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Wizards 2017-18 roster outlook: Markieff Morris can be X-factor for the Wizards

Wizards 2017-18 roster outlook: Markieff Morris can be X-factor for the Wizards

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

Player: Markieff Morris

Position: Power forward

Age: 28

2016-17 stats: 76 G, 31.2 mpg, 14.0 ppg, 1.7 apg, 6.5 rpg, 1.1 spg, 0.6 bpg, 45.7 FG%, 36.2 3P%, 83.7 FT%, 49.7 eFG%, 106 ORtg, 109 DRtg

2017-18 storyline: Morris emerged as a tone-setter in his first full season with the Wizards and was a key component of one of the NBA's best starting lineups. He was spectacular from mid-December to mid-February as the Wizards took off and climbed the standings as a contender in the East. Then, in the playoffs Morris was indispensible as a physical force matchup with Paul Millsap, Al Horford and others. When things got tense between the Wizards and the Hawks and Celtics, Morris was always there to step in and mediate. Morris has firmly established himself as a well-respected enforcer in the Wizards' locker room.

Morris remains under team control on one of the best bargain contracts in the NBA. He's due to make $8 million this season, a Wizards-friendly price given his value as a legitimate starting power forward. If Morris can continue to improve this season and next, he will earn himself a massive raise.

[RELATED: HOW THE NBA CAN PREVENT TANKING]

Morris seems like a good candidate to improve this year. He just turned 28 and will be entering not just his second full season with the Wizards, but his second season in head coach Scott Brooks' system. That factor should allow all the Wizards' returning players to expand their roles and Morris could benefit in particular. At times last year he was the Wizards' third option on offense, a guy who proved he could create his own shot and have plays run through him when needed. If he can find consistency there, the Wizards' outlook will dramatically change.

Morris can also be more consistent at rebounding. His 6.5 rebounds per game last year were solid, but he showed for extended stretches he is capable of grabbing eight or nine a night. The Wizards are good at rebounding with Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter in their starting five, but Morris could take them to the next level.

Potential to improve: Rebounding, consistency on offense, three-point shooting.

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?

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

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With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

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USA Today Sports Images

With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

The Philadelphia 76ers will have two No. 1 overall picks make their NBA debuts on Wednesday night in Markelle Fultz (2017) and Ben Simmons (2016). They are in for a challenge with the Wizards, one of the best teams in basketball, and with guards John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Wall and Beal know that challenge well. They were both top draft picks in their own right, Wall the first pick in 2010 and Beal the third pick in 2012. They can recall in specifics their first games in the NBA and how humbling they were.

"My first game, I was going against Dwight Howard. It was fun," Wall said. "There was a lot of pressure. There were a lot of people talking."

[RELATED: 2017 NBA POWER RANKINGS]

It's often said that the point guard position is as deep as it's ever been nowadays. The last three MVP awards have gone to point guards, for instance.

There were some good ones back in 2010, too.

"I remember in a five-game span I played like [Rajon] Rondo, Derrick Rose here and then I went out west and played Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Russell [Westbrook]," Wall said. "I don't think it's gotten any harder than it was back then in 2010 with those five guys. You kind of understand what those guys are about when you get to see it firsthand and play against them."

Beal vividly remembers going up against the LeBron James-led Miami Heat as a 19-year-old. It wasn't easy.

"It was the Heat when they had [Dwyane Wade] and LeBron on the same team. That's when D-Wade was electrifying. He still had his quickness. He was strong as I don't know what and I was a baby at that time," he said.

"For me, it was like I was in awe because those are the guys I grew up watching and I was a fan of. Now I'm playing against them and I can't be a fan of them. It was amazing to play against them, but also an eye-opener like, I need to get better."

Now it's Fultz and Simmons' turn to see what matching up with NBA superstars is like and don't expect Wall or Beal to take it easy on them.

"I'm a competitive person, so I'm not going to back down from any challenge," Wall said.

[RELATED: WIZARDS AND SIXERS SET TO OPEN SEASON]

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Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 45 - Season preview with over/unders and bold predictions

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NBC Sports Washington

Wizards Tipoff podcast, Ep. 45 - Season preview with over/unders and bold predictions

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman personal injury lawyers, Chase Hughes and Chris Miller previewed the 2017-18 Wizards regular season with over/unders, biggest questions and bold predictions.

NBC Sports Philly Sixers Insider Jessica Camerato also joined the show to preview the first game between the Wizards and Sixers.

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!

[RELATED: 10 QUESTIONS WITH BRADLEY BEAL]