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One way each young Wizards player can improve in the NBA's restart

One way each young Wizards player can improve in the NBA's restart

The roughly 4 1/2 months off between games this season due to the coronavirus is about the same length of a usual NBA offseason. That means players could return improved, perhaps especially the youngest players, as they generally make the biggest leaps over the summer.

The rules of the average offseason, though, may not apply. Not everyone had the resources to train like they normally would. Some didn't even have baskets to shoot on.

The Wizards, however, happen to have a lot of young players. In fact, their roster in Orlando will closely resemble the one they fielded last summer in Las Vegas at the Summer League. 

With that in mind, here is one area to watch for each of the Wizards' young players for potential improvement...

Rui Hachimura: Fourth-quarter scoring

One of the main storylines of Hachimura's rookie season so far has been the discrepancy between how he starts and finishes games. Hachimura has a tendency to come out hot, then finish cold. Despite averaging 13.4 points per game on 47.8 percent shooting, he averages only 1.9 points on 32.7 percent from the field in the fourth quarter.

With Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans out, Hachimura will have no choice but to play a larger role during crunch time. Maybe that can lead to more success. Surely, it has been a point of emphasis for him during the break.

Troy Brown Jr.: Assertiveness with ball

Beal and Bertans are leaving behind an average of 34.2 field goal attempts combined for the Wizards to essentially redistribute. That means a host of their remaining players will have to take a lot more shots. It could create an opportunity for Brown to take on much more responsibility and, in turn, be a lot more aggressive.

Brown, a 2018 first-round pick, only averages 8.3 shots per game this season. Expect that number to go way up in the final eight games of the season. The hope for the Wizards would be that he can be more assertive and in doing so build more confidence going into next year.

Thomas Bryant: Mobility on defense

Bryant said agility was a big focus of his during quarantine, specifically with the defensive end in mind. He knows he needs to be quicker on his feet to be able to guard his position in today's NBA where guards play above the rim and big men can play the perimeter. 

Bryant may never be a big-time rim-protector, but he can become a more serviceable defensive anchor if he works on positioning and anticipation. He needs to limit wasted movements with split-seconds often making the difference between an altered shot and a converted play. 

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Moe Wagner: Defending without fouling

Wagner has been an effective defender at times this season, but he has a real problem staying out of foul trouble. In fact, he is sixth in the NBA in personal fouls per-36 minutes and averages 3.6 fouls in just 19.1 minutes per game.

Beal and Bertans do not play Wagner's position, but he still figures to get more minutes with them out. And he may play more than he otherwise would if the Wizards go all-in on player development in Orlando. They have more reason to see him than they do Ian Mahinmi at this point, given Wagner is part of their future. Racking up fouls is okay if you are the barely-used back-up big man, but not if you are a mainstay in the rotation. 

Jerome Robinson: Efficiency

Robinson has been a nice surprise for the Wizards on defense in particular, but that alone won't guarantee him a long career in the NBA. He needs to shoot better than the 34.7 field goal and 29.8 field goal and three-point percentages he has posted so far this season. Both numbers are down from his rookie year.

It is unclear whether Robinson had a hoop to shoot on during the break. But maybe getting more minutes and shots with Beal out will help him find a rhythm. He won't have to operate in a tight window of playing time and that could set him free in some regards.

Garrison Mathews: Scoring at other levels

It is not easy to carry a 59.8 effective field goal percentage while shooting just 42.9 percent from the field. The way you do that, as Mathews has this season, is by getting most of your points from threes. Mathews shoots a strong 41.3 percent from the perimeter on 2.6 attempts per game.

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But to take the next step as a player, and to potentially make his three-point shot even more effective, Mathews will need to diversify his game a bit. The word will get out that he can shoot from three, if it hasn't already. He will need to be a threat in other areas. Look for Mathews to drive to the rim more often as he aims to add versatility.

Isaac Bonga: Ball-handling

Bonga remains a raw offensive player at just 20 years old, though he does have some solid efficiency numbers in a small sample size. The way for him to take the next step offensively would be to have a tighter handle, which would allow him to use his length more around the rim.

Bonga's best moments offensively this season have come on the fastbreak. He is a solid finisher with touch around the rim. But those opportunities don't come often, as they usually need to be set up by a pass. A better handle would give Bonga the chance to create his own offense.

Admiral Schofield: Consistency

With Bertans out of the picture, the Wizards expect Schofield, a rookie second-round pick, to get more playing time. He has spent the majority of this season in the G-League with the Capital City Go-Go. Schofield has only played in 27 NBA games this season so far, averaging 10.9 minutes in those appearances.

In order to command a larger role, he will need to show consistency, which is often difficult for young players. The Wizards drafted him for his defense and his three-point shooting, so those are two areas to watch. Defensively, he needs to prove he can guard taller players as an undersized forward. And it would help if he can make more than 29.8 percent of his threes after hitting on 41.8 percent (4.8 3PA/g) his final year in school.

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Wizards Moe Wagner to wear 'Vote' on jersey as social justice statement, per report

Wizards Moe Wagner to wear 'Vote' on jersey as social justice statement, per report

When the NBA returns to action in Orlando later this month, some players will have the option to replace their last name on their jerseys with social justice statements. 

Washington Wizards' Moe Wagner will be one of those players that will be opting to do so, according to the TNT's Chris Haynes. Wagner will have 'Vote' on the back of his jersey.

The second-year player will join several other stars that will be speaking out by virtue of their jerseys. As of now, he joins Rudy Gobert, C.J. McCollum, Pat Connaughton and others who will have a social justice message on their threads. 

Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz) - "Equality"
CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers) - "Education Reform"
Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trail Blazers) - 'Equality"
Kent Bazemore (Sacramento Kings) - "Education Reform"
Matisse Thybulle (Philadelphia 76ers) - "Vote"
Pat Connaughton (Milwaukee Bucks) - "Equality"
Meyers Leonard (Miami Heat) - "Equality"
Ivica Zubac (Los Angeles Clippers) - "Enough"
Moe Wagner (Wizards) - "Vote

More players will likely join-in to wear these statements. The NBA and NBPA agreed to this option allowing the players to inspire change on a large platform while restarting the 2020 season. The players can continue important conversations regarding race and social injustice as opposed to basketball serving as a distraction to larger issues within the country.

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Some players are "disgruntled with the lack of options" the NBA provided, according to Haynes. There are 28 options for players to chose from, along with their regular last name. According to ESPN, here are the phrase options:

-Black Lives Matter
-Say Their Names
-Vote
-I Can't Breathe
-Justice
-Peace
-Equality
-Freedom
-Enough
-Power to the People
-Justice Now
-Say Her Name
-Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can)
-Liberation
-See Us
-Hear Us
-Respect Us
-Love Us
-Listen
-Listen to Us
-Stand Up
-Ally
-Anti-Racist
-I Am A Man
-Speak Up
-How Many More
-Group Economics
-Education Reform
-Mentor

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Moe Wagner had to get creative to train during quarantine with a hoop in his driveway

Moe Wagner had to get creative to train during quarantine with a hoop in his driveway

Playing basketball in your driveway, that is relatable. Doing so to prepare for NBA games while in the middle of a league shutdown due to a worldwide pandemic; well, that is unusual.

But for Wizards center Moe Wagner, training during quarantine required some creativity before the team reopened their practice facility in early June. First, he rented out the townhouse below his to set up a workout space. It was vacant, allowing Wagner to use training equipment with enough space for a 7-footer to move around.

"We set up a little gym," Wagner said.

Wagner's schedule was regimented by Zoom workouts hosted by the Wizards trainers and coaching staff. But eventually, that wasn't enough.

Wagner had his brother, Franz, with him. Franz plays for the University of Michigan, where Wagner starred before becoming a first round draft pick in 2018.

"Eventually my brother and I got a little eager to shoot a ball, so my agent had us sent a basketball hoop for outside which we built. It took us like three days," Wagner explained.

"We played a little bit in the garage in the middle of the city. It was kind of an absurd situation, but you will take what you can get, I guess."

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The garage Wagner and his brother played in was without a roof. They are common in Washington, D.C., especially in Northeast. So, it was technically a garage but more like a walled off driveway.

"[We] set it up in my back alley. Every time a car drives by, you have to wait. Obviously, it's very old school. You're going back to the roots a little bit. But after six weeks of not touching a ball, you're like 'we've gotta do something, man.' I'm a professional basketball player and I haven't touched a basketball in six weeks. That ain't right," Wagner said.

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Waiting when cars drive by makes sense. Driveways are big enough for kids to shoot around in. But Wagner requires a bit more range to spread out and practice NBA threes.

Wagner indicated he did not shoot a ball for roughly six weeks. That would mean he set the hoop up around the end of April. If that is the case, he was likely more fortunate than many other young players who went longer without being able to shoot.

That's the big variable with the league's hiatus; who had the resources to train, either to just stay sharp or potentially even improve. Wagner was able to keep working on his game, it just took a good deal of creativity. 

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