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Wizards deadline strategy: Thinking of future is forward thinking


Wizards deadline strategy: Thinking of future is forward thinking

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. 

At this point I've looked at two angles, both of which are about the Wizards thinking playoffs with varying degrees of aggression. This post will go the other way. With the composition of the roster, with a reality check on the season and with the goal of an NBA title in mind, one can make the case that Washington's best bet isn't chasing the 2016 leaders, but jump-starting the future. 

After 51 games, many of which included epic defensive lapses or schizophrenic performances, nobody outside of the organization can feel extremely confident that this team turns things around. We can keep pointing out that Washington, 23-28 entering Thursday's game against Utah, is only three games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Of course, as former Super Bowl winning coach Bill Parcells famously said, you are what your record says you are.

The Wizards lead the NBA in games missed due to injury. Unless all were dipped in the river Styx during the All-Star break, who's to say more aches and pains won't crop up over the final two months.

Even with the roster possibly at full strength in the coming days for the first time all season, issues remain. The crafty Jared Dudley is the only legit stretch-4 option on the roster and he gives up size and rebounding to nearly every opponent. John Wall is the essentially the only player consistently capable of creating offense for himself and others. Washington ranks last in 3-point shooting defense.

All that said, if they were already one of the top eight seeds, making a bold trade would have merit. Get the fourth seed and with it, homecourt advantage in the first round. Washington reached the conference semifinals the last two years without it. The thing is, mortgaging a portion of their future for help won't ensure they snag one of those coveted eight slots. Just finishing eighth likely means the daunting task of facing LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening round. 

However, dealing away assets now could put the Wizards in the rare position of playing ahead going into the offseason. You know those teams that own a draft with a bevy of picks? Washington could be one of those teams.

RELATED: Hawks more or less likely to deal with Splitter done?

As my colleague J. Michael wrote this morning, the Wizards have numerous players that might be attractive to playoff teams. However, he came at the list from the perspective that Washington won't give in. That's not the exercise here.

Washington can play out the string and, whether they make the playoffs or not, lose these assets for nothing next off-season.

The Wizards could also seek trade partners. If they put up a "for sale" sign quickly, they might be at the front of the line in what looks likes a sellers market based on the number of teams still vying for the playoffs. Dudley's 3-point shooting percentage ranks third in the NBA. Nene's power and passing can carry a team at times. As a package or with other pieces, it conceivable some hopeful contender would pony up a first round pick or young player. 

Here's the added bonus with the punt option. More losses means more lottery balls. Whether the 2016 draft class overall wows the talent evaluators or not, there will be gems for a GM to unearth.

Here's what next year's team could look like:

Frontcourt: Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre

Backcourt: John Wall, Bradley Beal (restricted free agent)

* Based on conversations before this season tipped and with the third guard role wide open, it's expected that 2012 second round pick Tomas Satoransky brings his athletic and instinctive game across the pond.

* Power forward Aaron White, Washington's second round pick last year, is impressing overseas.

* 2016 first round pick (no second rounder; traded in deal for Oubre)

* Assets (1st round pick?) acquired in any hypothetical trades before Thursday's deadline.

For starters, nobody would call the Wizards old any more. At 26, Wall would be the second oldest behind Gortat. The roster needs more bigs, but cap space isn't an issue, KD2DC talk aside. The pieces in place are for space and pace offense with Wall directing traffic. With trades before this deadline, the Wizards could have enough assets for an interesting deal next summer. It just depends if they want to chase the leaders now or jump-start the future.

MORE WIZARDS: If Wizards traded, who'd have most value?

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Wizards blown out by Spurs, as streak of losses in San Antonio since 1999 continues

Wizards blown out by Spurs, as streak of losses in San Antonio since 1999 continues

The Washington Wizards lost to the San Antonio Spurs 98-90 on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Streak continues: Many will tell you that San Antonio, TX is a wonderful city rife with history, good restaurants and warm weather. Please excuse the Washington Wizards if they hate the place.

They lost to the Spurs in a blowout on Wednesday and remain winless in San Antonio going all the way back to 1999. It was their 18th straight loss when playing at the Spurs.

The Spurs win games with their defense and this one was no exception. The Wizards scored their fewest points since Jan. 22, nearly two months, and shot just 42.7 percent. The Spurs hold opponents to the lowest points per game in the NBA (99.0) and the Wizards fell into all of their traps.

Bradley Beal was the only one immune to it. He had 21 points on 9-for-13 shooting. The rest of the Wizards shot just 26-for-69 (37.7%).

Losing in San Antonio has come to be expected for the Wizards, but they picked a bad night to drop a game. The Cavaliers and Sixers both won. Philly winning means more because they passed the Wizards in the East and currently sit fourth while the Wizards are in the sixth spot. 

If the playoffs began with those seeds, the Wizards would see the Cavaliers in the first round. Even though the Cavs aren't what they were a year ago, that should be avoided if possible.


Hustle plays: The Spurs also beat the Wizards at the minor details of the game, something they have long been good at under head coach Gregg Popovich. They got the loose balls and offensive rebounds at key moments to either sustain or steal momentum away from Washington.

In the first half, 40-year-old Manu Ginobli dove on the ground to beat Ramon Sessions to a loose ball and it led to two points by Pau Gasol. In the third quarter, Patty Mills flipped around quickly to steal an outlet pass from Marcin Gortat that led to free throws. And in the third there was one play when the Spurs got three offensive rebounds and ultimately got to the free throw line again.

The Spurs out-rebounded the Wizards 43-34 overall and outdid them in offensive rebounds 12-8. They just wanted it more on this particular night.


Oubre stood out: The Spurs' defense got the best of most players on the Wizards, but Kelly Oubre, Jr. was an exception. The third-year pro has been struggling with his shot in recent weeks, so in this one he stuck to high percentage looks, at least early. He had 10 points in his first nine minutes on 5-for-7 shooting, many of those attempts right around the rim.

Oubre attacked the lane dribbling both to his left and his right. He finished with floaters, tough layups and on one fastbreak with a thunderous left-handed slam:

Oubre ended up with 21 points, six rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He shot 9-for-17 from the field and 3-for-6 from three.

Oubre has continued to make an impact defensively, even when his shot is not falling. But he has to get more creative some nights to affect games when he isn't hitting from long range. Wednesday was a good example of how he can use his athleticism to take matters into his own hands.

It is a tricky balance, however, because sometimes his aggression can lead to mistakes. That certainly happened at times even in this game, as he had two turnovers. But when Oubre can contain his explosiveness, he can make a big difference.


Under the weather: Already without Wall, the Wizards had to shorten their rotation by two players against the Spurs as both Jodie Meeks and Mike Scott were out due to flu-like symptoms. In Meeks and Scott, the Wizards were missing two key pieces on their bench.

Instead of giving Tim Frazier and Jason Smith a rare and extended opportunity, head coach Scott Brooks instead chose to tighted things up. He relied heavily on the starters until the game was out of hand.

Brooks also got experimental, playing Tomas Satoransky (zero points, 0-for-7 FG) and Sessions together in the second quarter with Oubre and Otto Porter (12 points, seven rebounds) as the forwards. In the fourth quarter, we saw a lineup with three point guards: Sessions, Frazier and Satoransky.

The fact the Wizards had three days off before this game helped allow Brooks to rely on his starters early. It was also an opportunity for Brooks to see what life will be like when Wall returns. There is a chance Satoransky could see more time off the ball. This gave him another glimpse of how he can use Satoransky in more creative ways once the minutes at point guard go down significantly.


Up next: The Wizards are off Thursday before returning home to host the Denver Nuggets on Friday with a 7 p.m. tipoff on NBC Sports Washington. That will be a special night at Capital One Arena as the Wizards retire Phil Chenier's No. 45 jersey. 

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