 73.1%, an NBA record for games in which at least 25 attempts were made, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

But Kris Humphries, the Wizards' starting power forward who has shown the ability to hit the long ball, can't defend stretch fours like Miles, George, Anthony or Paul Millsap of the Atlanta Hawks. Neither can Drew Gooden who is out of the rotation. Jared Dudley is a smart defender and can hold his own pending matchups, but when he's undersized intelligent offenses will isolate him to take advantage like the Hawks did with Millsap.

Porter is a solid wing defender, but as Anthony showed when he took him into the mid-post, he's not strong enough for that challenge yet.

"Melo was in the mid-range posting up and we had to come double-team," said Wizards point guard John Wall, who had eight turnovers and just five assists. "On these, they were coming off ball screens, iso-ing at the top of the key one-on-one and they just made some tough, contested shots."

So where can the Wizards turn? Rookie Kelly Oubre didn't make an appearance until garbage time, and like Porter two years ago he's probably not ready. Their best one-on-one perimeter defender Garrett Temple was splendid -- see the Hail Mary three drained by Miles, after Temple poked the ball away from Rodney Stuckey, to beat the shot clock from 30 feet for an 81-74 lead -- and has length at 6-6. Still, he's undersized if talking defending stretch fours.


Nene is the best low post defender on the team and has a great basketball IQ like Temple, but he's not built to chase fours and fives around the perimeter. 

One possible (and likely most popular) solution is making a move before the trade deadline in February or use the Disabled Player Exception that they'll eventually be granted for Martell Webster to locate one. Of course, there's no guarantee that such a need will be on the market and available at a price that can be afforded under the salary cap. There isn't an assembly line of Draymond Greens out there looking for a home.

The other possibility -- and more likely and sensible one -- doesn't require a transaction. There was a glimpse of it in the fourth quarter for the Wizards who can make teams that go so small pay by going big and sticking with it. The Pacers are severely undertalented in the post with Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Their next best option was Lavoy Allen. Nene and Marcin Gortat combined for 21 points (on 13 shots), 16 rebounds and nine assists as they played less than 24 minutes each.

"You got to have a balance. We want to run. We want to shoot," Dudley said. "We try to go to Nene as much. We need to go to Gortat a little bit more. It's tough when you're getting good looks. For us, those two are so pivotal. They're setting screens, they're doing the dirty work. You got to reward the big fellas. They want some touches. I thought we did a good job with Nene. And Gortat, hopefully throughout the next five or six games we can look at him a little bit more and get him more involved."

Instead of starting Humphries, who only played five minutes in the first half because of the style mismatch with Miles, maybe this is where Nene makes a start. He can't guard Miles, either, but Nene has a back-to-the-basket game which Humphries does not. Or given how unspectacular the Pacers are in the middle, go small everywhere to be more fluid in mixing coverages on George and Miles and dare Mahinmi to beat you.

It's not an easy fix by any stretch as this has been an issue for coach Randy Wittman and his staff since last season. But it is fixable.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Should Bradley Beal be an All-NBA selection?


Wizards Tipoff podcast: Should Bradley Beal be an All-NBA selection?

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, host Chase Hughes was joined by guest co-host Travis Thomas to break down Bradley Beal's All-NBA chances and John Wall's injury rehab.

They also discussed the crazy Eastern Conference playoff race, Trae Young's draft stock and essentials for a good snow day.

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!

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What are Bradley Beal's chances of earning All-NBA?

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What are Bradley Beal's chances of earning All-NBA?

Bradley Beal has been indispensable for the Wizards this season with John Wall having missed 33 of their 70 games, or nearly half of their schedule so far. Beal's numbers are up in several categories from last season and he earned his first All-Star selection as a result.

Becoming an NBA All-Star is very difficult. Usually, about six guards per conference are picked each year. Being All-NBA is even more exclusive, as only six guards are selected from the entire league.

Wall has done it before and Beal may be in position to accomplish the feat himself this season. As of now, Beal could be considered on the bubble for third-team All-NBA.


It is an extremely competitive race and there are several locks to earn the honors. At this point, guys like James Harden and Russell Westbrook should get in easily. But after that, the next four spots are hard to sort out.

Based on his numbers, Damian Lillard of the Blazers should be a shoe-in. He is the best player on the third-place team in the Western Conference and is second among all NBA guards in points per game (26.6). He is also averaging 6.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds. He has already been All-NBA twice in his career and should get his third nod after this season.

DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors is probably the next-most likely to get in. He has led the top team in the Eastern Conference, was an All-Star starter in February and got his first All-NBA selection last year.

After those is where it gets interesting. The reason why is injuries. Stephen Curry in any other year would be a guarantee for All-NBA, but as of now he has played just 50 games. Consider that the NBA requires a player to appear in 58 games or more, or 70 percent of his team's games, to qualify for statistical leaderboards. 


Curry has returned to practice, but due to health and possibly rest down the stretch of the season, there is a chance he doesn't hit the 58-game threshold. That may present an interesting question for the voters.

Kyrie Irving of the Celtics is also hurt. He has played in 60 games with 11 left on Boston's schedule. The same goes for Jimmy Butler of the Timberwolves. He is rehabbing a torn meniscus and currently has only played 56 games. 

Chris Paul of the Rockets has appeared in 53 games due to injuries. Though his numbers could put him in the All-NBA conversation, Devin Booker of the Suns has played in just 54 games.

If injuries do preclude Curry in particular from getting in, then the door could be open the door for Beal. He would then have to beat out guys like Victor Oladipo of the Pacers, Irving, Butler and others.

Setting aside the most likely three to get All-NBA - Harden, Westbrook and Lillard - and Curry, let's take a look at how Beal stacks up statistically to the rest of the pack. 

Bradley Beal - 23.3 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 spg, 46.3 FG%, 37.4 3PT%

DeMar DeRozan - 23.7 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.0 rpg, 1.1 spg, 46.1 FG%, 32.4 3PT%

Victor Oladipo - 23.3 ppg, 4.2 apg, 5.2 rpg, 2.3 spg, 47.1 FG%, 36.6 3PT%

Kyrie Irving - 24.4 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 spg, 49.1 FG%, 40.8 3PT%

Jimmy Butler - 22.2 ppg, 5.0 apg, 5.4 rpg, 1.9 spg, 47.3 FG%, 35.6 3PT%

Devin Booker - 24.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 43.2 FG%, 38.3 3PT%

Chris Paul - 18.8 ppg, 7.9 apg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 spg, 45.9 FG%, 38.5 3PT%


As you see, not a whole lot is separating those guys. It may come down to team performance and other factors.

Working in Beal's favor is that he's been the most durable of the bunch. He has played in every one of the Wizards' games this season.

Beal has also helped keep his team in contention despite Wall's absence. The Wizards are on pace for 47 wins, not far off their 49 victories last year, and Beal has been the biggest reason.

But Irving's case is helped similarly by all the injuries in Boston, including to Gordan Hayward. He has been the best player on the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.

Oladipo has led the Pacers to an impressive season despite not having another All-Star in the lineup. DeRozan, Beal, Irving and Butler have better supporting casts.


Say injuries do work against Curry, Paul, Irving and Booker. And assume DeRozan is safely in as the fourth guy behind Harden, Westbrook and Lillard. That could mean Beal gets in alongside Oladipo.

If Curry, Paul or Irving get in despite missing double-digit games, that would probably bump Beal out of the mix. Oladipo has slightly better numbers and has drawn lots of acclaim for being the best player on a surprise Pacers team and he's no guarantee himself.

Beal has 12 games left to prove his case and clearly a lot of factors are in play, but the idea of him making All-NBA for the first time is not out of the question.

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