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Wizards' utility option aims for rotation spot


Wizards' utility option aims for rotation spot

We're in October which means the Major League Baseball playoffs are in full bloom. Simply noting the calendar seeing as the best term describing Garrett Temple's value for the Washington Wizards comes from the national pastime.

The yearly plan rarely starts with Temple high in the Wizards rotation. Yet ever since he landed in Washington on Christmas Day 2012, somehow the lengthy guard ends up there. Even though Washington added several perimeter players this summer, no reason to think the 2015-16 will be any different.

"Hey man, I'm blessed to be in the right position at the right time," Temple said when the initial plan premise is mentioned. "Try to take advantage of my opportunity. I just have to be ready and come back healthy, be ready whenever my name is called.

"Like [Wizards coach Randy Wittman] always says -- what's the word he always uses? Utility infielder. I think that's my thing."

During his 178 games with the Wizards, including 54 starts, the 6-foot-6 Temple has filled many a role. His length allows him to guard all three perimeter positions. His basketball smarts provides the team with a point guard fill-in. His team-first mentality keeps the LSU product focused even if games go by without him taking off his warm-ups.

"I stay ready whenever I'm called upon," Temple said. "My versatility is what helps me stay on the court."

In theory, the Wizards added playing time roadblocks with the additions of free agents Gary Neal and Alan Anderson, and first round pick Kelly Oubre Jr. Same on some level for swing forward Jared Dudley, who the Wizards acquired via trade to primarily play minutes at stretch-4.Neal, Anderson and Oubre will vie for minutes behind Otto Porter and Bradley Beal, Washington's starting small forward and wing guard respectively.

Temple, whose status is uncertain for Friday's preseason game at Philadelphia due to a sore hamstring, will as well.

"I think when I get healthy I'll be in the mix for that wing spot behind Otto and Brad," he said this week.

Temple started 18 games last season primarily due to Beal's preseason injury and averaged 14.2 minutes overall. Those particular numbers figured to decline once the Wizards addressed their wing depth.

Now Anderson is sidelined following ankle surgery with no timetable for return established. Dudley only participated fully in practice Wednesday for the first time since undergoing back surgery this summer. Oubre shows promise, but potential doesn't always equal consistent minutes for any NBA rookie. That's largely been the case under Wizards coach Randy Wittman especially if there are veteran options to lean on.

When Wittman looks for perimeter help, he often turns to the reliable Temple.

"I love having guys like that on the team that can sit there and then step in. He believes in himself and his teammates believe in him."

Washington added these new players specifically in part because of their 3-point shooting ability. Though not a strength historically for Temple, he sank a career-high 33 shots from beyond the arc last season with a 37.5 percent clip.

"We've really, really worked on his jump shot," Wittman said when asked about the evolution of Temple's game. "That's been the main thing and I think we've seen progress. That span when Brad was hurt, he shot the 3 as good as he's shot the 3 in his career up through that stretch."

Though his shot was falling in the preseason opener against the 76ers on Oct. 6, the LSU product nearly completed a triple double with seven points, nine rebounds and seven assists in 24 minutes during the 129-95 blowout win. There will be chances for productive stats playing Washington's new up-tempo offense. Temple recognizes his rebounding could be key with the Wizards using more small ball lineups.

Ultimately, Temple is no home run hitter. He will make his mark this season defensively. That and being ready when needed. Even though Anderson also provides defense, Neal shooting touch and Oubre pure potential, ultimately Temple will find his way into the lineup  That's just how it's worked for him in Washington.

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards rookie Kelly Oubre: 'I feel like I'm at square one again'

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

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Oklahoma star freshman Trae Young to enter NBA Draft

After a sensational freshman season at the University of Oklahoma, point guard Trae Young plans to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, according to a report by ESPN.

Young will be one of the most fascinating prospects in this class given the extreme highs and lows of his one college season. He vaulted into the top 10 in most mock drafts after beginning his freshman year on fire, but then began to slip over the final months as his shooting percentage dropped.


Right now the Wizards are lined up to be in the late teens, so it's unlikely he falls to their range. But at this point it's difficult to predict where he will go, whether that is top five or later in the lottery.

It really could go either way. Some teams may see him as a Steph Curry-like scorer who can hit shots from unusually deep range. There were certainly times where Young backed up those comparisons.

Teams could see his flaws as a result of opposing defenses honing in on him because they could at the college level. In the NBA he may have more space and therefore be able to play to his strengths.


Or, teams could look at the fact he shot 36.1 percent from three on a whopping 10.2 attempts per game as a sign he is a chucker. He also led the nation in turnovers, commiting 24 more than the next guy. Young averaged 5.2 giveaways per game.

While Curry is the best-case scenario, Jimmer Fredette may be the worst-case. Fredette was the 10th overall pick in 2011 and now plays in China. 

Young will be an intriguing prospect in the draft because the ceiling is high and the basement is low. 

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