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NBA trade deadline strategy: Should Wizards take aggressive path?


NBA trade deadline strategy: Should Wizards take aggressive path?

The Washington Wizards, broadly speaking, have three possible paths before Thursday's NBA trade deadline: Make a move, stand pat, punt away the season. It's time to examine each option starting with the notion that the Wizards should get aggressive.

Charles Barkley recently called the Wizards "mediocre" and "disappointing." Through 51 games, he's not wrong. After reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals in back-to-back seasons, Washington sits 10th in the East. Momentum never sticks around for long. Since matching their modest season-high winning streak of four games on Jan. 15, the Wizards are 4-9.

However, certain factors cannot be ignored. The Wizards have lost more games due to injury -- approximately 221 -- than any team in the league. At the All-Star break, Washington owns the toughest strength of schedule.

Yet, the playoffs remain in reach.  With 31 games remaining, more than any East playoff contender, the Wizards are three games back of Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot, and four behind No. 6 Indiana.

Then again, certain holes are evident. Even if healthy and with an easier schedule remaining, do the Wizards have enough?

On nights where John Wall isn't at his usual All-Star level, the Wizards struggle. Adding another scorer, creator capable of carrying the offense for stretches would help.

Washington's primary players at the 4 and 5 positions are over 30. At times, that's quite evident especially when facing younger and springier opposition.

The Wizards have kids on the perimeter, but it's the perimeter where the Wizards have struggled most defensively. If Stephen Curry doesn't make that 45-footer before the final buzzer in Sunday's All-Star game, both the East and the West would have finished with lower 3-point field percentages than Washington allows (38.7) in a game where nobody bothered playing defense.

Here's another factor: The East, at least after the top two teams, is rather wide open this season. Atlanta may break up the team this week. Chicago lost its last four before the break. Miami is one Hassan Whiteside implosion away from dropping back.

Cleveland looks like the best bet for an NBA Finals appearance. If Washington can finish or seventh or higher, no LeBron James in the opening round.

Second seed Toronto appears formidable, but we know what happened when these teams met last season.

Boston, currently No. 3 in the East, dominated Washington during the regular season. Let's see how the Celtics handle pressure that comes with being favored in a playoff series.


Now, optimistic playoff talk for the Wizards is a bit outrageous considering what's transpired to date.

To avoid the Cavaliers and Raptors, the Wizards need something like a 21-10 finish for a shot at catching the Pacers, the current sixth seed.

But should they reach the postseason, who knows. Look at the magic conjured up in the last two years under "Playoff Randy" Wittman.

Small moves before the last two trade deadlines, acquiring Andre Miller and Ramon Sessions, certainly helped. Going bolder by say adding a stretch-4 like New Orleans' Ryan Anderson could be the missing piece this time.

Dealing any draft pick or valuable asset for an expiring contract like Anderson brings risk. So does staying pat with a roster that led to this 23-28 record.

It's also risky assuming better days are coming. Washington would enter next offseason with only 5-6 players under contract. That means more money to spend. Lots of other teams will be in similar scenarios. Dream away about the types of players that would crawl through broken glass for a shot at playing with a pass-first point guard like Wall. Of course, Mark Cuban will tell you pinning hopes in free agency doesn't always work.

That's one reason taking on long-term salary cannot be dismissed. Brooklyn's Thad Young is a 27-year-old power forward averaging 15 and 9 with a contract that pays him $25 million over the next two seasons. It's possible Phoenix's Markieff Morris and Orlando's Tobias Harris can be pried away. The extreme option is Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin, but his hand injury makes it unclear how much the All-Star forward can help this season.

If Washington doesn't want to wait another season for Kevin Durant and is therefore open to taking on money, making a move for now and the future can work. If the Wizards truly want not just to reach the playoffs, but make noise once there, making a move may be the only move they can make.

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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:


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:


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.


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:


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.