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Bradley Beal and Otto Porter show why they're stars in their own right with John Wall out

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Bradley Beal and Otto Porter show why they're stars in their own right with John Wall out

With little salary cap room this past summer to make significant additions to their roster, the Wizards essentially need to improve from within to improve much at all this season. It was an offseason of unprecedented change around the NBA. Yet the Wizards have rested their hopes on young players continuing to ascend.

Through nine games, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter don't just appear to be better, as many young players do year-over-year, they look leaps and bounds above what they were just months ago. 

Once known as a three-point specialist, Beal has developed inside-outside versatility on offense only seen in MVP candidates. Otto Porter has expanded his game on both ends of the floor, emerging as a capable third scoring option and one of the best in the NBA at swiping steals.

It was easy to notice the growth of the Wizards as a team on Sunday night, as John Wall sat on the sidelines, out due to a sprained left shoulder. The Wizards beat the very-good Toronto Raptors in a game they may not win even one year ago. Long a team where one key player absence would sink the ship, that is not the case anymore.

Yes, Kyle Lowry was ejected in the second quarter. But Wall's supporting cast pitched in to take out a playoff team on the road and following a stretch of four losses in five games.

[PODCAST: PAUL PIERCE GOES 1-ON-1 TO TALK WIZARDS]

Beal played opposite DeMar DeRozan, another one of the NBA's best shooting guards, and for a night belonged in a completely different category. While DeRozan couldn't find his rhythm, Beal was lights-out. He dropped 38 points on 16-for-26 shooting, his third straight game of 35 points or more and his second straight shooting 60 percent or better.

Beal cleary worked on his ball-handling this offseason, building off his career-year in 2016-17. After proving he could stay healthy, Beal now uses more complex dribble combinations and attacks the rim with even more confidence, no matter who is standing in the lane.

Porter's improvement getting steals is no accident, either. He is getting smarter at the gambles he takes, whether it be from watching film or retaining more information from scouting reports. 

Porter helped limit DeRozan to his 8-of-21 shooting and stuffed the box score with 19 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block. He shot 8-for-13 from the field and 3-for-4 from three.

After nine games, Beal is averaging 25.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Those aren't just All-Star numbers, as many have him predicted to be in Los Angeles this February, that level of production would put Beal in the All-NBA conversation.

Porter is averaging 18.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game, all while shooting 56.9 percent from the field and 52.5 percent from three. Those stats could put Porter in the All-Star Game.

Getting three All-Stars in one season is not an easy feat. The Wizards haven't seen that happen since 1974-75 when Phil Chenier, Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes all earned the honor. 

There is a long road to February, but with a few weeks of the 2017-18 NBA season having passed, the Wizards have two players in Beal and Porter, both 24, who are raising the bar for themselves and quickly.

[RELATED: LOWRY EJECTED VS. WIZARDS, KISSES KID ON WAY OFF COURT]

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' tough loss to Bucks including John Wall's circus shot

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' tough loss to Bucks including John Wall's circus shot

Here are the five best plays or moments from the Wizards' 104-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday afternoon...

1. John Wall came out swinging in the first half with 22 points, 16 of them in the first quarter alone. 

This was one of his best plays. Wall split two defenders and then flipped it in off the glass:

Wall finished with 27 points, nine assists, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks. 

2. Kelly Oubre, Jr. led the Wizards' bench with 19 points, five rebounds and a block. He missed on this play, but nearly dunked on Giannis Antetokounmpo. That would have been something:

[PODCAST: MIDSEASON AWARDS FOR MVP, BEST WIN AND MORE]

3. Oubre did get this one to go down. He popped a three at the buzzer to end the third quarter:

4. Wall had some nice passes including this alley-oop lob to Tomas Satoransky. Sato got way up there:

Satoransky also threw down this alley-oop pass earlier thrown by Bradley Beal:

5. This last play was by the Bucks and it was not something you see every day. Antetokounmpo fired an assist through his legs like a longsnapper:

The Wizards lost a close one. Now they head to Charlotte to begin a five-game road trip.

[PODCAST: BRADLEY BEAL ON HIS GROWTH AS A LEADER]

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On MLK Day, John Wall wonders what King would think about race relations under President Trump

On MLK Day, John Wall wonders what King would think about race relations under President Trump

John Wall spoke at length over the summer about race relations in the United States following the violence in Charlottesville in August orchestrated by white supremacists.

Following the Wizards' game against the Bucks on Martin Luther King, Jr. day on Monday, Wall was asked about the subject again.

Wall does not believe improvements have made in the last few months with President Donald Trump in office and he wonders how King would react if he were alive to see the current state of America.

"I think he still wouldn't be satisfied. We're still dealing with it. I think it got better for a little period of time, but with the new president we have I think things are going backwards. We've been dealing with it the last couple of years. There are some things we still need to figure out," Wall said.

PODCAST: MIDSEASON AWARDS FOR MVP, BEST WIN AND MORE

The Wizards play on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day every year and Wizards players cherish the tradition. It is not lost on Wall that he plays in Washington, D.C. where King made his famous 'I Have A Dream' speech and led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

“That’s just an honor and a blessing," Wall said.

"We are all still sticking to what he had with this dream, and we are just trying to get everything to be right with it. To be able to play in this city is an honor."

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Wall says he tries to embody King's dream in his own life. King helped lead the civil rights movement that paved the way for equal rights and Wall, an African-American, has much to thank for those who fought. Every American does.

Wall says he wants to make King proud.

“I just hope that he appreciates what I’m doing. I’m doing myself very well. I hope he’s thankful for what I’m doing. I’m striving to be a better African-American athlete, and just as a person first of all – I think that’s the most important thing," he said.

MORE WIZARDS: BRADLEY BEAL ON HIS GROWTH AS A LEADER