Wizards

Quick Links

Room for improvement: Otto Porter

porter.png

Room for improvement: Otto Porter

For the Wizards to go beyond the second round of the playoffs, where they've lost in six games in the last two seasons, will require key contributors to do a little bit more. 

While it's unlikely that everyone in the rotation will magically become better at an area of weakness, this would be the best-case scenario for the Wizards. We'll go player by player, in no particular order:

Otto Porter

The skinny: It wasn't the small forward's averages of 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds, and 13 starts with an aged Paul Pierce on the roster, that led to optimisim. It was how Porter performed early in the postseason when the Wizards swept the Toronto Raptors in the first round. The starting job for 2015-16 is supposed to be his if he earns it in training camp and the preseason, but he has a lot of competition if there are dips in his play. 

The fix: Team defense. Overall, his instincts are good but he can fall asleep and get beaten on backdoor cuts (see what happened with Tony Snell in a key, late-season loss to Chicago or how DeMarre Carroll got inside position on the final play of a Game 5 loss to Atlanta). Porter was more able-bodied than Pierce, but at least the veteran knew better what his responsibilities were even though he couldn't always get there. At 6-9, Porter has to put on more weight and be stronger as well.  

Prospects: Porter may very well start most of the games for the Wizards but it would seem unlikely that he plays significantly more minutes than his 19.4 average from a year ago. They're deep with Jared Dudley and Alan Anderson now on the roster and how coach Randy Wittman views him will be determined who is on the floor at the end of close games. The guess here is Porter will have his moments and his responsibilities will increase gradually. It's difficult to see Kelly Oubre, a rookie acquired in a draft-night trade in June, being a threat to his playing time.

RELATED: Wizards' Dudley updates injury status

Quick Links

Wizards Tipoff podcast: How they can keep it rolling in Game 5

usatsi_10801745.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Wizards Tipoff podcast: How they can keep it rolling in Game 5

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes, Travis Thomas and Julie Donaldson reset the series and looked ahead to Game 5.

They were joined by TSN Sports anchor Kayla Grey to find out the Toronto perspective. The Wizards have all the momentum in this series, now they just have to keep it going.

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!

Quick Links

Even after injury-riddled year, Wizards are seeing peak John Wall in playoffs

Even after injury-riddled year, Wizards are seeing peak John Wall in playoffs

You would not have known it by John Wall's towering poster-dunks over Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl in Game 4, or his fourth quarter takeover after Bradley Beal fouled out, but Wall is still technically working his way into midseason form from the left knee surgery that kept him out more than two months down the stretch of the regular season. Add into the equation that he sprained his right ankle in Game 3, then resprained it in Game 4 right after Beal went out, and it's quite clear that what he is doing is simply not normal. 

Throughout Wall's recovery, his head coach Scott Brooks remarked how Wall can regain his form unusually quick following an injury absence. Game 4 was just his eighth game back, yet through four playoff games he is averaging an absurd 26.8 points, 13.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 1.0 blocks.

If that's what he's doing eight games removed from recovery, and against the top team in the Eastern Conference, what does peak playoff form look like? 

"I told y'all, I told all the media that I only need like three or four games. I really didn't need too many games," he said. "All the hard work that I did in those two months was to prepare myself to be ready for the playoffs."

Wall said he started feeling like himself in his final regular season game, his fourth outing following the injury rehab. It was against the Celtics and he scored 29 points to go along with 12 assists, seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

"I just started to see shots fall down that I was falling short with a couple games before that," Wall said of that night.

Brooks saw a change in Wall against the Cavaliers on April 5, in just his third game back. That game Wall put up 28 points, 14 assists, four rebounds and three steals. Most importantly, he logged 38 minutes.

"I knew I was going to challenge his body with extra minutes," Brooks said. "The way he responded to that, I knew he was back."

Whenever the turning point happened, there is no looking back. Wall has found his groove to not only impact, but at times dominate playoff games against one of the best defensive teams in basketball.

In Game 4 once Beal went down, Wall looked like the best player on the court. He scored eight of the Wizards' final 14 points to seal the victory and did so on a bum ankle. He outshined both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, two All-Star guards.

Wall even played sound defense on DeRozan in big moments. DeRozan shot 10-for-29 in the game.

"I think I did a good job of contesting him," Wall said. "Just do whatever it takes to help this team win."

What Brooks predicted would happen has indeed played out. He has been with Wall for about two years now and knows what the star point guard is made of.

"I've been with him two years, he loves to play," Brooks said, noting there have been some tough conversations to convince him to come out of games.

Consider this: Wall has scored 20 points or more in six straight games, his longest streak of the 2017-18 season. He has actually reached 23 points or more in those six games, which is tied for the longest such streak of his entire career.

Through eight games overall and four games in the playoffs, Wall has reminded everyone of what the Wizards missed. Yes, they went 10-3 when he first went down with the injury in late January, but that was not sustainable.

They need Wall to reach their full potential as a team and especially in the postseason. Late-game situations like in Game 4, when Beal exited and it was tied with 4:58 to play, are when the superstars separate themselves.

Wall did that and now the Wizards are in good shape with the series at 2-2 and having won two straight.

"Blame everything on him," Brooks joked of the Wizards' up-and-down regular season. "If he wasn't hurt, we'd be better, right?"

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE FROM WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

WALL IS BOYCOTTING DRAKE'S MUSIC DURING SERIES

OUBRE IS HELPING THE WIZARDS WIN IN MANY WAYS

WALL WAS DUNKING ALL OVER RAPTORS BIG MEN