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Wizards 2017-18 roster outlook: Jason Smith's improvement as a shooter should help Wizards bench

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Wizards 2017-18 roster outlook: Jason Smith's improvement as a shooter should help Wizards bench

As part of CSN's preview for the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we preview Jason Smith's season...

Player: Jason Smith

Position: Power forward/center

Age: 31

2016-17 stats: 74 G, 14.4 mpg, 5.7 ppg, 0.3 apg, 3.5 rpg, 0.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, 52.9 FG%, 47.4 3P%, 68.6 FT%, 58.5 eFG%, 110 ORtg, 108 DRtg

2017-18 storyline: Smith's first season in Washington didn't get off to a great start, much like the team as a whole. He was among several players struggling on the Wizards' bench early on, shooting just 36.7 percent from the field in 11.8 minutes a night through 16 games. Smith ultimately found his niche despite inconsistent minutes as a key player on the bench with Ian Mahinmi out most of the year due to injury.

Smith made his impact as an energy guy off the bench. At his best, he disrupted shots in the lane and spread the floor with an improving three-point shot. Smith hit two threes in October, November and December. From January on, Smith made 35 of them at a 46.7 percent clip. By March he was knocking down multiple threes per night on a regular basis.

[RELATED: HOW THE NBA CAN PREVENT TANKING]

Smith's emergence as a three-point threat was unexpected, as it happened in his Age 30 season. But it wasn't just luck and it didn't happen overnight. For years Smith practice threes and he had already developed into a solid midrange shooter. It was last year that his range extended beyond the three-point line.

Whether the Wizards can count on Smith to hit threes at a high rate this season is unclear, but that versatility is what could help him remain in head coach Scott Brooks' rotation. If Mahinmi can stay healthy, that will likely mean less minutes for Smith. But if Smith can spread the floor, he can be a nice complement to Mahinmi or Marcin Gortat as a stretch-4.

For as much continuity as there will be in the Wizards' starting lineup, their bench has many new faces. That group also includes Mahinmi, who played only 31 games last year. Smith have a full season in Brooks' system will help him hit the ground running this season in a second unit that will require an adjustment period.

Potential to improve: Chemistry with other bigs, free throw shooting, rim protection.

MORE WIZARDS' ROSTER PREVIEWS:

Can John Wall take another step after earning All-NBA?

Is this the year Bradley Beal becomes an All-Star?

What is the next step in Otto Porter's development?

Markieff Morris can be an X-factor this season

Will Marcin Gortat's role change or be the same this year?

Will Kelly Oubre, Jr. make a big leap this season?

Can Ian Mahinmi make a bigger impact in his second season?

Will Tim Frazier be the solution at backup point guard?

Jodie Meeks could make big impact off bench

Mike Scott can add toughness to Wizards' bench

[RELATED: WHO WILL BE MOST-IMPROVED ON THE WIZARDS THIS YEAR?]

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Marcin Gortat dedicates big game against Sixers to late former Polish teammate Adam Wójcik

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Marcin Gortat dedicates big game against Sixers to late former Polish teammate Adam Wójcik

Marcin Gortat is a legend in his home country of Poland and on Wednesday night he paid homage to one of his predecessors.

Adam Wójcik, one of the most decorated Polish basketball players of all time, passed away in August after a battle with Leukemia. Months later, in the first game of the 2017-18 season, Gortat took the floor with Wójcik's initials, the date of his death, a cross and 'RIP' inscribed on his shoes.

Gortat went out and delivered one of the best games of his career. He had 16 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks, just the third time in his 11 NBA seasons he has posted those numbers. His production was pivotal in the Wizards' 120-115 win over the Sixers in their season opener.

"I'm just glad I did that wearing the initials of the greatest players from Poland, Adam Wójcik," Gortat said. "I'm glad in the first game, we came up with a win."

[RELATED: WALL, BEAL RECALL THEIR NBA DEBUTS]

Ten of Gortat's points came in the fourth quarter, as he consistently fed off pick-and-roll mismatches. John Wall found him over and over, including for a big dunk that allowed Gortat to do his signature Polish Hammer celebration.

That Wall-to-Gortat combination is something head coach Scott Brooks wants to see more of.

"It’s simple for him. I’ve been telling him for about a year and at the start of this season," Brooks said. "You run into your screen and you roll out, and you’re going to get open looks. We have some special players handling the ball. They’re going to have to guard with an extra man and if he rolls hard, he’s going be able to finish."

Wójcik died at just 47 years old after a long and successful basketball career. He won eight Polish League championships and won MVP three times. Gortat and Wójcik played together for the Polish national team and Wójcik is someone Gortat looked up to for a long time.

"I dedicate this game to him," he said.

[RELATED: PODCAST - WIZARDS TIPOFF SEASON PREVIEW]

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John Wall, Bradley Beal catch fire as Wizards take out Sixers in season opener

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John Wall, Bradley Beal catch fire as Wizards take out Sixers in season opener

The Washington Wizards beat the Philadelphia 76ers 120-115 in their regular season opener on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena.

How it happened: As fun and talented as the upstart Sixers are, with two No. 1 picks making their NBA debuts in Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons and an enigmatic star in Joel Embiid, they didn't have enough on Wednesday night, as the Wizards let their seasoned veterans go to work in the second half to pull out a season-opening victory. 

Bradley Beal and John Wall found their rhythm in the third quarter, helping the Wizards outscore the Sixers 34-23 in the frame. Beal had 11 points and shot 6-for-6 from the free throw line, while Wall put up 14 points. The two combined for 25 of the Wizards' 34 points in the fourth quarter.

Beal finished with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists and Wall with 28 points, eight assists and five rebounds, including this dunk that was pure, unaldurated disrespect:

The Sixers made a push in the fourth quarter, opening the frame with a 13-2 run. But as the quarter continued, the Wizards put on a display of dunks that kept the crowd on their side. Kelly Oubre, Jr. threw down a putback slam on a Beal missed three that helped key a 12-4 run. Marcin Gortat (16 points, 17 rebounds, three blocks) had 10 points in the fourth quarter, several assisted by Wall including a big dunk that inspired a Polish Hammer celebration.

The Wizards were in command in the first quarter, leading by nine at the end of the frame. Otto Porter scored their first eight points on 4-of-5 from the field. But the Sixers charged back, shooting 56 percent in the second quarter to take a three-point lead at halftime.

Robert Covington (surprise) led the Sixers in scoring with 29 points. Simmons (NBA debut) and Embiid each had 18, while Fultz was limited to 10 points in 17 minutes in his first game.

The Sixers cut it to two with a minute left before Jerryd Bayless threw an earrant pass into the hands of Beal. Beal then stole the ball on a save by Otto Porter with 20.5 seconds left. He was fouled and hit one free throw. Philly couldn't answer, as J.J. Redick missed a three from straightaway center.

The Wizards later closed it out at the free throw line with Beal knocking down two with just 2.0 seconds remaining. He went 12-for-16 from the charity stripe for the night. The Wizards shot 30-of-38 from the line, exactly double the attempts Philly got.

RELATED: GORTAT PLAYS WITH HEAVY HEART

What it means: The Wizards are off to a 1-0 start, which is important considering their travel-heavy schedule early on. They want to avoid what happened last year, when they started 2-8, and Wednesday night was a good first step.

Early returns good from bench: It was one game, but the Wizards' bench looked solid, especially considering they are a group depleted by injuries. Jodie Meeks was the offensive spark they signed him to be. He made it look easy with 14 points in 19 minutes. Tim Frazier mainly played the role of distributor with five assists and zero points. Oubre did a little bit of everything with 14 points, seven rebounds and three three-pointers in 32 minutes. He carried a heavy load once Smith went out. Mike Scott scored inside and out and finished with seven points in 14 minutes. 

Gun shy early: Scott Brooks could not have been happy with the Wizards attempting just eight threes as a team in the first half. Beal and Porter combined for one attempt, while Oubre and Wall led the team with two attempts apiece. Brooks wants guys like Beal and Porter to attempt at least five threes a game. It was likely a point of emphasis at halftime, because Beal knocked down a triple just 1:36 into the third quarter. Oubre stole the ball and found Beal, who swished one over Embiid.

Injury news: Jason Smith got the start at power forward, but only played 7:04 before exiting with a sprained right shoulder. He jogged to the locker room with trainers and never returned. This is extra noteworthy considering he was the replacement for Markieff Morris, who is out for several more weeks following sports hernia surgery. He will get an MRI on Thursday, per Chris Miller of NBC Sports Washington.

Up next: The Wizards stay home for their second game, hosting the Detroit Pistons at 7 p.m. That game will be on NBC Sports Washington. After that they head west for a four-game road trip.

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