Wizards

First non-seniors to compete in Senior Bowl

First non-seniors to compete in Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) The NFL has cleared two non-seniors to compete in the Senior Bowl for the first time, opening the door to a wider pool of draft prospects for future games.

Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said Saturday that fourth-year junior offensive linemen D.J. Fluker of Alabama and Justin Pugh of Syracuse received that clearance. Both have graduated.

``This is a breakthrough moment for the Senior Bowl game because the league allowed us to bring in these two players who graduated in December and were on campus for four years and their coach supported their candidacy for the Senior Bowl,'' said Savage, a former Cleveland Browns general manager. ``The reason we wanted to do this was because in the past there have been a number of fourth-year juniors who had graduated who were not allowed to play in the Senior Bowl.''

Savage said players who would have qualified last year included Baylor's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III and Alabama All-America linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Both were first-round draft picks.

``It would have certainly made the Senior Bowl potentially a better game,'' Savage said. ``It would have given those players an opportunity to not only be rewarded but have an extra evaluating period for NFL scouts.''

He said the Senior Bowl isn't interesting in admitting third-year juniors, or early draft entries who haven't graduated.

Savage said the Senior Bowl approached the NFL last June ``about possibly breaking new ground'' and then went back to the league with a small group of candidates for the game.

He said the NFL granted permission to include Fluker and Pugh this week.

Fluker was a second-team All-American right tackle who helped the Crimson Tide to two straight national titles. He played for nearby Foley High School, but is nursing a calf injury and won't play.

Pugh started every game he played at Syracuse and was an All-Big East selection the past two seasons. He'll play with his former quarterback, Ryan Nassib, on the North squad.

``We felt like that we put a lot of time and energy into getting this done and he was deserving of the recognition of being one of this duo of players that will always be remembers as the first two juniors,'' he said.

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Ja Morant turning into a 'hell, yeah' NBA Draft option if Wizards get lottery lucky

Ja Morant turning into a 'hell, yeah' NBA Draft option if Wizards get lottery lucky

The Washington Wizards selected John Wall first overall in the 2010 NBA Draft. Other lottery picks followed in subsequent years. None were point guards. Nobody bothered contemplating such a scenario.

That’s no longer the case.

There is Wall’s uncertain physical status for next season and beyond because of a ruptured Achilles.

Thursday’s mind-blowing performance from Murray State point guard Ja Morant put such contemplation into overdrive.

For many NBA-only fans, the 12th seeded Racers' 83-64 thrashing over no. 5 Marquette in its West Region first-round game marked the initial opportunity to watch the buzz-worthy Morant. He did not disappoint.

Morant, who only trailed Duke phenom Zion Williamson for jaw-dropping highlights this season, dazzled with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists. His next chance to wow comes Saturday against fourth-seeded Florida State.

Imagine the Wizards receive some lottery luck ahead of June’s NBA Draft. Not the overflowing pot of gold kind that means grabbing Williamson first overall, but jumping up above the average options to the second or third selection. Washington (30-43) has a 26.3 percent chance of landing a top 4 selection, according to the draft website Tankathon.

Williamson might be the only player selected ahead of Morant in June in what one NBA executive deems a two-player draft. “Zion makes it feel better than it is. After Zion and Ja, just an average draft,” the executive said.

You’re on the clock. Duke’s RJ Barrett is another top 3 candidate, but Morant gained ground on the wing guard and others all season by averaging 24.0 points, 10.0 assists and multiple viral video moments a game. By June, Morant might be the clear-cut second-best player.

Wall’s recovery timeline keeps the five-time All-Star sideline for the majority if not all of the 2019-20 season. He will eventually return, however. That factor cannot be ignored especially with his 4-year, $170 million supermax contract starting next season. Ideally, the selection compliments Bradley Beal and Wall in the starting lineup.

Wall also turns 29 in July and recovery from such a devastating injury presents significant unknowns.

Tomas Satoransky, Wall's primary backup and the current starter, is a restricted free agent this summer. The Wizards would like him back, but the marketplace might have other ideas.

Time’s up. Turn the selection card in. Take Morant or not?

“Hell, yes!” multiple college basketball sources responded via text.

Others went with a standard roster-building approach.

“I take the best player available and figure it out,” an NBA scout texted.

In other words, hell yeah on Morant.

Another NBA scout received his first extended look at wispy yet athletically super-charged Morant last summer at Chris Paul’s basketball camp. “I thought he was ordinary because he played more off the ball,” the scout said of the 6-foot-3, 174-pound Morant. “But now he’s really, really good. Can pass with either hand.”

The scout offered an NBA comparison: John Wall. “Not as fast as John, but he’s got the same explosive athleticism at the rim.”

The counter-argument, a mild one at that, looks beyond next season.

Playing time ranked high among the reasons why the Wizards sought low-cost backup point guards over the years for Wall. Combo guards aside, if Wall goes 35-38 minutes nightly, why invest significant assets into a 10-13 minute-a-game player.

There’s some debate over whether Morant could play off the ball next to Wall. The sophomore is shooting 33.6 percent on 4.8 three-point attempts per game this season.

Based on the initial reaction from the various sources, nobody cares. Take the talent and figure out the rest. It's unclear what the Wizards have in Wall going forward. Maybe trade one of them down the line. The Wizards only have three healthy players under contract for next season. The 2019 first-round pick could immediately become a high-rotation player.

Such expectations rise if the Wizards jump up in the lottery. Historically there’s no chance they consider a point guard in the lottery with Wall on the roster. Times are different especially if there’s a chance to grab a hell yeah talent like Morant.

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Troy Brown found out he was starting against the Nuggets through Twitter

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Troy Brown found out he was starting against the Nuggets through Twitter

The Wizards' 113-108 loss to the Nuggets Thursday marked Troy Brown's first NBA start. And the Wizards' rookie guard impressed, scoring a career-high 13 points and snagging five rebounds.

How did Brown find out he was starting, you may ask? Through Twitter, of course!

Head coach Scott Brooks told reporters Brown was taking the injured Trevor Ariza's place in the starting five before notifying Brown himself, and like every 19-year old kid, Brown gets his news on Twitter.

And Thursday night, Brown's Twitter timeline brought him some of the biggest news of his basketball career. 

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